The Back Story:
First meeting of the season. Orlando swept the season series last year two games to none.
The Big Picture:
The simple fact of the matter is that although the Clippers are a semi-respectable 9-11, they have played a very easy schedule to get to this point. Among LA's nine victims, only two have a winning record at present, and one of those is Oklahoma City at 10-9. That leaves Denver as the lone quality victory on the young season. Well, tonight the Clippers face the red-hot Orlando Magic, and a victory would be just as impressive as the Denver win, if not more so. Can the Clippers replicate whatever it was they did against the Nuggets? Not likely. Looking at that Nuggets game now, it looks like a total outlier. That is, unless you think Rasual Butler is going to score 27 points tonight. Or make a three pointer. In fact, Butler has not made a single three since that Nuggets contest, 18 days ago. At least Eric Gordon will be back for this one. EJ told Citizen ASoMS at a season ticket holder event this weekend that his hamstring was still sore but that he would definitely be playing tonight. The Clippers will have to play good defense against Orlando, a top five team in terms of offensive efficiency, and it would help if they would rebound like they did against Indiana. In that game, the Clippers outrebounded the Pacers 58-34 and grabbed a season-high 19 offensive rebounds. Of course, it won't matter much if they don't shoot better than the 35% they put up against the Pacers. The Magic present all kinds of matchup problems for teams, and this one looks like a nightmare for the Clippers. Baron Davis would seem to be the best matchup for LA.
The Magic have won 9 out of 10 games since getting Rashard Lewis back from suspension, and the one loss was a heart breaker at the buzzer. Surprisingly, most of those games came after they lost Jameer Nelson to a knee injury. The Magic lost Hedo Turkoglu over the summer from their Eastern Conference championship squad, but they added Vince Carter, who is currently the team's leading scorer at almost 20 points per game. But the star of the team remains Dwight Howard, who is third in the NBA in rebounding at 12.1 per game, leading the league in field goal percentage at almost 65%, and scoring over 18 points per game. With Carter in town, Howard is taking fewer shots per game than he has since he was a rookie - which account for the sky high shooting percentage. The Magic use a classic inside out attack. They surround Howard with shooters and take a lot of threes - a ridiculous 27 a game, second in the league to the more ridiculous Knicks. They also make a lot of them - 37%. This doesn't bode well for the Clippers, who were destroyed from the arc in their last loss, last week against Houston. Whether it's Carter, or Lewis, or Mikael Pietrus, or Ryan Anderson, or JJ Redick, or Jason Williams, the Magic almost always have four shooters on the floor, and they spread the floor and dare you to cover all of them.
- Jason Williams, the almost former Clipper. Ten year NBA veteran Jason Williams signed a free agent contract with the Clippers in the summer of 2008. Then, just before the start of training camp, he decided to retire and walked away from his contract. Then, midway through his retirement, he decided he wanted to play after all, and asked that he be re-instated. A handful of teams, the Clippers among them, voted against mid-season re-instatement, and Williams had to wait until this summer to re-sign. He landed in Orlando, and with the injury to Jameer Nelson, he's the starting point guard (carrying an 8-1 record as the starter, no less). So how's that for a turnaround? Retired from the Clippers, to starting on the Eastern Conference Champs. I expect there will be some boos for Williams tonight. Still, with Williams coming to town, it gives me a chance to link the elbow pass again. I love the elbow pass.
- No Jameer, no problem. As I just said, the Magic are 8-1 since Jameer Nelson went out. Last season they went to the NBA Finals without him. How much better would they be with him? Of course, when the Clippers faced the Nelson-less Magic last season, Anthony Johnson made 6 of 8 threes and scored a season-high 25. So I guess we'd rather see Williams than Johnson tonight.
- Gordon. Gordon was only 3 for 10 against the Pacers, and after making his first three pointer, he missed every jump shot he took. Hopefully if that was rust, it's now gone, or perhaps it was just a bad game. The Clippers have little hope against the Magic if Gordon doesn't have a big game. Vince Carter was never a great defender, and now he's 32. Baron Davis against Jason Williams and Gordon against Carter really need to carry the offensive load tonight.
- Stretch fours. Rashad Lewis is the prototypical stretch four, a 6'10" 'power' forward who last season led the NBA in three point attempts and three pointers made, and who, since he arrived in Orlando, has taken about half of his shots from beyond the three point arc. And when Lewis sits down, the Magic bring in Ryan Anderson, a 6'10" 'power' forward who takes more threes per minute than Lewis, and is making a higher percentage this season as well. Marcus Camby is going to just love chasing these guys around the perimeter all night.
- Kaman. We've spent a lot of time discussing Kaman's struggles after his great start. If he can find a way to come up big against Dwight Howard, it would be a huge plus for the Clippers. You may be surprised to know that Kaman, despite his struggles, is still averaging more points per game (18.9) than Howard (18.1). Of course, Chris is taking 15.7 shots per game to get his points, while Howard takes only 9.5, so DHo has slight advantage in efficiency.
- Vince Carter, Clipper killer. Carter has had some huge games over the years against the Clippers, including a 41 pointer the last time he faced them. He has five career games over 30 versus LA, and another 5 over 25. I can also remember a couple of game winners. He almost had another game winner when he hit a three with 12 second left to give the Nets a lead last March. Instead Steve Novak's buzzer beater gave the Clippers their most exciting win of the season.
If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid, or because you're not getting laid, or because you wear women's underwear, then you ARE! And you should know that! Come on, Annie, think of something clever to say, huh? Something full of magic, religion, bullsh!t. Come on, dazzle me.
- Get the Magic perspective at Third Quarter Collapse.