The Back Story:
- February 20th in LA, Clippers 99 - Sacramento 89 - Recap Box Score
- February 28th in LA, Sacramento 97 - Clippers 92 - Recap Box Score
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have not been very good the last month or so, but they have still generally taken care of business at home against lesser opponents (the Staples Center loss to New Orleans being the one exception). They're 19-15 at home, and in fact the Hornets are the only losing team to have beaten them in LA. Kim Hughes used a zone against the Bucks to win the last game and I would expect we'll see it again as the Kings are only an average three point shooting team (16th in percentage, 15th in attempts) and less good without Kevin Martin. Chris Kaman bounced back from seven straight sub-par with a solid performance in the victory over Milwaukee, and it makes a pretty big difference for the team if they can depend on him for some offense - everything else works better also. And speaking of difference-makers, Eric Gordon has been that for LA all season. They've been pretty terrible without him, and much more competitive with him. And EJ has been a barometer for the team in their two meetings with the Kings as well. In the first game win, he scored 30. In the second game loss, he shot 4 for 13 and scored 13. The third of the Clippers' big three right now is Baron Davis, who has unexpectedly been playing his best ball as a Clipper lately. Baron was clearly hurting at the end of the Bucks game Wednesday, but the team had a well-timed three days off, so hopefully he'll be ready to go. (He sat out practice on Friday, but it was presented as a rest thing as opposed to an injury thing.) If Kaman, EJ and Baron can play well, the Clippers should win this one.
The Kings are a little tough to figure right now. This is the third time the Clippers have played them in four weeks, and it looks like we'll be seeing our third different starting lineup. And it's not because guys have been hurt - Paul Westphal has just been changing things up. Spencer Hawes was in the doghouse - and then got out to have a big game against the Clippers the last time the teams met. Lately Donte Greene has been starting at small forward instead of Omri Casspi, despite the fact that Casspi has been one of the Kings' most promising players. The two guys that won't be coming out of the starting lineup for Sacramento are future rookie of the year Tyreke Evans, and potential sixth man of the year Carl Landry (ironic that one of the for certain starters is a candidate as the top sub, but the rules state that the player has to come off the bench in more than half of his games, and since he was a sub his entire time in Houston which is far more than half the season, he qualifies.) Evans hurt the Clippers badly the last time the teams played, hitting two layups down the stretch to seal the game for the Kings after the Clippers had cut their lead to one. Since that game, he's had his first career triple double, and missed his second by one assist a couple of games ago. We had a great show from Brandon Jennings last game, but don't pretend that there's a race for ROY because there isn't. It's Reke.
- NCAA tourney competition. Did the Clippers think this thru when the scheduled a Sunday 12:30 tip off in late March? They are up against the heart of the NCAA tournament, with one batch of games tipping off around 11:30, and another one at 2:00. I'm a Clippers blogger for FSM's sake, and I'm torn about what to watch. The DVR is definitely getting a workout.
- King Carl. The Rockets have been participating in fascinating experiments all season. First they brought in Trevor Ariza and tried to turn him into a primary option after he'd been a bench role player his entire career. Then they sent Carl Landry to Sacramento where the Kings are trying the same thing. (Though truthfully, the transition is easier for Landry, because at least he was already a primary option, just coming off the bench.) In both case the increased role had decreased the players efficiency significantly. Landry's PER in Houston was 21.4; it's 15.9 in NorCal. Similarly, he scored 21.3 points per 36 minutes as a Rocket to 16.3 as a King. And his shooting percentage has gone from .547 to .519 (compared to .563 for his career). It's of course possible that part of the reason for the decrease in efficiency is the team change - maybe Adelman ran better sets than Westphal to get him shots. But it's interesting to note the drop in efficiency as his minutes have increased.
- Clippers' teams in March Madness. No bid: Baron Davis (UCLA), Chris Kaman (Central Michigan), Eric Gordon (Indiana), Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), Rasual Butler (LaSalle), Craig Smith (Boston College), Bobby Brown (Fullerton). Lost in first round: Mardy Collins (Temple), Steve Novak (Marquette). Lost in second round: Drew Gooden (Kansas). Still playing: Steve Blake (Maryland), DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M), Brian Skinner (Baylor). Skinner's Bears are the only team through to the Sweet 16 so far, though the Terps and Aggies have a chance today (Go Terps! Fear the Turtle!) Coach Kim Hughes also has his Badgers, and John Lucas will be rooting with me and Blake Inferior for the Terrapins. Travis Outlaw went straight to the NBA from high school, but growing up in Starkville we might assume he's a Mississippi State fan - the Bulldogs were one of the last teams not to make the tournament. I'm not sure who's taking the most grief in the locker room right now: Gooden for the fact that Kansas is the first number one seed out so far, to Northern Iowa, no less; or Mardy Collins for the fact that Temple lost by double digits to an Ivy League school.
The time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wigs
Calloo, Callay, come run away
With the cabbages and kings.
- Get the Kings perspective at Sactown Royalty.