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Clippers at Philadelphia - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season
Wells Fargo Center
December 15th, 2010, 4:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Jrue Holiday
 Eric Gordon SG Jodie Meeks
Ryan Gomes
SF Andre Iguodala
Blake Griffin PF Elton Brand
DeAndre Jordan C Spencer Hawes


The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The Clippers swept the two games last season.

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have yet to win a road game in ten tries this season. (Washington is the only other team without a road win this season.) After losing three straight at home before this trip, the Clippers aren't really winning anywhere right now. It should be noted that aside from a disastrous first quarter against Orlando Sunday, the team has played competitive basketball in the month of December; yet somehow, they've only got two wins in seven December games. They won't get many better chances to get their first road win than tonight; the Clippers are at the beginning of their road trip, coming off two days of rest, while the Sixers played last night in New Jersey. Rested, against a tired opponent with a losing record - this is the situation in a which a bad road team actually gets a road win. Coach Vinny Del Negro shook up the starting lineup last game (or perhaps he unshook it, since he was just returning to two opening night starters). If VDN's goal in returning to Baron Davis and Ryan Gomes over Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu was to reduce the deluge of turnovers inflicting the team, then mission accomplished - they went from 20 and 27 in the two prior games to a season-low eight on Sunday. If his goal was for the team to get out to a good start, well, that's a different story. They lost the first quarter 35-14. No team can afford to dig a 21 point hole before the fans have finished their first beer, least of all the Clippers. They'll want to have a good start in Philadelphia to keep the crowd out of the game if possible. They also desperately need for someone else to step up and help Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin on the offensive end. A glaring lack of a third scoring option was in painful evidence on Sunday, when the G-Force scored 55 points, and the rest of the team scored 30.

The Antagonist:

The Sixers are on something of a roll. The day after Thanksgiving they were 3-13, the worst record in the Eastern Conference and tied with the Clippers for fewest wins in the league at the time. Since then, they've won 6 of 8, and 9-15 in the East puts you right into playoff contention - they're now 9th, only a game and a half behind 8th place Milwaukee. The other thing you need to know about the Sixers is that they've actually scored more points than they've given up this season, despite the fact that they're 6 games under .500. Point differential is pretty much always the best indicator of the quality of a team - so the Sixers are not as bad as their record would indicate. They're 6-2 in their last eight, and their point differential on the season indicates that they're a better than average team. They're also 7-5 at home. So don't expect this to be easy by any means. The success they're having is mostly tied to some pretty solid defense - they've got the 11th best defensive efficiency in the league. Also Del Negro might want to check with Doug Collins about how he gets his young players to take care of the ball - with three starters under the age of 24, the Sixers are in the top five in the league in fewest turnovers. Along with all the youngsters, former Clipper Elton Brand, FElton in these parts, is having a renaissance season. He's leading the Sixers in scoring and rebounding, and is shooting 52% from the field after being well below 50% his first two seasons in Philly.


