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Clippers at Charlotte - Game Preview

2009/2010 NBA Regular Season
Time Warner Cable Arena
March 12th, 2010, 4:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Raymond Felton
Eric Gordon? SG Stephen Jackson
Rasual Butler
SF Gerald Wallace
Craig Smith
PF Boris Diaw
Chris Kaman
C Theo Ratliff


The Back Story:

February 22nd in LA, Clippers 98 Charlotte 94  Recap  Box Score

The Big Picture:

After losing the first three games of their current road trip (part of a five game losing streak overall), and facing the reality of playing San Antonio tomorrow night in a building in which they've never won on the second night of a difficult back to back, the Clippers really need to win this game if the intend to avoid a winless trip.  Unfortunately, it's not as if Charlotte is going to be an easy win.  The Clippers have the knowledge that they beat them, with the current roster, a little over two weeks ago.  Of course that also means the Bobcats will be looking to exact a little revenge.  Clearly one reason that the Clippers have been unable to compete on this trip has been the absence of
Eric Gordon, who has missed the first three games with a sore leg.  He had an MRI on Wednesday and there doesn't appear to be anything structurally wrong, but it remains to be seen if he'll play tonight - I sort of doubt it.  Without him the team needs some other guys to step up, and frankly it hasn't happened.  Rasual Butler has been terrific during the trip, scoring 31 Wednesday in Miami.  But no one else has looked particularly good.  If free agents like Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake and Craig Smith are hoping for decent new contracts this summer, they're going to have to play better.

The Antagonist:

Charlotte is in a tight playoff race as they attempt to make the postseason for the first time in franchise history.  They're currently tied with Miami and Toronto for the last three spots in the East, but Chicago is only a game back.  On the other hand, they're only a couple of games behind Milwaukee.  Finishing fifth in the conference (and facing free-falling Boston in the first round) would be far preferable to finishing eighth (and facing Cleveland).  Of course Charlotte is one of the few Eastern Conference teams who can say that they'd have a chance against the Lakers in the NBA Finals, if only they could get there.  The Bobcats are on a four game winning streak that began with a win over the purple LA team.  The Bobcats continue to be led by new All Star Gerald Wallace and leading scorer Stephen Jackson.

The Subplots:

  • The Larry Brown angle.  There have been rumors of Larry Brown 'reaching out' to the Clippers, expressing interest in coaching them next season.  He liked living in LA when he's been here in the past (coaching UCLA and the Clippers) and apparently he'd love to return.  There's some (probably idle) speculation that the Clippers' dismissal of MDsr this week might be opening the door for Brown.  Mark Heisler wrote in his LA Times column that the 'reaching out' occurred during the teams' February meeting, when uncertainty about the future ownership of the Bobcats was weighing heavy on LB.  Now that Michael Jordan is the new owner in Charlotte, it seems much more likely that Brown will stay put.  He is under contract after all, although that rarely seems to matter to him.
  • Four leading scorers in five games.  It's not indicative of the rest of their season really, but interestingly the Hornets Bobcats have been led in scoring by four different players in their last five games - Wallace, Jackson, D.J. Augustin and Tyrus Thomas.  I guess the Clippers will have to guard more than just two guys.
  • Boom on Jax.  The February meeting between these two teams was interesting.  The Clippers decided to defend 6'6" shooting guard Jackson with his old Warriors teammate Baron Davis, and Baron did a great job.  It would be a stretch to say that Baron was completely responsisble for Jax' nightmare night shooting 1 for 16, but he clearly contributed and even blocked a couple of his buddy's shots.  I don't think we can count on Jax to go 1 for 16 again unfortunately.
  • Home/road.  No team in the league has a bigger discrepancy between their home wins and their road wins.  At 23-8 at home compared to 9-23 on the road, the Bobcats have won 14 more home games in on fewer tries.  This does not bode well for the Clippers tonight.  The Clippers beat a very different Bobcats team in LA than they will likely see tonight, based on their home record alone.
  • Center by committee.  The Bobcats traded Emeka Okafor to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler this summer in a move that was mostly about ridding themselves of Okafor's long term contract.  They have four other players listed as centers on their roster - Theo Ratliff, Desagana Diop, Nazr Mohammed and little used second year player Alexis Ajinca.  And in crunch time they tend to play Tyrus Thomas at the five.  Chandler returned to the lineup a week ago after missing all but three games since Christmas, but he's been playing limited minutes and Ratliff (acquired less than a month ago) is still the starter. 
  • Playmaking by committee.  Raymond Felton is not really a traditional point guard.  He's averaging 5.3 assists per game, which is in the lower half of point guards in the league.  But Boris Diaw averages 3.9 assists per game and Stephen Jackson averages 3.8, so they share the distribution and playmaking duties.  Diaw is fourth in the league among forwards in assists per game.
  • Matchup nightmares.  The Bobcats starters at the two, three and four are each unique NBA talents.  Diaw is the best passer and playmaker at his position in the league.  Jackson and Wallace are multi-talented and very big for their positions.  These are tough assignments, make no mistake.
  • Movie Quote: 

    Meg: Aw, how cute. A couple of rodents lookin' for a theme park.
    Pain: [as rabbit] Who are you callin' a rodent, sister? I am a bunny.

    Hercules (1997).  I've watched Disney's Hercules more times than I care to mention - it comes with the whole kids thing.  But I can't find a decent 'Bobcat' quote, so I'm going with this, since Bobcat Goldthwaite did the voice of Pain.
  • Get the Bobcats perspective at Rufus on Fire.