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Clippers @ Atlanta - Game Preview

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Philips Arena
February 7th, 2009, 4:00 PM
KTLA Channel 5, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Mike Bibby
Eric Gordon
SG Joe Johnson
Al Thornton
SF Marvin Williams
Zach Randolph
PF Josh Smith
Marcus Camby
C Al Horford


The Back Story:

  • January 14, 2009 in LA - Atlanta 97 - Clippers 80 - Box Score - Recap

The Big Picture:

The Clippers had lost seven straight in embarrassing fashion.  They had opened the current road trip 0 for 4, with only a good first in half in Cleveland to show for it.  So last night's wire to wire win in Memphis was unexpected to say the least.  Zach Randolph (35 points and 10 rebounds), Ricky Davis (a season high 24 and 6 three pointers) and Eric Gordon (23 points on 10 shots) led the way for the Clippers, who made a franchise record 16 three pointers in the victory.  Even Baron Davis looked rejuvenated with 8 assists and only 1 turnover.  He even managed to make 3 of 4 shots in the fourth quarter.  The projected starting lineup for this game is now 7-6 on the season.  50 games in, they've been healthy enough to start together only 13 times, so that tell you a little something about the season.  But the bottom line is, this is a different team (literally) than the one that lost to Atlanta in LA three weeks ago.  Still, it's hard to know how they're going to play in Atlanta, after their last two games, which could not be much more different.  So which team will show up?

The Antagonist:

Atlanta was 21-10 on New Year's Day.  Then they went 6-10 in January.  But they're now 2-0 in February, both of those wins coming without their All Star Joe Johnson.  So they're a little up and down. I have to admit, I've only seen them once this season, the first time they played the Clippers.  And while they won that game easily, the competition was not very stiff - and I wasn't exactly impressed what I saw from the Hawks.  On paper, it's a very talented team.  Mike Bibby is having a bounce back year at the age of 30, averaging 16 points per game and shooting a career high 41% from deep.  Johnson, as I've already mentioned is an All Star.  Josh Smith is a breathtaking athlete who earned himself a $58M contract this off-season.  And Al Horford was the second best rookie in the NBA last season.  Even the seeming misfit of the bunch, Marvin Williams, is suddenly coming alive - he's scored 23 and 29 in the Hawks last two games to compensate for the loss of Johnson, who's been battling the flu.  The bench is not great, but the starters are impressive.  And yet, I'm not impressed.  I probably just haven't seen them enough.  They are currently holding down fourth place in the Eastern Conference, so they're on track for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, so that's nothing to sneeze at.

The Subplots

  • Joe Johnson.  Johnson has missed the Hawks last two games with flu-like symptoms (not the flu, just flu-like symptoms).  According to the AP, "Hawks coach Mike Woodson held out hope Johnson would play Saturday against the Clippers."  "Held out hope" doesn't make it sound overly likely, but we'll see.  It's pretty unusual for a player to miss more than a couple of games with the flu, though it certainly can happen.  Even if he plays, he may not be feeling great.  If he doesn't play, it increases the Clippers chances termendously - he's their best player by far.
  • Al Thornton.  Clippers forward Al Thornton has had some great games against the Hawks in his short career.  He scored 25 earlier this year, 33 in his coming out party last January, and 18 in his only other trip to Atlanta.  That's a 25+ average for the Perry, GA native against his home town team.  His bigger assignment tonight may be defending Marvin Williams without putting him on the line.  Williams made 18 of 20 free throws in Charlotte yesterday.
  • Back to back for both teams.  The Hawks played in Charlotte last night, the Clippers in Memphis.  So both teams have to play again after relatively short trips.  Atlanta had to work a little harder in their game, going to the final seconds before securing the win over the Bobcats, while the Clippers had a laugher against the Grizzlies.  For what it's worth.
  • Trivia Time - Last night, we talked about the players who played for both the Clippers and the Grizzlies.  Tonight, let's focus on coaches.  Without looking it up, can you name the head coach who has led both of these teams?  For extra credit, what is he doing now?
  • Baron.  There was a pretty telling play in the first quarter in Memphis last night.  Baron got past his man, turned the corner, had an unimpeded path to the basket, and went in for the monster jam weak flip toward the rim (which he missed).  It was obvious that Baron had every intention of stuffing that ball, but for whatever reason, it didn't happen.  It made me wonder if he's just not right physically - I mean, he wanted a SportsCenter highlight, right?  We have frequently questioned his motivation in some areas, but surely we all agree that he was plenty motivated to flush that dunk.  So why didn't he?  If he's physically not where he once was, it could be could news or bad news of course.  If it's just a matter of allowing injuries to heal completely, or getting into shape, and we expect that he will regain most if not all of that athleticism, then it's good news.  If he's irrevocably lost a step (or in this case, a foot off of his vertical), then it's very bad news.  Or if it's a matter of conditioning, that's mixed - maybe he could get back into shape with some hard work, but why did he allow it to get to this point in the first place?
  • Streaks.  The last time these two teams met, the Clippers had lost 11 straight and the Hawks made it 12.  Tonight, the Clippers have a chance to put together a winning streak for the first time since mid December, and only the second time this season.
  • Superstar for one game. Flip Murray.  He had a good game against the Clippers in LA.  And if Joe Johnson doesn't play, he'll get plenty of minutes and plenty of chances tonight.  
  • Get the Hawks perspective hawksdawgs at Peachtree Hoops