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Clippers at Detroit - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season

The Palace at Auburn Hills
December 17th, 2010, 4:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Rodney Stuckey
Eric Gordon SG Richard Hamilton
Ryan Gomes
SF Tayshaun Prince
Blake Griffin
PF Greg Monroe
DeAndre Jordan
C Ben Wallace

The Back Story:

  • November 12, 2010 in Los Angeles - Detroit 113 - Clippers 107 Box Score Recap

The Big Picture:

Pretty soon it's going to be too difficult even for the most diehard citizens of Clips Nation to continue existing purely on the hope for the future. The team has the worst record in the NBA, and after showing some competitive signs during a 4-4 stretch, they've now lost four straight and six out of seven. They've been competitive in most of those games - but they really need to get some results at some point. Part of the problem is that they haven't shown any ability to win close games, and the first meeting with the Pistons is a perfect example. The Clippers let a fourth quarter lead slip away, allowed the Pistons to tie the game in the final minute, botched their final possession when they had a chance to win, and then folded in OT. Eric Gordon was terrific in that game scoring 15 in the fourth quarter, and hopefully he can bounce back from his worst game of the season in Philadelphia and have another big game. Baron Davis, in contrast to Gordon, had his best game of the season Wednesday. It would be really, really great if he could start providing a significant contribution to the team. Blake Griffin has contributed a double double for 13 straight games, and I see no reason that should change tonight - especially since it looks like he'll be defended by fellow rookie Greg Monroe, recently inserted into the starting lineup. The Clippers are one of two NBA teams currently winless on the road, and this is certainly a game they can win if they play well, and stay focused for 48 minutes.

The Antagonist:

The Pistons shook up their lineup in their last game and it resulted in their first win over a winning team this season, not to mention their biggest margin of victory, a 23 point defeat of Atlanta. Austin Daye and Jason Maxiell have each started about half the season so far, but Tuesday it was Monroe starting and neither Daye nor Maxiell got off the bench. Maybe that's a good thing, given that Daye and Maxiell both played well in the first meeting. Then again, somehow I think Maxiell is going to make an appearance, since he's the best equipped Piston to deal with Griffin. The Pistons remain a team in flux, with both Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince likely to be dealt before the trade deadline. One recent rumor has the Bobcats interested in Hamilton. With Detroit going nowhere this season, and both Hamilton and Prince making lots of money, it stands to reason that Detroit would look to move them in order to kick their rebuilding process into high gear. The Pistons are led in scoring by Rodney Stuckey at 17 points per game, but they do have several other players like Hamilton and Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva who can heat up and score in bunches, and fact the Clippers learned the hard way when Villanueva sank a season high 30 on them in the last meeting.

The Subplots

  • How will Detroit defend EJ? In the first meeting, Eric Gordon lit up Rip Hamilton for most of the game. Then, for the final possession and the overtime, the Pistons switched Tayshaun Prince on to EJ and Prince shut him down. Will Detroit put Prince on him from the start, or wait until crunch time? Either way, I think we can rest assured that Prince will be defending Gordon at some point tonight.
  • How will Detroit defend Blake? If the Pistons start Monroe next to Ben Wallace at the bigs, who will defend Blake Griffin? Wallace is the savvy vet and former multiple time defensive player of the year - but he will have trouble matching Blake's quickness at age 36. Monroe is a rookie and should have lots of energy - but surely Griffin will eat him alive. This is obviously a key matchup.
  • A more aggressive Baron. Baron Davis said going into the Sixers game that he was going to be more aggressive and look to score more. It almost never works out this way, but indeed he was, scoring a season high 18 on 7 for 14 shooting, easily his best shooting night of the season. In the first half, he was getting into the heart of the Philly defense with ease and making lots of good things happen for the Clippers. Unfortunately, the Sixers defense adjusted and Baron only had two points in the second half. LA needs Baron to be aggressive AND efficient tonight.
  • Even on paper. Looking at some of the advanced stats on paper, these are two evenly matched (not to mention pretty bad) teams. The Clippers are 20th in the league in defensive efficiency and 25th in offensive efficiency. The Pistons are 20th in offensive efficiency and 24th in defensive efficiency.The tempo of the game may determine which team has the advantage tonight. The Clippers are exactly seven seconds or less, but they are playing at a pretty fast pace this season, while only the plodding Blazers play at a slower pace than Detroit.
  • Greg Monroe. The Pistons drafted Monroe with the seventh pick in June, one spot ahead of the Clippers choice of Al-Farouq Aminu. So far in this his rookie season, he's struggled shooting the ball (44% from the field and 50% from the line), but he's hit the boards hard, particularly the offensive glass (4 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes). He was a terrific passer in college, but he's only averaging 1.5 assists per 36 minutes in the NBA. Compare that to Blake Griffin's 3 assists per 36. Of course, Blake has the ball in his hands a lot more. Monroe has started two of the last three games, and had a 15 rebound game a week ago.
  • Center. In the first game, Vinny Del Negro started Blake Griffin at center and Ryan Gomes at power forward. Of course, the Pistons were starting Prince and Daye and Ben Wallace at the time, so there wasn't a lot of girth or a lot of inside scoring in the Detroit lineup. It's also true that DeAndre Jordan was a little tweaked at the time. I think we can assume that VDN will go with the more traditional look, at least in the starting lineup tonight. But I think we can assume that Blake Griffin and Brian Cook will get the extra minutes at the five, and that the Clippers could go long stretches without DJ tonight.
  • Joe Dumars - Hero to Zero. When the Pistons won the NBA Championship in 2004 and advanced at least as far as the Eastern Conference playoffs many more years in succession, Joe Dumars was hailed as a front office genius. He had signed Chauncey Billups, and traded for Ben Wallace, drafted Tayshaun Prince and acquired Rasheed Wallace for the playoff push. He could do no wrong. (Though of course he could, as he'd already drafted Darko Milicic ahead of Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at that point.) Six years later, the Pistons are a mess, and Dumars is largely to blame. His trade of Billups for Allen Iverson was a disaster from a basketball standpoint, though it did have the advantage of saving money. He then took that money and signed Gordon and Villanueva on the first day of free agency in 2009, to contracts that were absurd from the moment they were conceived. Of course Dumars was never the genius that everyone said back in 2004, nor the idiot they say he is now - just relatively lucky or unlucky.
  • Chirs Wilcox. Former Clipper Chris Wilcox is beginning to get a little run with the Pistons. He's only played a total of 56 minutes this season, but with Maxiell falling out of favor, Wilcox played a season-high 20 minutes on Tuesday.
  • Superstar for one game: Tayshaun Prince. Prince kills the Clippers - kills them. Maybe it's an LA thing. Prince went to Dominguez.
  • Famous Quotation:

    The will is never free—it is always attached to an object, a purpose. It is simply the engine in the car—it can't steer.

    Joyce Cary. Once again, I'm going with a car-based quote, since piston specific quotes are few and far between.
  • Get the Pistons perspective Detroit Bad Boys.