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Clippers @ Charlotte - Game Preview

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Time Warner Cable Arena
February 9th, 2009, 4:00 PM
No Local TV, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG D.J. Augustin
Eric Gordon
SG Raymond Felton
Al Thornton
SF Boris Diaw
Zach Randolph
PF Juwan Howard
Marcus Camby
C Emeka Okafor


The Back Story:

  • First meeting of the season.

The Big Picture:

Watching the turnaround in the Clippers over the last two games, it felt unprecedented.  Of course, we always think there's something unique about our team - well, in this case, we were right.  Apparently, this was literally the first time in NBA history that a team 25 games under .500 has won consecutive road games by 20 or more.  So it's not just us thinking this team is wildly unpredictable - they really are wildly unpredictable.  Suddenly, the team that was last in the NBA in almost every offensive category is scoring juggernaut.  59% in Memphis, 57% in Atlanta, 120+ in consecutive games... who are these guys?  Well, for one thing, they're healthier than they've been all season, if not yet 100% healthy.  Because even when they went 6-6 with this starting lineup in December, that was without Ricky Davis, who's suddenly a force off the bench.  In fact, if you'll recall, during those December games the bench was non-existent.  Against Houston on December 13th, they got 4 points from the bench.  And that was in a win!  But with Ricky healthy and actually making Buckets, not to mention the developments in Steve Novak and DeAndre Jordan that came out of all the injuries, this team now has the starting unit from that December run AND some reliable reserves as well.  A win tonight will match the season-long 3 game winning streak they put together back in mid-December, and they should certainly get it if they play like they have the last two games.

The Antagonist:

Larry Brown just can't sit still in Charlotte.  He's now made three significant trades in under two months.  First he sent Jason Richardson to Phoenix for Boris Diaw and Raja Bell, then he sent Matt Carroll to Dallas for DeSagana Diop, and just Saturday he sent Adam Morrison to the Lakers for former Clipper Vladimir Radmanovic.  Assuming the physicals are completed and the trade goes through, VladRad should make his Bobcats debut this afternoon.  The moves seemed to be working out - the Bobcats won 6 out of 8 games in one stretch in January, including an overtime victory over the Lakers in LA.  Unfortunately, they also lost their leading scorer and best player in that game, when Andrew Bynum's elbow collapsed Gerald Wallace's lung and cracked a couple of his ribs.  They've now lost 5 straight since Wallace's injury - and he's not the only Bobcat out of action: Raja Bell is also out, and Sean May hasn't played since December 11th.  He's currently under orders from Brown to lose weight.  In fact, the Bobcats weren't able to dress 12 for their game in Miami yesterday.  Of course, they're not going to get any sympathy from the Clippers, who've played several games this season with the NBA minimum 8 in uniform.  With Wallace out, Charlotte will look to Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor, Diaw and rookie D.J. Augustin to carry the scoring load.

