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Clippers vs. Golden State - Game Preview

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Staples Center
February 23rd, 2009, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG C.J. Watson
Eric Gordon
SG Jamal Crawford
Ricky Davis
SF Kelenna Azubuike
Al Thornton
PF Stephen Jackson
Zach Randolph
C Ronny Turiaf

The Back Story:

  • November 15, 2008, in LA - Warriors 121 - Clippers 103  Box Score  Recap
  • January 25, 2009, in Oakland - Warriors 107 - Clippers 92  Box Score  Recap

The Big Picture:

Since the All Star break, the Clippers have lost by 40, 23 and 29 - an average margin of defeat of almost 31 points per game.  They've allowed an astounding 398 points in three games.  And here come the high scoring Warriors.  As it happens, there is a possibility that the Clippers could have a semblance of a team together tonight.  Zach Randolph has completed serving his suspension, and both Al Thornton and Marcus Camby should be able to play soon, possibly tonight.  If, by some miracle, Randolph, Thornton and Camby are able to start tonight it will bode very well for the team.  The Clippers are 9-8 this season with that starting front court.  For a 13-43 team, that's a very big deal.  Baron Davis will be playing his former team for only the second time this season, as he missed the January meeting in Oakland.

The Antagonist:

The Warriors have won 4 of their last 5 games, and have played better than .500 basketball since getting Monta Ellis back in mid January.  They remain easily the strangest team in the league.  When they lost Baron Davis and signed Corey Maggette this summer, it seemed that all they had were wings.  When they trade Al Harrington for Jamal Crawford in November, it got even more distinct.  Basically, Don Nelson plays a center and four wings - all of them scorers.  There's not a point guard in sight most of the time, although Jamal Crawford and Ellis and Stephen Jackson can all handle the ball.  But it works for them - they are the ultimate example of a team that simply tries to outscore their opponent.  Given their shooting percentages, it wouldn't seem to have much chance of working.  Three of their starters, all among their top five scorers, shoot worse than 42% from the field (Ellis 39.8%, Jackson 40.8% and Crawford 41.8%).  But as the old business saying goes, even though they lose money on every deal, they make it up on volume.  Which is to say, I don't know how they're winning games.  They have been shooting better in 2009, and they were starting to get healthy, so that helps explain their mini-run so far in February.  But Andris Biedrins has missed the last few games, and may or may not come back against the Clippers, and now comes word that Ellis' ankle is feeling stiff, and he'll miss a few games.  We don't call the Warriors the Clippers North for nothing - they've had a lot of injuries this season.

The Subplots

  • The matchup dilemma.  If Camby can't play, it's less of an issue, since the Clippers will more or less be forced to play smaller.  But if Marcus is available, what do you do?  Do you play Marcus and Zach together, and try to pound the Dubs inside and on the glass?  Or do you still go small and try to match up against their crazy bird with four wings? 
  • Ellis out.  The Monta Ellis story is quite a melodrama this season.  He signed a $66M contract this summer, then hurt himself in a moped accident, then lied about it.  The Warriors front office suspended him for 30 games, which in the end looked a little like a money saving move, since he was going to miss those 30 games anyway.  The Warriors, as I understand it, are still reserving the right to void the contract if he doesn't recover fully.  So taking a week or so off to rest some more a month into his NBA return can't be considered a good sign.  He's averaged 13 points per game and shot below 40% since returning.
  • Corey Maggette.  Former Clipper Corey Maggette was the Warriors big free agency coup this summer.  At first, there were many reports of 'buyer's remorse' in the east bay, with Maggette shooting a poor percentage and doing all those things he's always done like turning the ball over and blowing defensive assignments.  But things are looking up for Corey in the bay, ironically since he began coming off the bench.  His shooting percentage is at an all time high, and he's actually way over 50% in 2009. 
  • Big game for Zach.  A quick caveat - I have neither seen nor heard any updates on Zach's father's health.  I am assuming he'll be back in uniform tonight, but it's possible he may still be away from the team for his family's health crisis.  If he does play, he could have a big game.  Ronny Turiaf is the only Warrior who can match up with him, and Zach should be able to either draw him away from the basket for jumpers, or drive around him.  How the Clippers handle the double team will be a key to this game.
  • Baron versus his old team.  Frankly, it was the Warriors game back in November when I realized that the Clippers were in serious trouble this season.  The first 6 losses we chalked up to injuries and no time for the team together.  The Sacramento loss in game eight, that could have been just one of those bad games.  But when Baron and the Clippers were soundly beaten by a short-handed Warriors team in Staples in game nine, it became obvious that something was seriously wrong.  Can Baron come up big against his former mates tonight?
  • Playing their game.  Against the Suns last week, the Clippers seemed to want to run and gun with them.  It didn't turn out so great.  The Warriors play at the highest pace in the league - the Clippers are going to have to try to control the tempo some, and especially pick up players in transition.  Otherwise, we may be in for another 140+ night from the opponent.
  • Anthony Morrow.  An undrafted rookie, Morrow scored 37 points in the first meeting between these teams in LA in November, and early trend setter among obscure NBA players who look like super mega stars against the Clippers.  He's gotten a string of DNP-Coach's decisions lately, but surely that won't keep him from dropping 40 on the Clippers.
  • Superstar for one game.  Morrow is essentially the originator of this award (he and Benu Udrih and Paul Millsap).  But if he can't get off the bench, he can't win the award. 
  • Get the Warriors perspective at Golden State of Mind.