|2010/2011 NBA Regular Season|
|January 31st, 2011, 7:30 PM|
|FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
The Back Story:
First meeting of the season. The teams split two games last year, each winning at home.
The Big Picture:
The Clippers actually won a game without leading scorer Eric Gordon Saturday night, beating the Charlotte Bobcats. Tonight, they get another one of those really, really bad, but good enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference teams when the Milwaukee Bucks come to Staples Center. And like the Bobcats, the Bucks arrive riding a little hot streak, having won three straight and five of seven. The Clippers on the other hand have won eight straight at home, which ties the longest winning streak for the team in its Los Angeles history; the last time they won eight straight was at the end of the 92-93 season as Larry Brown was taking them to their second straight playoff appearance. In franchise history, you have to go back to February and March of 1979 and the Gene Shue San Diego Clippers of World B. Free and Randy Smith that won 11 home games in a row. If Blake Griffin has any say in the matter, I think we can expect the team to set a new LA record tonight. They'll also need continued strong play from Randy Foye, filling in at shooting guard for Gordon, and it would be great if the other free agent signing from this summer, Ryan Gomes, had another strong scoring game following up on his 18 point performance versus Charlotte. Another key to the game will be DeAndre Jordan's defense against Andrew Bogut. If Jordan can handle Bogut without getting into foul trouble, the Bucks will have issues scoring.
The Bucks closed the season strong last year, made it into the playoffs, and even gave Atlanta a tough first round playoff series, despite playing without center Bogut, their best player. The team was 17-24 in the first half of the season, and 29-12 in the second half, a turnaround not unlike the one Clips Nation has been dreaming about for the Clippers this year. After such a strong finish, big things were expected from the Bucks this season; just one problem - they just don't have a whole lot of talent. I really don't have an explanation for the Bucks 29-12 second half last year other than that Scott Skiles had them playing really hard, especially on defense. But reality has set in a bit this year. Reality, and injuries. Only Ersan Ilyasova and Keyon Dooling have appeared in every game this season, while their top six scorers have missed between 5 and 32 games, with three missing at least 19. They've used 14 starting lineups in 45 games this season, a really big number, though the phenomenon is familiar to Clippers fans the last few years so we're probably not feeling too sorry for them. They're actually getting close to full health for basically the first time this season (I'm not talking about Michael Redd, who has clearly played his last game for the Bucks and maybe the last game of his career). Carlos Delfino returned to the lineup six games ago and led them in scoring in Saturday's win over the Nets while Brandon Jennings returned in the Nets game. Unfortunately for them, both John Salmons and former Clipper Drew Gooden are listed as day-to-day. There's not a lot of information available as to when they might be back; it's possible that either or both could play tonight.
- Offensive Bucks Offense. The Bucks rank last in the NBA in points per game, and 29th in offensive efficiency. Having two of their better scorers out in John Salmons and Brandon Jennings (who is back, but still limited after foot surgery) has certainly not helped matters.
- Home sweet Gomes. Ryan Gomes is shooting 43% in home games this season, 38% on the road. The difference in his three point shooting is even more pronounced - almost 39% at home, and 28% on the road. The Clippers' strong home record of 15-13 versus a terrible 3-15 road record is a product of many, many things, but the disparity in Gomes' game is certainly one factor. At home, he has approached the player we hoped the team had signed this summer; on the road, he's been pretty terrible.
- Bogut. Andrew Bogut blocked seven shots against the Nets Saturday, tying his career high. I'm actually a little fascinated by Bogut's shot blocking. The big Aussie wasn't really considered a shot blocker coming out of college at Utah, and in his first four seasons in the league he averaged right around a block per game, pretty middling numbers for an NBA center. Then suddenly last season he jumped up to 2.5 per game, second best in the league, and this year he's shown it wasn't a fluke, as he's up to 2.8 and leading the NBA. I honestly can't think of another player who became a shot blocker after four years in the league.
- The Clipper-Bucks. Over the last few seasons, there have been some teams that featured a large number of former Clippers. Last season's Wizards come to mind for instance. But this Milwaukee team must rank near the top of assemblages of former LAC players on the same team. Five former Clippers have seen action for the Bucks this year, and while Brian Skinner only saw limited minutes before being waived, the other four have all featured prominently in Milwaukee's season. Corey Maggette and Keyon Dooling, who happened to join the Clippers as part of the same transaction eleven years ago, were teammates in LA for four seasons at the start of the decade - they figure to be in Milwaukee's starting lineup tonight. Meanwhile, another LA teammate of theirs, Earl Boykins, has resurrected his career with the Bucks this year. Then there is Clipper short timer Gooden, who parlayed some big minutes and meaningless production with a tanking Clippers team last year into a mid level exception contract with the Bucks this summer.
