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Clippers Vs. Nuggets (Preseason) -- Game Preview -- Vegas, Baby!

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The Clippers and Nuggets meet tonight in the first preseason game for both teams. The game is being played at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, the first time that an NBA game of any sort has occurred on the strip.

Doug Pensinger - Getty Images
2012/2013 NBA Preseason

October 6th, 2012, 7:30 PM
Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable Starters
Eric Bledsoe PG Ty Lawson
Jamal Crawford?
Willie Green
SG Andre Iguodala
Caron Butler SF Danilo Gallinari
Blake Griffin PF Kenneth Faried
DeAndre Jordan C JaVale McGee
Advanced Stats (2011/2012)
89.2 (27th of 30) Pace 94.2 (2nd of 30)
108.5 (4th of 30) ORtg 109.2 (3rd of 30)
105.7 (18th of 30) DRtg 106.2 (20th of 30)

The Big Picture:

This is the first preseason game for each team, and the first full NBA pre-season game, i.e. a game between two NBA teams (there are several games against EuroLeague teams happening before this one, including Boston's loss to Fenerbahce in Turkey yesterday). This is also, I believe, the first NBA game of any sort to occur on the strip in Las Vegas. There have been many preseason games and of course an All Star Game at the Thomas and Mack Center on the UNLV campus, but no one has played on the strip. I'm absolutely 100% certain that the players will not be one bit distracted by everything else happening in Las Vegas, and that they will get to bed at a reasonable hour at the conclusion of the game tonight. For the Clippers, starting guards Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups will not play, as Paul recovers from thumb surgery and Billups from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Paul plans to be ready for the season opener and hopes to play at least one pre-season game; Billups is likely to miss the start of the season, but seems to be progressing nicely, and even went through some contact drills in a recent practice. Given that this is the first preseason game for each team, don't expect to see them in top form. Nor should you expect them to necessarily play their top guys. I've listed my best guess for starters in this game, but really, who knows?

The Antagonist:

The Nuggets made a major new addition this summer when they acquired Andre Iguodala as part of the same four team trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers. (Which reminds me, I really need to send a thank you note to Orlando for facilitating a single trade that greatly improved two of the Clippers primary Western Conference rivals -- that was swell.) The Nuggets look to be one of the deepest teams in the league, with quality players at every position. The question remains if an NBA team can really thrive without a go to scorer to turn to at the end of close games. I'd like to think that it's possible, and if any team can do it, it's these Nuggets under George Karl. But the NBA has been a star's league for a long time. Still, even if they may not be title contenders, the Nuggets could be very, very good this season. Just how good may depend in large part on the continued development of youngsters JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson. That's four players, at four positions, all 24 or younger, all very good already with a chance to get much better. No wonder they're pumped up in Denver this year.

The Subplots

  • The Questionable Blogger. In advance of the game, I asked Nate Timmons of the SBNation Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs a few questions. He likewise asked some questions of me.
  • Comparison of key metrics. The Nuggets played at the second fastest pace in the league last season. You can expect them to continue to play fast this season. The Clippers on the other hand played at the fourth slowest. But it just proves that whether play fast or slow, it's efficiency that matters. Other than pace, the teams couldn't be much more similar. The Nuggets were .7 points better on offense, the Clippers were .5 points better on defense (both per 100 possessions).
  • Off to China. This is the Clippers only game before they leave for China, where they will play two preseason games, next Thursday and Sunday, against the Miami Heat.
  • Starting two guard. We will get a clue tonight as to what Vinny Del Negro will do at the shooing guard until Billups is back, though it may not mean a lot in a preseason game. He has several choices -- he can go with Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Matt Barnes or Grant Hill. When Paul is back, he might even go with Eric Bledsoe, but that's not an option tonight since Bledsoe will be playing the point in Paul's absence. VDN may decide to go situational. For instance, if indeed Iguodala starts at the 2 for Denver, then Green might not be a good choice because of size issues, but any of the other three would work. My money's on Crawford starting in this one, not that it matters. [Note by Steve Perrin, 10/06/12 1:23 PM PDT ] A hat tip to Citizen Hengtime81 who relayed Ralph's tweet that Green will start at the two. That's what I assumed VDN would do all along, but I thought maybe Iggy's size might cause him to change his mind. Should have stuck with my gut.
  • Jordan and McGee. DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee will probably always be linked in their NBA careers. In the 2008 draft, Jordan dropped like a stone from the lottery to the second round, while McGee came from nowhere to be picked 18th. They're both crazy long (McGee is one of the only players in the league longer than DJ) and very athletic for their size. They both are raw, though McGee has more of an offensive game than Jordan does. Importantly, they both supposedly worked on their offensive games this summer -- this will be a chance to see if the worked paid off for either of them.
  • Mozgov and Miller - Clipper enemies. Timofey Mozgov and Andre Miller are both linked closely to the Clippers in negative ways. Mozgov went on Blake's first huge NBA poster of course, but then got a measure of revenge when you leveled Griffin last season. Miller is just a bad man.
  • Bledsoe vs. Lawson. With Paul still out, these pre-season games are a golden opportunity for Bledsoe to show what he can do. Based on last season's playoffs, he seems ready to make a major step forward in his career. He's going to get every chance during pre-season. His battle with Lawson, two small, super quick point guards, will be the matchup to watch.
  • Lamar. This will be our first chance to see Lamar Odom in action for the Clippers. The huge question for this roster is will we see 2011 Sixth Man Award Lamar, or 2012 Mavericks mistake Lamar. The reality will no doubt lie somewhere in between, but the Clippers need him to show that last season was the true outlier.
  • Get the Nuggets perspective at Denver Stiffs.
  • Lyrical reference:

    Fashion Nugget -- Cake (lyrics NSFW)

    Heads of State who ride and wrangle,
    Who look at your face from more than one angle,
    Can cut you from their bloated budgets
    Like sharpened knives through Chicken McNuggets.

    I'm a BIG fan of Cake; saw them in concert last February. One of the few bands that makes heavy use of the vibraslap.