The Subplots

  • FElton vs. Griffin. This is obviously the marquee matchup for Clipper fans. The past versus the future. The former best Clipper ever, versus the future best Clipper ever. One gets the impression that Brand squeezed every ounce of production out of his somewhat limited skill set. He's not the biggest, strongest nor most athletic power forward in the NBA. Griffin on the other hand is just scratching the surface of his massive talent. One thing they have in common is that they are both tireless workers, so we can expect Griffin to reach his full potential just as Brand did - the ceiling is just a lot higher on Griffin. One advantage Brand has is his length - he's got a big wingspan, and his length could bother Griffin around the basket. But one doubts, at 31 after an achilles injury, that Brand has the quickness to stay with Blake. It should be fun.
  • Young guns. The Clippers until recently were starting five players 22 or younger, the U23 squad. With Baron Davis and Ryan Gomes back in he starting lineup, the Sixers match the Clippers for youth. Jrue Holiday (20), Spencer Hawes (22) and Jodie Meeks (23) are currently starting, and Evan Turner (22), Lou Williams (24), Marreese Speights (23) and Thaddeus Young (22) are all in the top 10 in minutes played. That's seven players under 25 in the rotation - the Clippers young players are younger, but they are not as numerous. Heck, Andre Iguodala is only 26.
  • Jodie Meeks. Doug Collins recently inserted Jodie Meeks into the starting lineup ahead of Evan Turner, the second player chosen in June's draft. Meeks has scored over 15 points per game, and made close to 60% of his threes in five games as a starter. If you're wondering where this guy came from, well so was I. He was a second round pick of the Bucks last season after playing college ball at Kentucky. He arrived in Philadelphia as part of a trade deadline deal last February that seemed like a complete nothing at the time. The Bucks and Sixers swapped some bodies that included Meeks, Francisco Elson, Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec and a second round pick. It doesn't even really matter which team got what, since other than Meeks, none of those players are with either of the teams involved in the trade any longer. But suddenly Meeks, who looked like the most disposable of all the bodies thrown into that deal, is the starting point guard on a red hot team. Go figure.
  • Turner. Turner was supposed to be one of the most NBA ready players in this year's draft - a do everything guy who could play anywhere from the one to the three in the mold of Brandon Roy, who could step in and help a team right away. He was the opening day starter at shooting guard for the Sixers, and scored 16 points in his first NBA game. But his minutes have steadily declined, and now he's lost his starting job to a former second round pick. He's gone scoreless in three of his last five games. Part of the problem is that Turner always had the ball in his hands at Ohio State - I mean ALWAYS - and he's just not good enough to be that guy in the NBA. He has struggled to play off the ball. Of course, it may not have been a great idea to draft Turner when the Sixers already had Andre Iguodala in the 'do everything' wing category.
  • Turner vs. Aminu. Surprisingly, Clippers rookie Al-Farouq Aminu has outperformed fellow rookie Turner in several categories. Aminu is scoring quite a bit more per 36 minutes (13.4 points to 9.9). The biggest difference is in three point shooting and shooting efficiency - Aminu is 25 for 52 on the season, Turner is 2 for 12. Aminu is shooting a better overall percentage than Turner, but with the extra threes, his effective shooting percentage is almost 10 percentage points higher. That's a lot.
  • UCLA point guards. Baron the Bruin will be matched up against one of those young UCLA point guards dotting the league lately. Jrue Holiday got his chance to start for the Sixers last season after Allen Iverson retired and the "Lou Williams can play the point" experiment failed. He made the most of it, averaging 9.6 points and 4.7 assists in 29.6 minutes in his 51 starts. His numbers are up across the board this season - and he won't be 21 until next June. Baron will have his hands full trying to keep Holiday in front of him, but Baron will try to abuse the youngster in the post on the other end. Not that Baron's post ups have hurt anyone much this season.
  • Someone has to step up. The Clippers have not gotten consistent offensive output from anyone other than Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin this season. Chris Kaman is the other reliable scorer on the team, but he's out of action again for another 3 weeks or so. Baron Davis has done well running the break and distributing, but he's making fewer than a third of his shots, and is 4 for 27 from three - those are terrible numbers even by his low standards. Craig Smith is shooting almost 60%  - but unfortunately he plays the same position as Griffin, and has barely played recently. Gomes, Aminu and Bledsoe have been inconsistent at best. Rasual Butler has not hit double figures in scoring in a month, despite hitting double figures in shot attempts three times in the same period. Surprisingly, Brian Cook has been the most reliable third option lately. He's a much more consistent three point threat than Butler at this point, and he's certainly not afraid to shoot. Whoever it is, the bottom line is that somebody has to help Gordon and Griffin put points on the board.
  • Three point shooting. Happily for the Clippers, the Sixers shoot the third fewest threes per game in the league. Meeks has been on fire from deep, and Lou Williams is shooting better from outside the arc than from inside it. But other than those two and the seldom used Jason Kapono, there's not really anyone much to worry about. Holiday makes about one per game.
  • Gordon's slow starts. Eric Gordon has been starting games poorly with alarming regularity. He missed his six first quarter shots, and nine of his first ten, against Orlando. He had similar results in the three games before that. He's had huge second halves to keep his scoring average up and his twelve game streak of 20 points per game alive, but just once it would be nice for him to make some shots in the first quarter.
  • Consecutive double doubles. Griffin has recorded a double double in points and rebounds in twelve consecutive games.He has flirted with a triple double, with seven assists on a couple of recent occasions.
  • Superstar for one game: Jodie Meeks. I've never seen him play... so of course he'll light up the Clippers.
  • Famous Quotation: 

    The enjoyment of sex, although great
    Is in later years said to abate.
    This well may be so,
    But how would I know?
    I'm now only seventy-eight.
    Not a lot of 76er quotes, so you get a dirty limerick with a 78 in it. I need to send this one to my dad. He'll appreciate it I think.
  • Get the Sixers perspective at Liberty Ballers.