- Jennings and the Dunk Contest. Am I the only one that thinks that something really weird happened with Brandon Jennings and the Dunk Contest this season? I mean, the NBA announced on January 6th that Jennings was in the dunk contest. Two weeks later, they replaced him with DeMar DeRozan, because Jennings was injured. But Jennings was already injured when they announced his participation in the first place. Furthermore, he had his foot surgery on December 19th, and at the time they said he'd miss four to six weeks. Well, he came back a couple days ago, less than six weeks after the surgery, so they can't even say that he'd had a set back in his rehab - he was essentially right on schedule, right? How do you put him in on January 6th, when he's out injured, pull him on January 20th, and watch him come back on January 28th, all for a dunk contest that was always scheduled for February 19? Let's face it - somebody screwed up big time by putting him in the contest to begin with. It feels like someone important never agreed to this, and then put the kibosh on the whole thing when they found out.
- Speaking of Brandon. Jennings, the Bucks' leading scorer on the season, played 11 minutes in his return to action against the Nets Saturday. He missed all three of his shots. Presumably Skiles is working him back into the lineup slowly, so I would expect we'll see a few more minutes from him tonight, but expect Dooling to remain the starter at point guard for now.
- Speaking of Dooling. Former Clipper Keyon Dooling has been starting for Jennings, and actually scored 23 points in a recent win over the Wizards. It was only two points off Keyon's career high, and only the tenth 20 point game of his 11 year career. Honestly, I'm shocked he's still in the league, let alone starting and scoring 23.
- Keyon the Clipper. Who remembers Keyon Dooling's dunk over Dikembe Mutombo back when he was a Clipper? I can't be sure, but I want to say it was just the sixth game of his rookie year. Dooling went right at Mt. Mutombo, flushed it in his grill, and then gave him the finger wag afterwards (drawing a totally worth it technical foul for taunting). I thought the Clippers really had something at that point. Unfortunately, he suffered one of the worst sprained ankles I've ever seen (I still get a little nauseated thinking about it) early in his career and was never that athletic again.
- Maggette. One gets the impression that Corey Maggette always has a little extra incentive when playing the Clippers. His time in LA was more than a little turbulent, and there's little question that Maggette felt under-appreciated while he was here and disrespected when he left. However, his subsequent meetings with the Clippers (all as a Warrior) have been up and down. As we well know, if the Clippers can keep Maggette from getting to the line, they can probably limit his effectiveness on offense.
- Who guards Blake Superior? Ersan Ilyasova doesn't seem strong enough. Maggette is plenty strong, but he isn't big enough, and isn't a particularly good defender. Former Bruin Luc-Richard Mbah a Moute may be Milwaukee's best bet; or maybe they'll put Bogut on him. Regardless, Griffin will be a major problem for the Bucks, as he is for most teams.
- Foye the starter. Randy Foye seems much more comfortable than at any other point in the season so far. It may be because he's feeling healthier than he has (his strained hamstring seemed to linger for months). But he also seems to be thriving in a starting role with Eric Gordon injured. Foye is a scorer, and he's just not as effective when he's not aggressively looking to score. He's averaging almost 19 points per game in the three games he's started in Gordon's stead, and the Clippers need him to continue to play well if they want to avoid a major crash during Gordon's absence.
- First overall picks. The Clippers are in the midst of facing a string of first overall picks. Saturday it was Kwame Brown, the first overall pick from 2001. Tonight it's Bogut, the top choice in 2005, and Wednesday night it's Derrick Rose, the first name called in the 2008 draft. On the Odyssey, after a stop in Atlanta they then play Orlando and Dwight Howard (2004), followed by Miami and LeBron James (2003), and they also have a stop in Toronto to see Andrea Bargnani (2006). Of course, the Clippers have their own number one overall pick to throw at these teams in Blake Griffin, and he's definitely proving to be worthy of his selection.
- Three point shooting. The three point line has been a pretty telling barometer for the Clippers through most of the season. If they give up a lot of threes, they tend to lose; if they defend the line reasonably well, they have a fighting chance. Twelve times they've given up 10 or more threes - they are 2-10 in those games. This trend bodes well for them again tonight, as the Bucks are 20th in the league in three point percentage (.348) and only make about 5.5 threes per game.
- Superstar for one game: Boykins. Little Earl is just the kind of player who could light up the Clippers.
What's missing is the eyeballs
in each of us, but it doesn't matter
because you've got the bucks, the bucks, the bucks.
- Get the Bucks perspective at Brew Hoop.