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Los Angeles Clippers vs Indiana Pacers - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season

Staples Center
January 17th, 2011, 12:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Darren Collison
 Eric Gordon SG Mike Dunleavy
Ryan Gomes
SF Danny Granger
Blake Griffin
PF Tyler Hansbrough
DeAndre Jordan
C Roy Hibbert


The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

It's hard to remember how poorly the Clippers were playing the last time these two teams met. It was almost exactly two months ago, and the Clippers lost by 27 points to drop to 1-12. It was also the last time that Blake Griffin had less than a double double, his current rampage kicking off in the very next game against New York. To say that this is a different Clippers team than the one that lost in Indianapolis back in November would be an extreme understatement. The loss to the Pacers was their 7th double digit loss of the season, and their fourth by 15 or more, in only 13 games. Since then, in 25 games, they've lost by double digits only three times, and never by as many as 15. So I think it's reasonable to presume that the Clippers will have a little extra to prove this afternoon at Staples Center, as they look to avenge their worst loss of the season. It also helps that these are teams headed in opposite directions - the Pacers are 11-16 since that first meeting, the Clippers are 13-13. In more recent weeks, the Clippers have won 9 of their last 13, and the Pacers have lost 11 of their last 16. Absolutely nobody played well for the Clippers in the first meeting with Indiana, but I expect that to change. Griffin will be looking to avenge one of his poorer performances of the season, as will Eric Gordon. The Clippers are lucky that they have this extra motivation against the Pacers, as otherwise I might have worried about a letdown following a big win against the Lakers. They've got enough to prove against this team that I don't think a lack of focus is going to be a problem. It also helps that they'll have Baron Davis, who was still injured the last time these teams played. Baron's been doing a great job of making good things happen for the Clippers since he returned to the line lineup at the beginning of December, not coincidentally the same time they started winning a lot of games.

The Antagonist:

The Paces are 16-21 overall, and are 5-11 in their last 16 games. So naturally they currently have the seventh best record in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers are one of those mixed up teams; they play at a high pace and score a lot of points, but they're really a much better defensive team on the whole. They rank 26th in the league in offensive efficiency, and 7th in defensive efficiency. One of the reasons their offensive efficiency suffers is because their best scorer has been inefficient this season. Danny Granger leads the Pacers in scoring by a wide margin, but he's shooting a career low 42% from the field. He's also taking almost two fewer free throws per game this season. As a result, Granger's true shooting percentage is around 53%, which is not very good (by contrast, Eric Gordon's is at almost 58%). Beyond Granger, the Pacers don't really have any great scoring options. Former Bruin Darren Collison, Roy Hibbert, Mike Dunleavy Jr and Brandon Rush all score between 11.7 and 13.5 points per game, but none shoots a particularly good percentage. One big difference between the Pacers team that was 11-10 and the one that is 5-11 since is that Hibbert is a totally different player. I'm not sure which is stranger - that Hibbert came out of nowhere to average 16 and 10 through the first month of the season, or that he's since returned to what he always was before, a 10 and 6 project center. The Pacers take a lot of threes - over 22 per game, fourth most in the NBA. In the first meeting, they made 14 of them, tying the season high for threes allowed for the Clippers this season. How the Clippers defend the line today will be a major factor in the outcome.

The Subplots

  • A game to forget. Eric Gordon was 5 for 17. Blake Griffin was 6 for 13. DeAndre Jordan was 0 for 7 (which is pretty hard to believe, really). The Clippers as a team shot 33% from the field. Pretty much no one on the team played well, and they'd all love to forget/avenge the loss.
  • Jordan and Hibbert. In the first meeting of the season, Roy Hibbert had 18 points and 8 rebounds while DeAndre Jordan had 0 points and 5 rebounds. But these are two very different players now. Jordan has been terrific for the Clippers lately, while Hibbert has been falling further and further into a slump. Jordan needs to win this matchup handily today.
  • The road to 41. OK, after wins over the Heat and the Lakers, I have a relatively simple formula for how the Clippers get to 41 wins, and presumably into playoff contention. The team is 14-25, with 17 home games and 26 road games remaining. That road heavy remaining schedule is why it is not a straightforward task. They need 27 more wins to get to 41. I figure the team has to split their 26 road games, which would require them to go 14-3 at home. 14-3 may not seem realistic, but in fact it's probably the more achievable of the two goals. As it happens, the Clippers only have 5 winning teams left on their home schedule this season - Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Oklahoma City and Denver - and they've already beaten three of them. The first step is to beat ALL of the sub .500 teams at Staples - starting today.
  • Granger on the block? A week ago Marc Stein of ESPN suggested that the Pacers might be interested in trading Granger. There are no real specifics at this point, and it remains to be seen what they might be able to get for a guy making over $12M per season until 2014 who's only shooting 42%.
  • Back to back. The Clippers are on one of the stranger back to backs, playing two straight afternoon games in LA. I don't recall this ever happening before, with the Clippers following up a Sunday 12:30 tip with a Monday, Martin Luther King Holiday matinee.
  • Start of a trip for Indy. The Pacers are in game one of a four game road trip. They are 6-11 on the road this season, and the Clippers are 11-13 overall at home. The Clippers have won four straight at Staples Center, the last two coming against the Heat and Lakers of course.
  • Soft stretch. The Clippers play six of their next nine games at home, with the next five home games all coming against teams with losing records. If the Clippers are serious about making some sort of a playoff run, they absolutely have to take care of business at home against bad teams. Earlier in the season they lost home games to the likes of Detroit and New Jersey; that simply can't happen anymore if the team expects to climb back into the playoff picture.
  • Gomes on Granger. Ryan Gomes has had his best games this season when he has played tough, aggressive defense on high-scoring small forwards. He needs to stay close to Danny Granger tonight and keep Granger from having a big game. Gomes has shot poorly in the last two games; but he doesn't have to score tonight as long as he can make Granger work for his shots.
  • Gordon vs. Dunleavy. Mike Dunleavy is a lot taller than Eric Gordon, but Gordon is a lot quicker and stronger than Dunleavy. I think I know who I'm taking in this matchup. Truthfully, I would expect Gordon to have a field day against Junior.
  • Superstar for one game: Tyler Hansbrough.
  • Famous Quotation: 

    This is my playes last scene, here heavens appoint
    My pilgrimages last mile; and my race
    Idly, yet quickly runne, hath this last pace,
    My spans last inch, my minutes last point,
    And gluttonous death, will instantly unjoynt
    My body, and soule, and I shall sleepe a space

    John Donne. 
  • Get the Pacers perspective at Indy Cornrows.