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Clippers @ Denver - Game Preview

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2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
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18-57
50-26
Staples Center
April 4th, 2009, 6:00 PM
KTLA Channel 5, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Chauncey Billups
Eric Gordon
SG Dahntay Jones
Fred Jones
SF Carmelo Anthony
Zach Randolph
PF Kenyon Martin
DeAndre Jordan
C Nene

The Back Story:

  • October 31, 2008 in LA - Denver 112 - Clippers 103   box score   recap
  • November 26, 2008 in LA - Denver 106 - Clippers 105   box score   recap
  • March 14, 2009 in Denver - Denver 107 - Clippers 94   box score   recap

The Big Picture:

I can't think of what the Clippers have to play for in Denver tonight.  They seem to be long past the idea of caring.  They have not shown any interest in the concept of pride, or the playing for said.  To illustrate the point, only nine Clippers will even be in Denver.  Joining Ricky Davis, Mardy Collins and Marcus Camby as scratches for this game are Al Thornton (bone bruise in his foot) and Chris Kaman (the flu).  I'm guessing that Thornton and Kaman will feel good enough to play tomorrow against the Lakers, but that's just a hunch.  That leaves Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Zach Randolph and a bunch of second string guys to contend with the Nuggets.  As it happens, Randolph has barely seen the Nuggets this season: he wasn't with the Clippers for the first meeting, logged only 26 minutes in his first game as a Clipper in the second meeting, and missed the third.  So he adds a weapon the team has not had in the past.  But unless Baron and Gordon and Randolph all have huge games, it's hard to imagine winning this one.

The Antagonist:

Given that there aren't that many 50 win teams in the league to this point, the Clippers sure have played a lot of them.  The Cavs got their 50th against LA way back on March 10.  The Celtics win over the Clippers on March 23 was their 54th.  Tonight it's the Nuggets.  Tomorrow it's the Lakers.  The only 50 win team the Clippers haven't played in the last month is Orlando - next in line to reach 50?  Spurs, Rockets, Hornets, Blazers, Jazz - all Clipper opponents in the final three weeks of the season.  But first it's the Nugs.  They've won 10 of their last 11, but many of them were against some pretty weak opponents (the Clippers included).  Still, with the Clippers missing their two best centers and their starting small forward, they should get win number 51 tonight.

The Subplots:

  • Camby done for the season?  According to Lisa Dillman in today's LA Times, Marcus Camby may be done for the season.  He didn't even make the trip to Denver this time.  If indeed he doesn't play again this season, the sprained ankle he suffered against San Antonio may cost him a million bucks.  He has contract incentives for playing 60 and 65 games and he sits at 58 games played.  Missing this game rules 65 out and it seems he's resigned to missing the rest of them as well, even though only two more games would earn him an extra $500K.  Marcus' attitude about the whole thing is pretty mature: "Money is definitely money, but I've made and saved a lot through my 13 years."  Good for him.
  • DeAndre Jordan.  With Camby and Kaman both in LA, DeAndre Jordan should get some major minutes tonight.  Good.  With nothing else to play for, the Clippers need to get as DJ as much game experience as possible.  I'm not sure why Brian Skinner got 11 minutes against the Hornets while DJ sat on the bench, but chalk it up as another reason to be vexed with the coach. 
  • Missing Thornton's D.  Never thought I'd say it, but the Clippers will definitely miss Al Thornton on defense tonight.  In recent weeks we've seen him defend well  when confronted with a specific challenge, like for instance LeBron James.  The simple fact is that with Ricky Davis out (and completely ineffective when he was in), and Mardy Collins done for the year, Thornton has been the team's only viable option against big scoring threes.  Well, scoring threes don't get much bigger than Carmelo Anthony.  I assume Fred Jones will draw the assignment tonight.  Actually, the Clippers used to have great success defending Melo with Cat Mobley, who's probably a little smaller than Jones.  But Cat had a truly uncanny ability to be effective against much bigger players, and unless MDsr can transfer that knowledge to Fred before game time, I don't expect this to end well.  Baron, Gordon, Novak, Alex Acker... they all could take a turn on Melo - and none of them can handle him - or come close for that matter.
  • Chris Andersen.  On July 15th, the Nuggets traded Marcus Camby, who had been the league's leading shot blocker and second leading rebounder last season, to the Clippers getting nothing in return, for the sole purpose of clearing enough salary to get under the luxury tax.  On July 24th, they signed Chris Andersen,  who had been out of the league serving a drug suspension, to a one year minimum contract.  Andersen is now second in the NBA in blocked shots - ahead of Camby who is third.  He's also averaging over 10.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, compared to 12.9 for Camby.  Show me a Denver executive who says he believed before the season started that Andersen would effectively replace Camby's productivity and I'll show you a liar.  But it could not have worked out much better.  The question now in still salary conscious Denver is whether they can afford to hang on to Andersen, since he's unlikely to play for the minimum next season.
  • Not my team.  I went through the process of shopping for a playoff team yesterday.  I don't like Carmelo, I don't like Kenyon Martin, I don't like J.R. Smith - suffice it to say, this is not going to be my team during the playoffs.
  • Superstar for one game.  Andersen.  In the last game, Andersen and Balkman played with an energy the Clippers couldn't match.  I expect even less energy from the skeleton crew tonight.  The Nuggets will build a lead, Karl will rest his stars, and Andersen will go wild.  Or not.
  • Movie Quote: 

    Hello, I'm Jerri Blank and - and I'm an alcoholic. I'm also addicted to amphetamines as well as main line narcotics. Some people say I have a sex addiction, but I think all those years of prostitution was just a means to feed my ravenous hunger for heroin. It's kinda like the chicken or the nugget. The point is, I'm addicted to gambling. Thank you. [meekly] Oh, and... my daddy's in a coma.

    Jerri Blank - Strangers With Candy (2005).  Amy Sedaris = Funny.
  • Get the Nuggets perspective at Pickaxe and Roll.