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Clippers vs. New Orleans - Game Preview

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Staples Center
April 1st, 2009, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Mike Taylor
PG Chris Paul
Eric Gordon
SG Rasual Butler
Al Thornton
SF Julian Wright
Zach Randolph
PF David West
Chris Kaman
C Hilton Armstrong

The Back Story:

  • November 24, 2008 in LA - New Orleans 99 - Clippers 87   box score   recap
  • January 9, 2009 in New Orleans - New Orleans 107 - Clippers 80   box score   recap

The Big Picture:

The Clippers return home after their final extended road trip of the season.  It's a good thing they got three days off, because it's the first time in a while that they've gone that long without being blown out.  The Clippers somehow have managed to remain injury-prone all season.  With only eight games left, Marcus Camby is definitely out tonight, as are Mardy Collins and of course Ricky Davis.  Baron Davis practiced on Monday, but is still feeling the ill-effects of stomach ulcers.  And Mike Taylor and Al Thornton are also banged up.  The bigger question may be the condition of their hearts as opposed to their bodies - their hearts haven't been into the last few games (or the last few months for that matter).  Can the Clippers get off to a decent start after being blown out in the first quarter of five straight?  Can they defend anyone on the Hornets, let alone Chris Paul or David West?

The Antagonist:

The Hornets will play this game without starting center Tyson Chandler and super sub James Posey, while starting small forward Peja Stojakovic has also missed 14 straight games and is listed as day-to-day with back spasms.  So they've got issues of their own.  But Chris Paul and David West are the keys for the Hornets, and both of them are just fine, thank you very much.  West in particular could have a huge game against the Clippers - with Camby out, the Clippers have no one remotely capable of defending him.  West is a unique combination of solid post play, a good face up game, and a great mid range shooter.  He's a tough cover for good defenders at the four - and Zach Randolph is far from a good defender.  MDsr will likely choose to put Kaman on West and leave Randolph on Hilton Armstrong - but West's combination of skills will be hard on Kaman as well, especially with him still looking a step slow.  As for Paul, one of the Clipper rookie guards will get the assignment - Mike Taylor figures to play a lot, even Baron Davis suits up.  And Eric Gordon will draw the assignment at times as well.  Against Paul, it's all about defending the pick and roll, which the Clippers have done particularly poorly this season.

The Subplots:

  • Mike Taylor.  Taylor has started the last two games at the point guard, and scored 35 in the game before that against the Knicks.  Did you know that the Clippers were involved in the top three rookie scoring performances of the season?  (1) Eric Gordon, 41 points against the Thunder.  (2) Anthony Morrow, 37 points against the Clippers.  (3) Mike Taylor, 35 points against the Knicks.  That's correct - Mike Taylor's 35 are better than any game by O.J. Mayo or Russell Westbrook this season.
  • Julian Wright.  Back in January, I expressed some degree of shock that Hornets' coach Byron Scott had chosen to leave their 2007 lottery pick on the inactive list rather than get him into the rotation.  March has seen a big uptick in Wright's minutes, owing in large part no doubt to the injuries to Peja and Posey.  Wright is a major talent - one of those crazy long, crazy skinny, crazy skilled 21 year olds.  He scored 20 against the Thunder three weeks ago and went for 11 and 14 just last week against the Knicks. 
  • A step backwards?  After challenging for the best record in the Western Conference a year ago, and with Paul and West expected to make the next step, the Hornets had high hopes entering the season.  Instead, they are in seventh place in the West, third in their own division.  Of course, after the Lakers it's anyone's guess who the next best team in the West is.  If the Hornets can get healthy and play well in the playoffs, they have as much chance of moving into the WC Finals as anybody.  The good news about the seventh seed is that it avoids the Lakers until the WC Finals - better the seventh seed than the fifth seed this season.
  • Clippers well rested.  Not that it's likely to make a difference given the teams we're talking about, but the Clippers have had three days off, while the Hornets played last night in Sacramento - and had to work to the final buzzer.  After a Beno Udrih jumper gave the Kings a two point lead with one second on the clock, Rasual Butler made a three on the Hornets last ditch play to pull out the win.  Lucky for the Clippers - had the Hornets lost that game, they would have come into LA pissed.  Having pulled that one out, there's a chance they could let down tonight.
  • Speaking of the Kings.  That one hurt in the ping pong ball race.  Had the Kings gotten their 17th win last night, they could easily catch the Clippers in the standings by winning their final meeting, which of course they always do.  Assuming Agent Zero is good for a couple late season wins in DC, the worst record is well within reach.  I'm not generally a proponent of tanking - but when you get this close, why the hell not?
  • Hornets bench.  New Orleans doesn't really have much of a bench - it's their biggest weakness.  With two starters out, their top subs are now Devin Brown and Sean Marks.  Yikes.  Antonio Daniels is a nice player, but he backs up Chris Paul which means he doesn't get a lot of minutes. 
  • Superstar for one game.  Rasual Butler has had every great game in his mildly interesting career against the Clippers, including 27 points on 14 shots back in January.  But I'm going with Julian Wright.  I've been saying he should play - he'll prove it tonight.
  • Movie Quote: 

    All things dull and ugly, all creatures short and squat.
    All things rude and nasty, the Lord God made the lot.
    Each little snake that poisons, each little wasp that stings.
    He made their brutish venum, he made their horrid wings.
    All things sick and cancerous, All evil great and small.
    All things foul and dangerous, the Lord God made them all.
    Each nasty little hornet, each beastly little squid.
    Who made the spiny urchin? Who made the sharks? He did!
    All things scabbed and ulcerous, all pox both great and small.
    Putrid foul and gangrenous, the Lord God made them all. Amen.

    Pupils - The Meaning of Life (1983).  Chris Paul is a nasty little hornet.  I'm ashamed to admit, I don't really remember this scene from Meaning of Life.  I may have to rent it.  What's your favorite Monty Python movie?  I think I'd have to go with Life of Brian.
  • Get the Hornets perspective at the Hive.