The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
The Clippers meet a red hot team for the fifth game in a row when the head to Orlando to face the Magic. Maybe the Magic will have a let down after beating that other LA team on National TV on Sunday. The Clippers? On a Tuesday? No Mark Jackson courtside? Ho hum. The Clippers opened their current five game road trip with a loss in Utah Saturday. Eric Gordon sat out that game with a sore leg, but after two off days, hopefully he'll be able to play tonight. The Clippers are pretty thin at shooting guard without EJ. I really think of Butler as a three (though he did play the two all last season in New Orleans) and Mardy Collins is just limited. Steve Blake at the one and Baron Davis at the two is probably the best Clipper backcourt if EJ doesn't play, if you ask me. Against the Jazz, Kim Hughes started Butler in the backcourt and inserted Travis Outlaw into the starting lineup at small forward. Outlaw responded with miserable performance, shooting 3 for 11. After shooting well in his first few games as a Clipper, Travis is 12 for 43 in his last five - which is less than 30%. Obviously the Clippers were hoping for a little better productivity when they traded away Marcus Camby. Looking at this game, it doesn't look very promising. I just don't know where the Clippers are going to get their points, while on the other side of the ball it's pretty obvious how Orlando is going to score. Maybe the Clippers have an advantage with Drew Gooden in the post against Rashard Lewis - but it's more than negated by Lewis' perimeter game on the other end. Maybe if Eric Gordon is healthy he can get the best of Vince Carter - but then again Carter has been a Clipper killer forever. Maybe Baron Davis can use his size advantage against Jameer Nelson. But none of those seem like sure things, which probably means that the Clippers are in trouble in this game.
I'm probably missing something, but it doesn't seem like much of a secret what the Magic do. They have to most dominant center in basketball down low, and they surround him with four shooters pretty much at all times. As a team, they have attempted 131 more three pointers than any other team in the league. That's pretty astounding when you consider that Mike D'Antoni is coaching in New York, and Phoenix is still Phoenix. They have attempted twice as many threes as five NBA teams this season. They take an astounding 27.5 per game. And they shoot a pretty good percentage (.363) allowing them to make a league high 10 per game. The Clippers have only made 10 or more three pointers in seven out of 63 games this season. Their season high is 12. The Magic AVERAGE 10 makes and have made 10 or more 34 times this season. Now, they also play solid defense (anchored again by Howard) and are fourth in the league in defensive efficiency. But on the other end, it's not complicated. Post Howard, force a double team, and find any one of four shooters behind the three point arc.
- Clips Nation Night at Staples April 10th! It has nothing to do with the Orlando game, but in case you missed yesterday's post, be sure to buy your discounted tickets for the Warriors game on April 10th and come to Clips Nation Night at Staples Center. It's going to be great fun, and tickets are selling fast. You'll need to act quickly if you want to be one of the 50 fans who get to high five the Clipper players as the take the floor before the game.
- Everybody shoots. More on the Orlando approach. There are a few numbers about their roster that I just find fascinating. Of the twelve players who have appeared in games this season (see below), only Howard, his backup Marcin Gortat, and the relatively little used Brandon Bass (second fewest minutes on the team) are not three points threats. Since Gortat and Howard essentially never play together, it means that they basically have 4 shooters on the floor at all times. Taking out the field goal attempts for Howard, Gortat and Bass, the other nine Magic players attempted almost 44% of their field goals from beyond the arc. Fully five Magic players have attempted more three point field goals than two point field goals.
- Twelve players. As I was looking at statistics on the Magic while preparing this preview, I noticed something strange. When I got to their page on Basketball Reference, it just didn't look right. It looked like they didn't have enough players. As it happens, the Magic have only played twelve players total all season. That's pretty unusual. Even the Lakers have played 13. The Clippers have played 19, thought that's inflated by a few trades of course. Poking around, I couldn't find any other team who had played as few. All NBA teams are required to carry at least 13 contracts, but Adonal Foyle has yet to play a minute for Orlando this season. The fact that Howard has played in all 64 games and Gortat has played in 63 has a lot to do with that, I should think. It's not like the Magic haven't had a few injuries also - Jameer Nelson has been out, Vince Carter missed some games, Rashard Lewis was suspended. But their luxury tax bill has probably frozen the payroll at 13 players, so when they've had people hurt, they've just made due. Maybe we'll see Foyle tonight. You never know.
- Stretch fours. Rashard Lewis is the prototypical stretch four that always gave Marcus Camby trouble, since he preferred blocking shots to defending the three point arc. We'll see if Drew Gooden does any better against him.
- Double reverse mojo. I figured that by writing extensively about Chris Kaman and his record string of 20wo30s that I'd for sure cause hmi to score 30 right away. Instead, maybe I've made it so that he's no longer capable of scoring 20. He's gotten 19 and 12 in the last two games.
- Kaman. Speaking of Kaman, you might suspect that he would have struggled against Howard. He certainly has had trouble with the biggest centers like Shaq and Yao in the past. But Kaman has been respectable against Howard in their eight career head-to-head meetings. Kaman has in fact never failed to score in double figures against Howard, though he's never scored 20 against him either. Kaman has averaged 14 while shooting .527 against Howard. I'm pleasantly surprised.
- Former Clippers. Matt Barnes was a Clipper for 38 games in 03-04. Jason Williams was a Clipper for about a month in the off-season of 2008.
Tonight you're all gonna be part of a social experiment. Through the magic of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate, I'm ready right now to blow you all sky high. Anyone attempts to get off their boat, you all die. Each of you has a remote... to blow up the other boat. At midnight, I blow you all up. If, however, one of you presses the button, I'll let that boat live. So, who's it going to be: Harvey Dent's most wanted scumbag collection, or the sweet and innocent civilians? You choose... oh, and you might want to decide quickly, because the people on the other boat might not be so noble.
- Get the Magic perspective at Orlando Pinstriped Post.