The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
Obviously I can't follow the other 29 NBA teams as closely as I follow the Clippers - it would be impossible. So I don't know if this is true or not, and frankly it would be a fairly subjective thing to try to research. But it certainly FEELS true that the Clippers lose more games to teams playing without their best players than any other team in the league. For all of the 'Oh piffle, what a shame, our best players are hurt' talk, LA makes their wounded opponents look terrific at every opportunity. So far this season, they've been beaten by New Orleans playing without Chris Paul, and Wednesday night by Indiana playing without Danny Granger. You could make an argument that those are among the most important players to their teams in the entire league (I'd argue for instance that Kobe and LeBron have better support around them) - but a missing superstar is no problem is the Clippers come to town. And this is not a recent phenomenon, just this season. No no. Take for instance the last time the Clippers met the Pistons. It was one of the few games last season that featured a fully healthy Clippers roster, and they were facing a Pistons team that was missing Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Allen Iverson and Rodney Stuckey. So Tayshaun Prince turns into the greatest player in the world for one night, and the Pistons win by 18. After Wednesday's mess in Indianapolis, one would hope that the Clippers would come out tonight with a sense of purpose. But it never seems to work out that way.
Let's see... Losing record, check. Active losing streak, check. Leading scorer injured, check. For the second straight game, the Clippers are facing a struggling team that should be struggling even more with a brand new injury. Danny Granger missed Wednesday's game in Indy and the Pacers were on a 4 game skid - it looks like the Pistons, losers of 6 straight, may be without leading scorer Ben Gordon, who left their game against Cleveland with a twisted ankle. Gordon would join Tayshaun Prince (last March's Clipper killer) and Rip Hamilton in street clothes. The net effect is to render this team completely unrecognizable. For about six years, the Pistons had much the same starting lineup. But now Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace are gone and Prince and Hamilton are hurt. Sure Ben Wallace is back, but it's hardly the same. Even the big fancy replacement, Ben Gordon, is likely out tonight. It all spells trouble... for the Clippers, who can't possible be expected to pay any attention to a team missing three starters. Actually, they'd better. LA made Will Bynum look like an all star last time around, and I'm sure that Jonas Jerebko and Austin Daye are just itching to step into the Pantheon of unknown players who have career days when the Clippers come to town.
- Chris Kaman and turkey. Kaman was home for Thanksgiving - let's see if he gives us anything to be thankful for after two consecutive terrible shooting performances (3 for 18 Wednesday, 6 for 20 Monday).
- Eric Gordon. Eric Gordon played well against the Pistons last season, almost leading the Clippers to victory in their first meeting last season. Almost winning may not seem like much, but the Clippers haven't beaten Detroit in their last 13 tries, so it's the best we've got right now. Hopefully EJ is back up to game speed after coming off the bench in Indiana.
- Bad Shooting Point Guards. Among starting NBA point guards, no one shoots as poorly as Baron Davis and Rodney Stuckey. Both are under 40% for the season, with Baron a tick better at 39.7% compared to Stuckey's 38.8%. So neither is exactly putting on a shooting clinic this season.
- Sweden in the House! Citizen Marten, our Swedish Clippers fan, will be excited to see his favorite team take on the first Swedish player in the NBA. (Actually, Miles Simon was born in Stockholm according to basketball-reference, but somehow I don't consider him Swedish.) I actually wonder if Marten has abandoned the Clippers in favor of the Pistons this season. Jerebko was drafted in the second round, defied the odds to make the team, and has started 11 games at small forward in place of the injured Prince. He's averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds.
- Stretch Fours. Troy Murphy attempted seven three pointers Wednesday night. He missed most of them, before making a couple of fourth quarter daggers. Tonight it's another power forward who likes to play on the perimeter. Charlie Villanueva shoots almost 4 of them a game - and though he's actually not hitting a very high percentage of them like Murphy I wouldn't be surprised if he hits one or two that really hurt. The Clippers twin towers front line of Kaman and Camby has it's advantages - but defending these stretch fours is not one of them. Marcus just doesn't really want to be chasing guys off the three point line.
- Inconsistency. We've been waiting for all (or even most) of the Clippers to have a good game at the same time. Wednesday it was almost the inverse - they were almost all bad at the same time. Baron Davis was good (11 for 19, 25 points) - but in foul trouble also. Marcus Camby was good. And everyone else was completely terrible. Against Denver Rasual Butler was great - the rest of the season, and especially the two games since, he's been horrific. Against Minnesota and for several games before that, Al Thornton had exploded out of his early season funk - then he went 2 for 15 Wednesday. And the aforementioned Kaman is in his first prolonged slump of the season. Can we get all the Clippers to play well in a game? A majority? A plurality?
- Movie Quote:
Cash is the fossil fuel that keeps our economic pistons pumping.
- Get the Pistons' perspective at Motown String Music.