The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
OK, the Kim Hughes era has begun 0-2, but it's not time to panic yet. After all, the Spurs have bested the Clippers in every meeting for four years, so losing to them is not unusual, and the Jazz are the hottest team in the Western Conference. The good news, if you're inclined to look for it, is that the Clippers were actually competitive against Utah and led going into the fourth quarter. The nature of the competition changes significantly tonight, as the Clippers face the coldest team in the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors, losers of ten of their last eleven games. Then again, the Clippers are moving up that list of cold teams pretty quickly themselves, with only two wins in their last ten. Not to mention that among those losses are the only two NBA teams with a worse record than the Warriors - so the Clippers could accomplish a rare trifecta tonight, losing to the three worst teams in the NBA in the course of two weeks. Surely that won't happen. One of the specific reasons MDsr gave for his decision to step down as the coach was his inability to get through to the team in advance of the New Jersey game. He suspected they'd take the game lightly and come out flat and he was determined to not let that happen. Yet even knowing it was going to happen, he was still unable to get through to the team, and that was a big factor in the decision that they needed "a different voice" in the locker room. Let's see what that new voice can do in a similar situation tonight. The Warriors are a mess and really shouldn't pose much of a threat tonight - which is or course what should scare all of us. By the way, if the Kim Hughes era starts 0-3, it will be time to panic.
Here's what I wrote about the Warriors, aka the Clippers-North, when the two teams met way back in early November: "They can win some games this season if they can keep from self-destructing." So what's plan B? In their defense, it wasn't completely a self-destruct. Stephen Jackson sulked his way out of town, which certainly didn't help their cause. But the early season tension with Monta Ellis sharing the backcourt with Stephen Curry hasn't been an issue as both players have played well. Really, the Warriors' season has gone down the tubes through a combination of injuries and good old fashioned mismanagement. The injuries have been Clipperesque in the East Bay this season. Every significant player on their roster has missed games with the exception of rookie Curry. Currently they are playing without Brandan Wright (out for the year), Kelenna Azubuike (out for the year), Raja Bell (received in the Jackson trade, out for the year), second leading scorer Corey Maggette (dislocated finger), Vladimir Radmanovic (Achilles) and Anthony Randolph (ankle) - and leading scorer Ellis suffered a sprained knee on Monday and might miss this game as well. So yeah, injuries have been devastating to this team. But there's little indication that they could win any games even if they were healthy. Mad scientist Don Nelson has put together a team that makes less and less sense. Sure, Ellis and Curry are putting up scoring numbers, but anyone would put up numbers playing Nellie ball. The dreaded conventional wisdom was that they would have trouble on the defensive end with such a small backcourt, a criticism Nelson deftly evades by having his team play no defense at all (nothing to criticize). It goes without saying that the Warriors allow more points than any other team in the league - allmost 112 per game, about four more than even the Suns. But no one seems to have told them that playing at a fast pace doesn't have to mean playing no defense, and they are 27th in the league in defensive efficiency (a nice little bonus for the Clippers faltering offense which has dropped to 26th). On the offensive end, where they put up 107 points per game, third in the league, they are actually below average in efficiency, 20th in the league. Early season injuries to Andris Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf obviously doomed them to play even smaller than they already were, and Biedrins' productivity has fallen off the table even after returning. Even Ellis' 26 points per game are fools' gold - sure the guy is scoring, but he's taking a ton of shots to get his points.
- Maggette. Although he won't be playing tonight, it's worth mentioning the former Clipper because frankly, he's having a great season. Always an efficient scorer because of his ability to draw fouls and make free throws, Corey was never a high percentage shooter. This season he's making nearly 52% from the field, far and away the best percentage of his career. And he's still getting to the line. So what do you get when you take a guy who shoots a high percentage AND gets to the line a lot? The fifth highest total shooting percentages in the NBA, that's what. In fact, if Warriors fans want to be upset about someone not making the All Star team, they're looking at the wrong guy. Maggette has been better than Ellis this season.
- Warriors Management. Four days ago, the Warriors waived Speedy Claxton. Claxton has an expiring $5.2M contract and he's been injured all season. The trade deadline is a little over a week from now. Why would they waive a guy with an expiring contract less than two weeks before the trade deadline? It is so astoundingly dumb, it makes you think they simply do not understand how these things work. A $5.2M expiring deal has value - lots of it. I guess they decided they needed the roster spot for one of their myraid D-league call ups, and that those guys would no longer be available after Feb. 18. Yeah, that must be it. It's funny that people still speak disparagingly of Clippers management with these guys around. You'd think they'd take all the heat off.
- Anthony Morrow. Morrow scored 37 against the Clippers in his first NBA start early last season, and he's scored 17, 18 and 20 in subsequent meetings. He is a ridiculously good shooter, and the Clippers had better not leave his side all game. He is making 45% of his threes this season - which is actually a big of a drop off from last year.
- Baron versus the Warriors. Baron Davis LOVES playing his former team. In four meetings with the Warriors since coming to LA, Baron has scored 29, 25, 25 and 25. To put that into perspective, Baron's only scored 25 or more 14 times as a Clipper - and four of them have come in the four Warriors games. So I expect a big game from him tonight. It helps that neither Ellis nor Curry has a hope of defending him.
- Second meeting. The Clippers dominated the first meeting from start to finish in the sixth game of the season. That was the night we had a Clips Nation Viewing Party. That was fun, and we should definitely do it again. Unfortunately, I get cold feet every time I contemplate one. For instance, I considered having one for the Cleveland game a couple of weekends back. That would have been a real down, watching the Cavs score 46 in the first quarter during a party. But I'll get over my fear and plan another one. I promise. Heck, the Clippers are undefeated at CN Viewing Parties, so I owe it to the team.
- All Star break. This is the last game before the All Star break, and for the Clippers, it probably couldn't come soon enough. The last few weeks have been disastrous, pretty much ever since they went to Memphis and got evacuated. The team's early season scheduled looked really soft originally, but in restrospect six games against the Grizzlies and Thunder were against playoff contenders, no lottery teams. Happily for the Clippers, they do have a few winnable games left for after the All Star break, with both Warriors home games, four against Sacramento, and the usual collection of Eastern Conference mediocrity. Maybe it doesn't have to be a brutal final 30 games.
I was a marine. A, uh, warrior... of the Jarhead clan.
- Get the Warriors perspective at Golden State of Mind.