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Clippers vs. Memphis - Game Preview

2009/2010 NBA Regular Season
Staples Center
November 29th, 2009, 12:30 PM
Prime Ticket, 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Mike Conley
Eric Gordon SG O.J. Mayo
Al Thornton SF Rudy Gay
Marcus Camby
PF Zach Randolph
Chris Kaman
C Marc Gasol


The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

After a very quick road trip featuring just two games in Indianapolis and Detroit, the Clippers come home for a long home stand - six games, stretching from now until mid December.  There's always way too much hyperbole about must-win games and do or die situations, especially this early in the season, but I think I can safely say that this is the most important homestand in the history of the universe.  OK, all kidding aside, these games are pretty big.  For one thing, the Clippers have already played 9 home games versus 8 road games - by the end of this homestand, they'll have played seven more at home than on the road.  And of course we know that will even out, so they've got a lot of road games ahead of them.  The schedule also gets harder in terms of opposition, for as we know LA has played a decidedly soft schedule in November.  The team has some extra incentive in the next three - Memphis and Indiana are chances to avenge recent road losses, while Houston is one of the teams LA should theoretically be chasing for the playoffs.  Did I just say the P word?  I did - and that's the other reason this homestand is big.  In theory, if the original 6 week time table is to be trusted, Blake Griffin could be back by the end of this set.  If the team can manage to put a few wins together, they might be able to take some momentum out on the road and survive the tougher schedule after their prize rookie gets back.  It's hard to say if the team is capable of climbing back to .500.  The Indiana and Detroit games could not have been more different, at least not for Chris Kaman.  He went 3 for 19 against the Pacers, 11 for 13 against the Pistons.  With Baron Davis playing well and Eric Gordon back for the last couple of games, the Clippers have a few more weapons - but they'll be hard-pressed to win without Kaman playing well.

The Antagonist:

Here's what I said about the Grizzles when these two teams met in Memphis 11 days ago: "the Grizzlies have a very nice starting unit and should be able to win some games if there weren't so many continual distractions."  Well, maybe Jamal Tinsley has not been too much of a distraction, because right after I wrote that, Memphis ran off 4 wins in 6 games, starting with the Clippers, and ending with a huge road win against the Blazers in Portland Friday night.  The first unit features some absolute monsters: Rudy Gay is a world class scorer with all the tools, O.J. Mayo is an NBA shooting guard straight from central casting, Marc Gasol is a better center than anyone imagined who may in fact deserve to start for the West in the All Star game, and we well know what Zach Randolph is capable of.  The possible weak link is point guard Mike Conley, who is more of a scoring point on a team that needs a distributor.  However, if Tinsley can stay out of trouble, he might actually be what this team needs.  He seems to be getting back in the swing of things after 21 months away from the NBA - he's scored 16 and 12 in Memphis' last two games.  Gay killed the Clippers in the first meeting this season, while everyone pretty much killed them in the second meeting.  Memphis has a lot of weapons, and if the defense isn't sharp and active, they can pick you apart.  They shot 54% against the Clippers last time.

The Subplots:

  • Milph, meet Hamed.  During garbage time of the last meeting, Hamed Haddadi, the only Iranian (pronounced eee-RON-ian not EYE-rain-ian) player in the history of the NBA, entered the game.  The ensuing inane Milph banter (who, let's face it, have over the years engaged in a LOT of inane banter at the end of blowouts) earned the broadcasters a one game suspension, ending Ralph Lawler's consecutive game streak at three billion and six.  Haddadi has, as far as I know, not commented on the controversy.  With Marc Gasol playing great and Hasheem Thabeet starting to play a little better, let's hope that no Iranians (pronounced eee-RON-ians not EYE-rain-ians) take the court unless the Clippers have a big lead.  And you can rest assured there will be no Borat references (definitely the most bizarre aspect of the interchange in question).  Oh, and if you wish to celebrate your Iranian Heritage (pronounced eee-RON-ian not EYE-rain-ian) and/or to meet Haddadi, you can buy discounted tickets for Iranian Heritage Day.
  • Maybe Memphis isn't so bad after all.  Most everyone recognizes that the Memphis roster has talent.  But the elevated play of Marc Gasol makes them pretty hard to ignore.  We were all pretty upset that the Clippers lost to a 2-10 team a couple weeks ago, but they've gone 4-2 since then.  Putting an end to the Allen Iverson melodrama seems to have helped.  Bottom line - these guys beat the Blazers in Portland Friday - this game won't be easy.
  • November record.  We all hoped that the Clippers could accumulate some wins in November against some weak competition - for instance, this is the third meeting with Memphis this month.  Ironically, looking at the schedule at the time, Denver was by far the toughest opponent.  Things started out well enough with three straight wins, but even with a victory over the Nuggets, the Clippers sit at 7 and 6 for the 13 games so far this month.  A win tonight gives them a winning record for the month.  A loss drops them to .500 during a stretch of games where they desperately needed to make some headway.
  • Eric Gordon.  The Clippers were without Gordon for the game in Memphis.  This fact no doubt helped O.J. Mayo go 7 for 12 from the field since EJ is the Clippers' best perimeter defender.  When they've gone head to head, Gordon has usually outplayed his old friend and fellow draft of 2008 shooting guard.  With Gordon and Marcus Camby (who played only a quarter against the Grizz last time) both back in the lineup, hopefully the outcome of the game will be different this time.
  • Eight man rotation.  With Gordon back, MDsr went with essentially eight guys in Detroit - Kaman, Camby, Thornton, Butler, Baron, Telfar, Smith and Gordon.  That makes sense to me.  If DeAndre Jordan's ankle is better and he can play, he needs to get some minutes at the backup center spot.  But otherwise, I think these are the eight until Griffin returns.
  • Defending Gay.  Rudy Gay scored 33 against the Clippers in the first meeting this season.  He then went scoreless in the first half of the second meeting - only to score 21 in the second half alone.  The Clippers desperately need to figure out how to stop this Gay guy, or it's going to be a long night.
  • Rebounding.  The Pistons grabbed 19 offensive rebounds against the Clippers last night.  Memphis is one of the top rebounding teams in the league.  The Clippers simply must protect their defensive glass if they want to win this game.  There's no reason the Clippers should be a bad rebounding team - but statistically speaking, that's what they are this season.
  • Movie Quote: 

    When Brian Boitano was in the Alps fighting grizzly bears /
    He used his magical fire breath and saved the maidens fair!

    Cartman, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999). I don't consider myself a South Park afficionado.  I like it.  I appreciate it.  But I don't love it.  Can't say as I recall the context of this quote in the movie.  Anyone?
  • Get the Grizzlies perspective at Straight Outta Vancouver.