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Clippers at Oklahoma City - Game Preview

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2009/2010 NBA Regular Season
Clippers_medium
vs.
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3-7
5-4
Ford Center
November 15th, 2009, 4:00 PM
Prime Ticket, 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Russell Westbrook
Rasual Butler
SG Thabo Sefolosha
Al Thornton
SF Kevin Durant
Marcus Camby
PF Jeff Green
Chris Kaman
C Nenad Krstic

 

The Back Story:

November 11th, 2009 in LA - Oklahoma City 83, Clippers 79   box score   recap

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have lost three straight games, each in uniquely painful fashion.  It started with a start to finish shellacking from the Hornets, who as it happens can't seem to beat anyone else.  Next was a lackadaisical loss to these self-same Oklahomans in which neither team played well, but the Clippers managed to play worse, especially in a 10 point fourth quarter.  Then Friday night against Toronto it was like two separate games - the Clippers dominated until early in the second quarter, building a 22 point lead before Toronto woke up and dismantled LA the rest of the way, eventually winning by 15.  And those games were all at home!  Now it's time to invent new kinds of misery on the first multi-game road trip of the season.  In Wednesday's meeting, Chris Kaman had his worst game of the season shooting just 9 for 26, perhaps owing to a virus that had him under the weather.  He bounced back with a strong three quarters against Toronto.  But it won't matter how well Kaman or Baron Davis or anyone else plays if the Clippers can't figure out how to play all four quarters.  The team has been horrific in the fourth quarter of their losses this season - you can't really build a lead big enough if you only play three quarters.

The Antagonist:

Oklahoma City followed up their win in LA with a victory over the Spurs in San Antonio giving them a 5-4 record.  Not bad for a team that started last season 3-29.  Oh, and they play pretty well in Oklahoma City, where they beat Orlando by 28 last Sunday.  In the game against the Clippers, they looked very much like a one man team.  Kevin Durant is averaging 27 points per game and scored 30 in LA - but no one else really did anything.  Third leading scorer Russell Westbrook was particularly bad, going 1 for 11, so I expect him to bounce back.  As for Durant, he'll no doubt have another huge game.  He's a tough cover for anyone, but neither Rasual Butler nor Al Thornton seemed to have any hope against him.

The Subplots:

  • Palindrome games.  The Clippers played Memphis, New Orleans and Oklahoma City at the start of last week's home stand.  They're playing Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Memphis on this week's road trip.  So at least the team should be familiar with the opponents. 
  • What Home Court Advantage?  The Clippers have won 42 games in the past two seasons.  24 of those were home wins, and 18 were on the road.  Obviously, both of those are terrible totals.  But most teams win much more frequently at home than on the road.  So far this season, LA is 1-2 on the road, 2-5 at home.  So I guess what I'm saying is, who cares if they're on the road, since they can't really win at home either?  The good news about having no Home Court Advantage is that you don't miss it during away games.
  • Rejuvenated Baron.  The lost weight is one thing, and he certainly seems to have energy.  But there's one clear indicator of Baron's rejuvenation this season - he's dunking.  He had a breakaway dunk against the Thunder last Wednesday, and then a dunk after he left Jose Calderon standing in the first quarter against Toronto.  He even had a follow dunk after a whistle in that game - which surprised me because I didn't expect to see him expending that energy on a dead ball.  Baron only had 3 dunks all last season, which was a major red flag that something was wrong.  Neither of last week's dunks showed anything like the AK47-poster explosiveness - but they were good to see nonetheless.
  • Chris Kaman.  Clearly the Clippers felt like Kaman had an advantage in the post against the Thunder bigs last week - his 26 shots were a career high by 4.  Unforunately, whether it was the virus or just a Mr. Flippy thing, he missed way too many of them (17, which must also surely be a career high).  It seems like we say this every night, but it remains true at least as long as Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin are out - Kaman will have to have a big night for the Clippers to have a chance in this one.
  • Oklahoma homecoming.  Born and raised in OKC, Blake Griffin will be the center of attention on his return to his home state.  Of course, he'd rather be playing.  Come to think of it, I'd rather he were playing also.
  • Hurry back, EJ.  The Clippers are now 0-3 without Eric Gordon this season, 0-7 all time.  The good news is that we're halfway through the 10 days the team said he'd need off.  Three losses down, three to go.
  • Steve Novak.  After not playing any real minutes in the first 9 games of the season, Steve Novak played 17 against Toronto.  Clearly MDsr was trying to get some more offense on the floor, which seems like a good idea, particularly with Rasual Butler in a terrible slump.  But it will be tough to get him on the floor much against OKC - he certainly won't be guarding Durant.  Maybe you could stick him on Sefolosha.  
  • Stagnation.  In at least a few games so far this season, Baron Davis has racked up 5 o 6 assists early in the first quarter, only to finish the game we just a couple more.  Why?  It's hard to say, but on the whole, I just don't see the ball movement or the player movement in the second half that they have had in the first quarter.
  • Movie Quote: 

    Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?

    The Cowardly Lion - The Wizard of Oz (1939).  Next to you see me at a Clips Nation Viewing Party, ask me to do my Cowardly Lion impression.  Although you may have to get a couple beers in me first.
  • Get the Thunder perspective at Welcome to Loud City.