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Clippers at New Orleans - Game Preview

2009/2010 NBA Regular Season
New Orleans Arena
January 13th, 2010, 5:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Chris Paul
Eric Gordon SG Devin Brown
Rasual Butler
SF Peja Stojakovic
Marcus Camby PF David West
DeAndre Jordan
C Emeka Okafor

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

Can the Clippers put the strangeness in Memphis behind them and move on?  Will they have enough energy to even compete, on the second night of a road back to back, after playing a game that went longer than it was supposed to with several key players missing and Baron Davis and Eric Gordon each logging 46 minutes?  Chris Kaman is unlikely to play in this game after straining his back during warm ups in Memphis.  Marcus Camby will be a game time decision after missing the final three quarters last night with a stomach virus.  With leading scorer Kaman out, Davis and Gordon will have to carry the scoring load.  Hopefully they can get some help from Rasual Butler and Al Thornton and Craig Smith.  If Camby doesn't play, I wouldn't be surprised to see Thornton out there as the starting four.  David West seems like a bad matchup for Craig Smith.  The Clippers game plan will like be similar the those for the Blazers, Lakers and Heat - Chris Paul will get a lot of attention.  Unfortunately, while Brandon Roy and Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are difficult to double team, it's almost impossible with CP3.  But you can be certain that the Clippers' defensive scheme will all be geared towards Paul.  

The Antagonist:

The Hornets had won six straight games before losing in Philadelphia Monday night.  But it wasn't the most impressive win streak.  Unlike the Clippers, who had won four straight games by double digit margins, the Hornets victories were by 4, 4, 4, 5, 4 and 5.  They all count in the standings - but the Hornets aren't exactly dominating teams.  In fact, despite being 2 games over .500 while the Clippers are 2 games under, the Hornets actually have a worse point differential on the season at -2 (the Clippers are -1.8, for what it's worth).  The Hornets are also in the lower half of the league in both offensive efficiency (17th) and defensive efficiency (20th).  So that's the good news - they haven't been great overall this season.  The bad news is that they have been great at home (14-3, tied for fewest home losses in the league) and they have been great against the Clippers.  They have averaged 111 points in their two wins over LA, and handed the Clippers their worst home loss of the season, a 28 point drubbing, two months ago.  Chris Paul is having another outstanding season - but the crew around him is either new, or has experienced a drop off this season.  David West for instance is down at 17.5 points per game, after averaging 21 each of the last two seasons.

The Subplots

  • Another big game.  We were all hoping that the Clippers would win in Memphis, and then this game would be for the chance to catch the Hornets in the standings after havnig passed the Funk.  Even though that didn't happen, this game is still huge.  With four teams to chase down if the playoff dream is to become a reality, every game against those teams competing for the final playoff spots is doubly huge.  New Orleans is currently 10th in the West, and the Clippers are 12th.
  • Grizzlies and Hornets, Grizzlies and Hornets.  On November 7th and 9th, the Clippers played the Grizzlies followed by the Hornets in consecutive games.  On November 17th and 18th, they played the Hornets then the Grizzlies in a road back to back.  And now they've got them together again.  Unfortunately the Clippers are 1 and 4 in these games so far.
  • Defensive rotations.  The Clippers can expect a steady diet of pick and roll tonight.  Earlier in the season, LA's pick and roll defense had been terrible.  But the last few weeks it was much improved.  Unfortunately, with the rotation out of whack because of injuries, the Clippers rotations were much less sharp than they had been.  Kaman and Camby had been backstopping the defense beautifully, showing on picks and providing help when perimeter defender were beaten, all without giving up easy baskets on missed rotations.  It's an intricate dance, and they were really clicking.  Unfortunately, it's just not the same with DeAndre Jordan and Brian Skinner, as evidenced by Marc Gasol's wide open dunk in the final minutes last night.
  • Defending Paul.  Since he drew the assignment against Roy and Bryant and Wade, why should Eric Gordon have to defend Chris Paul?  As I mention above, Paul is a different challenge.  He's much more difficult to double team, as he's so preternatually good with the ball that he can actually take on the double, keep his dribble alive and still usually go where he wants.  Only now, he's got someone open to pass to, and he knows it.  It's a tough assignment - one of the toughest.
  • The real Baron Davis.  I called him this after the Miami game.  Then he went for a triple double against Memphis.  Baron is playing like a monster right now.  Can he keep it up? 
  • Two terrible efforts.  The first two meetings against the Hornets rank among the worst games the team has played this season.  In the first game, the Clippers had won three straight and had a chance to get to .500.  They looked terrible in losing by 28 - one of only 5 Hornets road wins this season, and by far the easiest.  Then they lost in New Orleans while Chris Paul was hurt.  It would be great to have a decent game against this team, but it may not happen with Kaman.
  • TV Quote: 

    Hornet gun... check. Hornet sting... check. Let's roll, Kato!

    The Green Hornet (1966) -  This short-lived TV series, was I believe a spin off from Batman.  It's claim to fame is that Bruce Lee played the sidekick Kato.  I was a big fan of that Batman show so I enjoyed this as well - same sort of campy, tongue in cheek thing.  I was only three when it was first on the air, so I must have seen it in reruns.
  • Get the Hornets perspective At the Hive.