The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
You know what I hate? Writing game previews for the second game of a back to back when the first game is on the west coast so it ends really late and I was watching on the DVR anyway so it's actually later for me and then I have to write a recap for that game before I can even start the preview for the next game and the first game was a terrible waste of time ending in a disheartening loss. That's what I hate. Well, that's one thing I hate, anyway. The Clippers have two separate two game winning streaks in February. Each time they had a chance to make it three in a row with a winnable game against an opponent with a losing record missing key players. And each time they failed miserably. Last night, it was in Sacramento. Back on February 9th after consecutive 20+ wins over Memphis and Atlanta, the Clippers closed a long road trip with a total clunker in Charlotte. So tonight's game in Staples Center presents a chance to avenge two recent losses. But who knows what is in this team's head at this point? Will they show up? This entire month has been surreal. They're 5 and 7, and all seven losses - EVERY SINGLE DAMN ONE OF THEM - have been completely embarrassing. Meanwhile, they've got a couple of blowout wins of their own, not to mention a win over the Celtics. So as Robert DeNiro said to Billy Crystal - analyze this. I got nuthin'. My guess (and this is purely a guess) is that Eric Gordon will sit out this game. And remember that Fred Jones left the game in Sacramento in the third and did not return, although I have heard absolutely nothing about that injury. If neither Gordon nor Jones can go, MDsr can choose from Mardy Collins, Ricky Davis and Alex Acker to start at the two guard. He'll likely go with Davis, who is the last guy I'd choose.
A little like the Clippers, the Bobcats have been pretty good when they've had their current starting lineup together. They have won consecutive road games on their current California vacation, and in fact are undefeated in the Golden State this season. They have a chance to run the table with a win over the Clippers, and if they do then Larry Brown will take them to Disneyland. The Bobcats are in 13th place in their conference while the Clippers are in 13th in theirs. Difference is, when you're 13th in the East you're only three games out of the playoffs (only two in the loss column). So now that Gerald Wallace is back in the lineup, they're probably thinking they're ready to make that playoff push. They are playing the second game of a back to back, the finale of a 5 game road trip, far, far from home, so they could be tried. The Clippers also played last night, but their starters should nonetheless be well rested - the silver lining of the complete no show in Sacto. The Bobcats have a very unusual roster. They have seven players averaging double figures, and their leading scorer (Wallace) is just over 16 a game. Wallace has the lowest average of any team leading scorer in the league. And indeed, this is how you'd describe the Bobcats - no one on the roster is really a great scorer. No one can really create their own shot, with the possible exception of Raymond Felton. But they have a lot of guys who are capable scorers on any given night.
- Which team shows up? We can probably stop watching after about 5 minutes and know the outcome. If the Clipper team that beat the Celtics shows up, Clippers win. If the team that lost to Sacramento last night shows up, Cats win. Pretty simple, really.
- Sub 40% shooting. The Clippers have shot below 40% for a game more times than I care to remember this season. They shot 38% last night. They shot 39% in Charlotte three Mondays ago. At some level, it doesn't really take a genius to figure this stuff out. If you can't put the ball in the basket, you're not going to win. Baron definitely led the charge in the Queen city. He was 1 for 7 for a season low 3 points. I'm going out on a limb and saying that he needs to do better than that.
- Three point shooting. Charlotte has four players shooting close to or better than 40% from beyond the arc this season - Raja Bell, former Laker Vladi Radmanovic, rookie D.J. Augustine and (surprisingly given his career percentage of 33%) Boris Diaw. Staying home on shooters, proper rotations and aggressive closeouts are going to be keys for the Clippers in this game. On the other end, hopefully the Clippers themselves can find the range again. They've shot it incredibly well at times this season, but in their last two games they are 13 for 45. The Bobcats were 9 for 17 in their win over Golden State last night.
- Emeka. Okafor had a big game against the Clippers in the first one with 19 points and 16 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Marcus Camby needs to snap out of whatever funk he was in in Sacramento last night and match Okafor's energy, or he's going to have another big night against the Clippers.
- Seven scorers. As I mentioned above, the Bobcats have seven players averaging in double figures. That's a lot of guys who can score at least some. But those seven pretty much do ALL the scoring for the Bobcats. You're down to 5 points a game from there. They also have some pretty one dimensional scorers among them. Force Bell and Radmanivic to put the ball on the floor, stay home and run them off the three point line. Keep Gerald Wallace out of the lane and don't let him score easy baskets in transition. Keep Okafor off the offensive glass, and try to keep him from getting deep post position. He's not going to beat you facing the basket. Play Boris Diaw for the pass - he'd rather pass than shoot in most cases.
- Superstar for one game. D.J. Augustine. The rookie had a solid game against the Clippers the first time with 17 points on 10 shots. He's took quick for anyone on the Clippers roster with Gordon out. Look for him to have a big game.
- Get the Bobcats perspective from at Rufus on Fire.