The Subplots

  • Who is Cartier Martin?  Maybe I should know this guy - I mean, he played at Kansas State, after all.  But he entered the draft in 2007, before Michael Beasley and Bill Walker arrived in Manhattan, and let's face it, the Wildcats weren't on national TV a lot pre-Beasley.  At any rate, I only bring it up because I'm fascinated when guys who I've never heard of show up on NBA rosters.  Here I am looking up stats for the Bobcats, and they've got some guy named Cartier Marting playing 13 minutes a game the last 4.  Bizarre.  He's listed as a power forward on their roster, but he's been getting his minutes at shooting guard as far as I can tell.
  • Al Thornton whistling Dixie.  Charlotte isn't that far away from Atlanta.  Can Al carry over some of his Georgia mojo to North Carolina?  Thornton scored 31 against the Hawks on Saturday - the second time he's scored 31 in 4 career games.  He had been mired in a terrible slump before breaking out against Orlando on Wednesday.  He's now 28 for 46 in his last 3 games.  Unfortunately, last season Al did not have any success against the Bobcats, scoring 4 and 8 in two meetings.
  • Charlotte on a back-to-back.  The Bobcats played last night in Miami, but the Clippers had Sunday off, so the Clippers have a light advantage there.  On the other hand, the Clippers are playing the last game of a seven game Eastern trip, which is not easy.  The last time we were getting excited about the team and they were closing a road trip, they got destroyed in Milwaukee.  Let's hope they don't have a let down at the end of the trip as they did that time.  They've got to be feeling pretty good about themselves - they've got so much momentum right now, surely they won't let down this time.
  • Trivia Time - You already know that the Clippers traded down in the 2004 draft, swapping their number 2 overall pick (which became Emeka Okafor) for the Bobcats number 4 overall pick (which became Shaun Livingston).  What else happened in that trade, and why?  What was the Clippers' motivation?
  • Small guards.  D.J. Augustin has played very well for the Bobcats, and was probably hoping for an invitation to the Rookie Challenge next week.  Unfortunately for him, it's a deep rookie class, leaving him as the highest scoring rookie (12 points per game) not going to Phoenix.  The Clippers will want to stay up on Augustin and take away the three pointer - he made 6 last night in Miami, and he's shooting 39.5% from outside the arc.  Unfortunately for Charlotte, he's also shooting 39.5% from inside the arc.  Augustin and Felton (Raymond Felton, not the other guy) will need to have big games in order for the Bobcats to win.  But Baron Davis and star Clipper rookie Eric Gordon should be able to abuse them on the other end.  Augustin is listed at 6'0", and Felton at 6'1".  With Bell out, look for the Clipper guards to use their size and strength advantage all night.  The Bobcats only have one other guard on their roster - 6'0" rookie Sean Singletary.
  • The Radmanovic Trade. I really don't get this trade for Charlotte - I mean, talk about giving up on a lottery pick.  Morrison is younger than Radmanovic, makes less, and is signed for fewer years.  They seem to think that Radmanovic is a lot better than Morrison, but we know he's not great.  He's OK, but he's not great.  And don't be surprised if their three point shooting percentages (Vlad 44%, Stache 34%) flip-flop now that Morrison starts getting all those wide open looks from defenses keying on Kobe and Gasol.  All in all, a strange move - jettisoning a former number 3 overall pick after only a season and a half in the league for a one dimensional player.  I like Vlad, and always thought he had the skills do more on offense than just shoot.   Unfortunately, he's never shown much interest in doing anything else.
  • The best 12-39 team ever.  Three days ago the Clippers had the worst record in the league.  After back to back wins, they're all the way up to third worst.  But, "You can't look at their record. They're starting five are as good as any starting five in the league."  If you think it was some homer like ClipperSteve or Ralph Lawler who said that, think again.  It was Mike Woodson, coach of the Hawks.  On paper, we've long thought that it was true.  It finally seems to be manifesting itself on the hardwood.
  • No local TV.  The game is not being broadcast on TV in LA.  It's understandable - after all, Prime Ticket is broadcasting a repeat of the CIF High School football championship games from two months ago, and FSN is showing SportScience followed by poker.  I mean, why would a sports channel want to broadcast live, professional sports?  That's just silly.  Anyway, if you've got League Pass you can watch the Charlotte broadcast.  I may stop by Legends in Long Beach to watch there.  If you are interested, let me know in the comments.  If a few people are going, I will make more of an effort.
  • Superstar for one game. Augustin.  Baron Davis has trouble staying in front of super quick point guards, and Augustin fits into that category.  The Clippers may put EJ on DJ, but Felton is going to need attention also, so I think Baron is stuck on Augustin.  In which case, Augustin may have a big scoring night - though I think Baron is going to get a lot of those points back on the other end. 
  • Get the Bobcats perspective from the newest addition to the SBNation family of basketball blogs, Rufus on Fire (man, I love that name).