The Back Story:
- First meeting of the season. Dallas swept the season series last year, 3 games to none.
The Big Picture:
The first two games of the season for the Clippers have featured a 15-0 drought against the Blazers and a 21-2 drought against the Warriors. That is so much like the start of the 2008-2009 season that it's spooky, which is I guess appropriate for Halloween. The Clippers get another chance to get in the win column against Dallas in a Sunday matinee. But it's not going to happen if they don't start making some shots. The team is shooting less than 40% on the young season, and starters Baron Davis (33%), Chris Kaman (28%) and Ryan Gomes (27%) are far worse than that. The schedule for the next seven games is far from easy; if the team doesn't want their season to end before Thanksgiving, they're going to have to find a way to beat some good teams, at least at home. Might was well start with the Mavs.
Mark Cuban is always trying to make the Mavericks better. It may not ever work, and he's racing the clock before his mega star Dirk Nowitzki starts to decline (he's 32, and he's been in the league forever), but he's always trying. Since February 2008, in the course of 20 months, the Mavericks have acquired three former All Stars to put around Nowitzki (Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Caron Butler). If your pockets are deep enough, you can take on some good players, who just happen to have really big contracts that they may or may not be earning. The Mavericks seemed to land on the right combination when they added Butler last February - they ran off a 13 game win streak one game after he joined the club, and went 23-7 overall with after the trade. So why aren't more people talking about the Mavericks with a full season of this lineup? Maybe it's because they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Spurs, despite their late season record. The fact is that the window is closing for Dallas; Nowitzki has tons of miles on his tires, and four of their five starters are 30 or older, led on the age scale by the 37 year old Kidd. But as long as Nowitzki is still Nowitzki (and he's 28 and 27 in their first two games, while making an astounding 22 of 28 field goal attempts), they're going to be a team solidly in the playoffs.
- Scoring droughts. It would be interesting to know if all teams go through these droughts. Does it just feel like it only happens to the Clippers? Let's face it, we watch all 82 Clippers games, and we don't watch the other teams nearly as much. Maybe all teams go through these dry spells, and it just FEELS like a phenomenon unique to the Clippers. But really, that's how it feels.
- Tough test for Blake. Blake Griffin is averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds in the first two games, but Wednesday against Portland was clearly a lot better than Friday against Golden State. Today he faces the first real test of his defensive ability, as he will likely draw Dirk. (Over the years, the Clippers have tried a lot of different things against Nowitzki, from Chris Kaman to Cat Mobley, but I would assume that Vinny Del Negro will go with the straight power forward matchup.) Dirk is shooting almost 80% on the young season, so whoever defends him will definitely have their hands full.
- Getting Kaman Going. Dirk has started the season red hot, but his buddy and some time German National Team teammate Chris Kaman has started ice cold. Kaman is shooting 28% on the season. He's been so off that it can truly be said that his dismal 5 for 14 performance against the Warriors was a major improvement. Kaman was so good in pre-season that one has to assume that he'll snap out of his slump at any moment. But, it's also possible that the poor shooting is in his head at this point. He definitely looked tentative against the Warriors, passing up shots he would normally take. This may not be the game that gets him going - both Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood are long, and they're both good post defenders.
- Baron and Kidd. Baron Davis is 31 and no longer has the explosiveness he once did. He is however a terrific passer. If he is going to be successful in the NBA as he gets older, it will likely have to be as a Jason Kidd type pass first point guard. Kidd has averaged around 8 shots a game in his last two seasons in Dallas, and over half of those have been threes (interestingly, he has made himself into a much better three point shooter in the last few years). Baron on the other hand took 12 shots per game last season for LA - and that was his lowest per game average since his second season in the league. Unfortunately, Baron has yet to turn himself into a good three point shooter.
- Offensive schemes. I leave it to your imagination as to which meaning of offensive I'm using their. The Clippers offense against the Warriors Friday was terrible. They weren't moving, and on the many post iso's for Kaman, he usually had dificulty handing the inevitable double team. For his part, Blake is clearly not yet comfortable taking the 18 footer, even though defenses are playing 10 feet off him and daring him to shoot. Given so much cushion, he's not able to drive to the basket. Eric Gordon has been reasonably effective driving to the time so par on the season, but has not found his long range shooting touch. Bottom line is the Clippers are going to have to shoot a lot better if VDN's iso and space the floor scheme is going to work.
- Superstar for one game. Dominque Jones. Who better than a rookie from South Florida?
- Get the Maverics perspective at Mavs Moneyball.