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Clippers @ Miami - Game Preview

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season

American Airlines Arena
February 2nd, 2009, 4:30 PM
KTLA Channel 5, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Mario Chalmers
Eric Gordon
SG Dwyane Wade
Al Thornton
SF Yakhouba Diawara
Brian Skinner
PF Udonis Haslem
Marcus Camby
C Jamaal Magloire


The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The combination of their loss to the Wizards on Saturday and the Kings win over the Thunder on Sunday has dropped the Clippers to the worst record in the Western Conference and tied for the worst record in the NBA.  That's the bad news is.  The good news is that they may get Zach Randolph back tonight.  (FWIW, he's been listed as Questionable, which is an upgrade from Saturday.)  The Clippers are 6-6 with a healthy Randolph starting this season - and 4-31 without him.  That's a pretty big difference.  They just finished the month of January 2-14.  Is it the worst month in franchise history?  Probably not - this is the Clippers we're talking about.  But who has time to look up depressing stats like that?  If Zach were to come back and play well, their would be an interesting symmetry to it.  His first start as a Clipper came against the Heat on November 29th in a home win that started the 6-6 stretch - the only bright spot in this dismal season.  The team is certainly not at full strength, even if Zach plays, but it certainly should be in better shape than it was.  Baron Davis and Marcus Camby have now played three games a piece since returning from their own injuries, and should hopefully be rounding into game shape.  Camby's minutes have increased from 22 to 25 to 28 in the three games, while Baron had gone from 22 to 23 to 30.  I would expect both to start tonight, and to play 30 minutes or more each.  Of course, the team has seemed out of sorts at times with Baron on the court, so it's unclear at this point whether 30+ minutes of Baron is a good thing.  But the simple fact of the matter is that this team is nowhere if they don't figure out how to play well with an effective Baron Davis.  So there's nothing to do but keep trying to make it work.

The Antagonist:

I look at the Heat roster, and I am simply stunned that they have a winning record.  They're starting a rookie second round pick at point guard and an NBA re-tread at center, and those are two pretty important positions.  Udonis Haslem is a solid power forward, but Shawn Marion has been hurt, leaving Haslem as the only legitimate NBA starter alongside Dwyane Wade lately.  And yet they are 25-21, tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and 1.5 games out of home court in the first round of the playoffs.  Which all speaks to how good Dwyane Wade has been.  He's leading the league in scoring at at a career high 28.5 points per game.  He also leads them in assists with 7 per game, and gets 5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game also.  He's a definite MVP candidate, especially if the Heat stay in the hunt for home court in the East (they're not going to catch the big three of the Celtics, Magic and Cavs, but fourth would be impressive for this team).  It's the second time in three games that the Clippers have run into a super-mega star at the top of his game.  But there are two major differences when playing Wade and the Heat versus playing LeBron and the Cavs: (1) Eric Gordon can actually do a pretty decent job defending Wade and (2) Wade has less help around him.  Gear up the defense to stop Wade, and you have a chance.  And one thing that MDsr has always done pretty well, is gear up a defense to stop one guy - think Carmelo in the 2006 playoffs.

The Subplots

  • Shawn Marion.  Marion is a game time decision for this game.  Oh, and speaking of no respect, here's what it says on his Profile under Player News at "Marion (groin) will be a game-time decision Monday against the Lakers, the Associated Press reports."  Um, yeah, see, it's the Clippers on Monday.  Not the Lakers.  In addition to Marion being questionable for the game, Heat 6th man and long range specialist Daequan Cook is doubtful with a thigh bruise.
  • One man show.  Saturday in Washington, we talked about how the Wizards were a two man show, with two guys averaging around 20, and no one else over 10.  Well, the Heat are the NBA's most distinctive one man show.  Wade is leading the league in scoring, while their second leading scorer, rookie Michael Beasley, has the lowest average (13.3) of any team's second leading scorer.  Wade averages more than twice as much as anyone else on his team, and he is the only player in the NBA doing that. 
  • Trivia Time - Heat small forward Yakhouba Diawara continues a proud if unlikely tradition of Pepperdine players in the NBA.  How many consecutive seasons has a Wave been on an NBA roster?  Leave your answer in the comments of this preview, and I'll have the answer on the game thread.  You can give me a ball park, like between 10 and 15 seasons or something like that.
  • Carrying on.  After the last meeting between the Clippers and Heat, MDsr  complained about how Wade gets away with carrying the ball over on many of his moves.  (By the way, it's true, he does carry the ball, worse than most NBA players - he also travels a lot.)  Wade didn't take to kindly to the remarks, and replied that MDsr really should be focused on more important things, like coaching his sorry ass basketball team.  So it's possible that DWade will have a little extra incentive to hang a big night on the Clippers tonight.
  • Inside presence.  Something about having a low post scorer suddenly makes the Clippers world coherent.  Without a low post scorer, the Clippers are speaking French in Brazil.  They're painting with a hammer.  But with a low post scorer, suddenly everything makes sense.  MDsr's offense just works better (ok, works at all) with someone on the block who can score against single coverage, or force a double team.  Zach Randolph is that guy.  He won't be 100% tonight even if he plays.  But he will be a welcome sight regardless, after watching Brian Skinner post up for five weeks.
  • Inside out.  If Randolph does play, and does draw double teams into the post, he'll have some pretty good shooters to kick the ball out to with him.  Steve Novak has gotten extensive playing time in the last month and has made the most of it.  Novak has made 5 three pointers in 3 of his last 4 games (we're not going to mention what happened in the fourth).  And Eric Gordon is also a big time shooter - the Clippers have not had two such talented shooters since I've been watching them.
  • Rookie of the Month?  The NBA usually announces monthly awards on the first business day after the month has ended.  Which means, by the time this game starts, Eric Gordon will either be the Western Conference Rookie of the Month, or a pretty significant snub.  Gordon is easily the leading scorer among all rookies for the month of January.  However, I must admit that I will not be surprised if he does not get the award, which could easily go to Minnesota's Kevin Love.  The Wolves had won 10 games in January to the Clippers' 2, and these things matter, even in the Rookie of the Month category.  Love has played well, but no one has asked him to carry that team either.  Like I said, I won't be surprised if it doesn't happen, but EJ should get the award. 
  • Superstar for one game.  I'm going with Michael Beasley.  He had a good game the first time he played the Clippers with 24 points, one off his career high.  And he's certainly got a 30 point game in him this season.  If the Clippers have not yet figured out that he's left handed (he continually burned them to his dominant hand in the last game), he will have another big game.  He'll need to in order to support Wade if neither Marion nor Cook can play.
  • Get the Heat perspective at Peninsula is Mightier.