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Clippers 104 - Philadelphia 88 - Happy New Year, Clips Nation!

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Hello again citizens.

I got back to the LA area (specifically, my parent's house in Malibu) just in time to watch the Clippers take on the Sixers tonight.  I apologize for not having a preview up for this game.  A couple of things happened.  For one, I decided to stay in the snow at Tahoe an extra day.  But I also have to admit that I knew that was a possibility - and while I arranged recaps and wrote previews for the Celtics and Blazers, I should have written a preview for this game before I left.  I just kind of miscalculated on how many previews I needed.  Please don't tell the overlords at SBNation that I missed a preview.  They frown on that.

A couple of asides on that subject.  (1) It's amazing how little overlap there is between my real life and my blog life.  When I realized that I wasn't going to be back, I figured I'd call someone and have them post an apology yesterday, and ask someone to post a game thread.  But it turns out, the people in my phone book have little or no connection to the blog.  My dad reads it - but he has never bothered to register.  Anyway, I thought that was interesting.  (2) Thanks to citizen IGWT for stepping up and posting a game thread for the Sixers game.  I appreciate that.  And of course thanks to citizens ClipperChuck and LJ Hann for their excellent recaps of the Celtics and Blazers games.

By the way, when I get back to Long Beach, some time this weekend, I'll probably watch parts of those games, so I may have more to say on them at that time.  For now, all I've seen are the highlight packages and I don't have anything non-obvious to contribute.  Great win against Boston - bad loss against Portland.  One and one in those two games would have been a welcome result going in.  But with the Boston game already in hand and Aldridge limited to six minutes, obviously you would like to be on a three game winning streak going into 2010.

As for the Sixers game, I thought the Clippers looked good.  Philadelphia scored 29 points in the first 10 minutes and change, but were limited to 59 points the rest of the way.  The Sixers are so limited offensively, if you don't turn the ball over and play good defense, they really struggle to score.  In fact, the Clippers turned the ball over 20 times, including a boatload in the first quarter, but once they got the turnovers a little under control, they really dominated the game.

Chris Kaman had his third consecutive 25+ point game, scoring 26 and grabbing 10 rebounds as well.  It was also encouraging to see him fight through a tough start.  Samuel Dalembert, who has given Kaman trouble a couple of times in the past, blocked at least three of his shots in the first quarter, and Chris started the game slowly.  But whereas an earlier version of Kaman would never have bounced back from such a rocky start, Chris made 8 of his final 9 field goal attempts to finish the game above 50% shooting, 11 for 21. 

It was interesting to hear the TNT crew of Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Doug Collins talking about Kaman's season.  It's one thing when Milph says that the guy should be an all star - they're on the team payroll.  But the consensus from the TNT guys seemed to be that Kaman would be a lock if the Clippers had a winning record.  T here are a ton of factors - not the least of which is the nebulous definition of 'center'.  With Amare Stoudemire on the ballot at Center, the starting position is taken (Kaman not being an option there, since he was omitted from the ballot altogether).  The coaches are required to vote for a backup center - but they get even more leeway than the ballot makers as to what constitutes a center.  As far as true centers in the western conference, the choice would seem to come down to Kaman, Marc Gasol, Nene,Andrew Bynum or Al Jefferson.  But the Wolves are even worse than the Clippers, and the Grizzlies, while surprisingly good, are still below .500 themselves.  And it's hard to imagine in the points obsessed NBA, a center scoring 15.1 (Gasol) or 14.8 (Bynum) or 13.7 (Nene) per game getting an all star nod - especially when there's a guy averaging 20.  Reggie Miller mentioned more than once that Chris Bosh, Zach Randolph and Kaman were the only three players in the NBA averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds per game.  Those numbers will get the attention of people other than Reggie - though of course neither Zach nor Kaman are locks to make the squad despite the gaudy stats.

Beyond the real centers, the voters can get creative.  Tim Duncan currently trails both Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki at the loaded forward spot in the Western Conference - a clever all star game voter might slide Duncan over to center on his ballot, freeing him up to vote for Carlos Boozer and Pau Gasol or whomever else at forward.  In the end, we may have to be satisfied with the fact that Kaman is putting up the numbers worthy of consideration.

Back to the game.

It's too bad that Baron Davis couldn't have spread a couple of his 8 for 12 shooting night tonight onto his 2 for 15 game in Portland - the Clippers could have won both of these games.  Ironically, it was Sebastian Telfair in place of the foul plagued Davis who first got the Clippers going in the second quarter.  But Baron spearheaded the Clippers 29-14 third quarter where they took control of the game.  Baron seems to relish playing against UCLA guys - and lucky for us, there are a few in the league.  When Jrue Holiday was defending him in this game, Baron went right at the poor kid.

The rotation was interesting.  Rasual Butler got the start at small forward over Al Thornton and responded with a nice night shooting the deep ball, making 4 of 8 three pointers.  Craig Smith was relegated to DNP status, and DeAndre Jordan filled out the big man rotation where he responded with 7 points and 9 rebounds in 19 minutes.  Meanwhile, Mardy Colins was the final piece in a nine man rotation.  One wonders how much of this was interim coach Tony Brown's doing, versus advanced planning with MDsr (who, in case you had not heard, missed the game with a herniated disc).  It's great to see DJ getting significant burn.  He clearly need reps to continue to improve.  He had looked so terrible in some of his December appearances that it seemed like the coaching staff would have to bury him - but at 21 years old and with as much physical equipment as any young center in the league, he remains an intriguing part of the team's future, so it's a major bonus to have him playing and playing well.  (But for the love of FSM, please work on your free throws DJ!)

So although it has seemed possible, even likely, that the Clippers would fall further and further below .500 as the schedule stiffened and Blake Griffin's absence lengthened, in fact that team finishes 2009 14 and the18, an even 14 and 14 after their 0 and 4 start.  It's likely not enough - they're 4 games out of the last playoff spot in the ever-competitive west, with four other teams eyeing that spot ahead of them in the standings - but it's something.again