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Clippers vs. Atlanta - Game Preview

2009/2010 NBA Regular Season
Staples Center
February 17th, 2010, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Mike Bibby
Eric Gordon SG Joe Johnson
Rasual Butler
SF Marvin Williams
Craig Smith
PF Josh Smith
Chris Kaman
C Al Horford


The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers played the Hawks a little over two weeks ago in the final game of their eight game road trip, and in what turned out to be Mike Dunleavy's final game as coach of the Clippers.  They lost that game, ending the trip 2-6 and MDsr resigned the next day.  Little did we know at the time that we'd be looking back on those as 'the good old days' - you know, when the Clippers lost a lot more than they won, but at least they won a few, and were more or less competitive in the other games.  The four games since that last meeting with the Hawks have been pretty ugly.  They've lost those four games by margins of 10, 17, 22 and 30, and in two of the games they were out of contention in the first quarter.  Baron Davis has shot terribly in the run, and has 19 turnovers as well.  Chris Kaman likewise has been bad in the stretch, managing to one up Baron by turning the ball over 20 times in the four games.  That's almost 10 turnovers per game for those two players alone in the Hughes era.  So let's try some baby steps here.  Let's see if Baron and Kaman can limit their turnovers to say, five total.  Then we'll worry about the next thing after that.  

The Antagonist:

Prior to the last game I said that I had trouble viewing the Hawks as 'elite' and frankly, that game didn't do much to change my mind.  Sure, they had a big fourth quarter to win the game.  But Jamal Crawford was making some crazy shots, as was Joe Johnson.  Yes, I know that they're capable of making those shots.  But should an elite team need them to do that, playing at home, against the Clippers?  Johnson and center Al Horford are coming off a trip to the All Star game, and Josh Smith probably deserved the selection more than Horford.  With Crawford in the running for sixth man of the year, it's a talented roster.  But they still seem to be lacking something, though I don't know what it is exactly.  Maybe it's point guard.  They don't have great point guard play, with Crawford now taking most of Mike Bibby's crunch time minutes.  Maybe it's post scoring, where Horford is limited, while Smith gets his points facing the basket.  At any rate, it will be interesting to see if the Hawks can compete with Cleveland and Boston and Orlando when the playoffs come around.

The Subplots

  • Rust or rest?  The Hawks haven't played in a week, since before All Star break.  The Clippers on the other hand played last night in Portland.  Will the Hawks come out with a ton of energy after getting a nice chunk of time off?  Or will they be out of sync, having not played at this level for a week?  For the Clippers, will they be exhausted by the game and travel, or will they be sharper in their second game post break, after looking very out of sorts in Portland?
  • Craig Smith.  I'm assuming that Smith will get the start again tonight, after starting against the Blazers last night.  He'll have his hands full with Josh Smith in the battle of the Smiths.
  • Long tenured coach.  Now that MDsr has resigned as coach of the Clippers, Mike Woodson has the third longest tenure with the current club among NBA coaches (after only Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovic).  That seems hard to believe, considering that Woodson was as good as gone a couple of seasons ago.
  • Al Thornton versus the Hawks.  Two seasons ago, the Clippers faced the Hawks in the throes of a 3-9 stretch without starters Chris Kaman and Corey Maggette who were both out with the flu (and of course without Elton Brand).  Then rookie Al Thornton scored a then career high 33 to lead them to victory.  Last season in Atlanta, Al scored 31 in an LA win.  But two weeks ago in Atlanta, Thornton scored only 8, as he has fallen further and further off the radar for the Clippers.  But he has helped the Clippers to a split with the Hawks in each of the last two seasons, so maybe he can do it again.
  • Movie Quote: 

    We got a black hawk down, we got a black hawk down.

    Harell, Black Hawk Down (2001). Ridley Scott knows how to make movies.  I'm not generally a big fan of war movies, but this was a great film.
  • Get the Hawks perspective at Peachtree Hoops.