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Clippers at Chicago - Game Preview

2009/2010 NBA Regular Season
United Center
February 2nd, 2010, 5:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Derrick Rose
Eric Gordon SG Kirk Hinrich
Rasual Butler
SF Luol Deng
Marcus Camby PF Taj Gibson
Chris Kaman?
C Joakim Noah

The Back Story:

January 20th, 2010 in LA - Clippers 104 - Chicago 97 -  Recap  Box Score

The Big Picture:

"This trip will probably determine how the rest of the season goes."  That is the last line from the game recap I wrote after the Clippers beat the Bulls two weeks ago.  That was the team's get away game, and with a decent win over the Bulls and a resultant 19-22 record, there was at least reason to hope for a semi-successful road trip.  Six games in, the Clippers are 1-5 on the trip, and I pray that I'm wrong that it will "determine how the rest of the season goes" (but I fear I am correct).  Honestly, the Clippers have not looked good a single game of this trip.  They didn't so much win in Washington as the Wizards lost.  Eric Gordon missed the first three games, and might as well have missed the last three.  Chris Kaman has missed the last two, but wasn't sharp in the ones he played.  Marcus Camby continues to rebound well, but has done little else to help, shooting 15 for 44 on the trip, with some real clunkers thrown in along the way (he's been nursing sore ribs the last few games).  Rasual Butler has gone from missing everyting in November, to making everything in December, back to missing everything again in January.  He's 9 for his last 39 from three point range.  Only Baron Davis and Craig Smith have been particularly good this trip, and they can't win games alone.  1-7 would be a disastrous result for a team that still had visions of being a playoff trip when this trip began.  But if they don't figure this out quickly, that's the result they're going to have.

The Antagonist:

After the Bulls lost to the Clippers Jan. 20, their record was 18-22, and the Clippers' record was 19-22.  Thirteen days later, the Bulls have won five straight to move to 23-22, while the Clippers have lost five of six and languish at 20-27.  It just shows what a five game win streak can do for you.  Now, you may say that it would have been unrealistic to dream that the Clippers could have won five straight on this trip - but I would submit that it would have been no less realistic than the winning streak the Bulls have reeled off.  After starting their own season-long seven game road trip with losses in Oakland and LA (against the only two opponents on the trip with losing records) it looked much more likely that the Bulls would lose seven straight against the likes of Phoenix and San Antonio and Houston and Oklahoma City and New Orleans.  Instead, they suddenly started playing their best ball of the season.  Derrick Rose, newly selected to the All Star game, has averaged almost 25 points per game during the win streak, while shooting 55%.  But really the Bulls have been winning with their tenacious defense.  During their win streak, they held four of the five opponents at or under 40% shooting, while the Spurs only managed about 42%.  That's some good defense.  So what happens when a team playing great defense, routinely holding their opponent below 40%, runs into a team that has been ice-cold on offense, routinely shooting less than 40%?  Is sub-30% out of the question for the Clippers?

The Subplots

  • Chris Kaman - Third time's a charm?  Kaman has missed the last two games with a sprained ankle.  And although the team should be capable of playing competitive basketball without him, they've proven time and again that in fact they aren't.  For whatever reason, they are exceedingly fragile, and seem unable to play effectively if any of their guns are missing.  The team is 0-6 on the season when Kaman doesn't play.  So let's hope he plays tonight.
  • Vinny Del Negro.  Nothing like a five game road winning streak to give a coach a little job security.  I'm sure that Del Negro is now off the hot seat - that is until they lose a couple of games in a row.  As for MDsr, he's got heat resistant suit pants, so his seat never gets hot.  Must be nice.
  • Home court advantage.  The Bulls are returning home from a wildly successful 5-2 west coast road trip.  But they're still a much better home team.  They're 14-7 at home compared to 9-15 on the road.  On a major roll, returning home for the first time in over two weeks, playing on three full days of rest - the Bulls figure to be flying high for this one.  Maybe not 46 points in the first quarter high, but who knows.
  • Noah on Kaman.  We don't know if Kaman can play, but if he does this is an intriguing matchup.  Before the last game I surmised that Kaman would have too much size for Noah.  I was wrong.  Frankly, in the half court sets, Noah took Kaman out of the game.  It didn't help that Chris missed every single jump shot he took.  For Chris to be effective, he'll have to make some jump shots, and also get to the line.  He actually did that well in the first game, but had trouble once he got there, shooting 6 for 11.
  • Bad offense meets good defense.  In the first game, the Clippers scored 24 fast break points, but had difficulties against the active Bulls defense in the half court.  The way they've played offense on this trip, this could get really ugly.  If they can get some stops, and get out and run as they did in the first meeting, it will help a lot.
  • Baron on a roll.  Since half time in Minnesota, Baron Davis has played his best basketball since becoming a Clipper.  Unfortunately, his team was already behind the Wolves by 20 in Minnesota, and spotted the Cavs a 26 point first quarter lead in Cleveland.  It would be more fun to see him take over a game that the Clippers actually have a chance to win.  One gets the impression that Baron is more than a little peeved at the ineffectiveness of his teammates that last couple of games.  Can he get his teammates to step up?  Can he keep up this level of intensity without them?
  • Movie Quote: 

    I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, s**t-kickers and Methodists.

    Hedley Lamar, Blazing Saddles (1974). I've re-watched some of the old Mel Brooks classics with my 13 year old recently (much to the ClipperWidow's chagrin - not the most PC movie, Blazing Saddles), and I have to say this one didn't really hold up.  I liked Young Frankenstein, and thought it was still funny - but Blazing Saddles just didn't work anymore.
  • Get the Bulls perspective at Blog a Bull.