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Clippers-Hawks preview: salvaging the road trip

The Clippers are 1-2 on their road trip and need a win tonight in Atlanta to salvage a .500 trip. After a terrible second half in Brooklyn last night, the team needs to bounce back strong.

Jeff Gross
2012/2013 NBA Regular Season

November 24th, 2012, 4:00 PM
Philips Arena
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Jeff Teague
Willie Green SG Kyle Korver
Caron Butler SF Josh Smith
Blake Griffin PF Al Horford
DeAndre Jordan C Zaza Pachulia
Advanced Stats through Nov. 23
92.5 (14th of 30) Pace 92.8 (9th of 30)
107.4 (8th of 30) ORtg 100.7 (25th of 30)
100.9 (4th of 30) DRtg 98.2 (1st of 30)
Chauncey Billups (Achilles surgery) out
Trey Thompkins (knee) out

Grant Hill (knee) out

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

After winning six straight games, the Clippers have now lost two in a row on their current road trip. Losing in overtime in Oklahoma City Wednesday night was one thing. But the second half of last night's loss in Brooklyn was probably the Clippers worst half of the season. They scored just 29 points in the half and seemed a bit lucky to get that many. The fourth game of a road trip, on the second night of a back to back, is not exactly the ideal situation for getting back on the winning track, but that's what the Clippers will have to do if they want to avoid a three game losing streak. No one played particularly well in Brooklyn, so everyone has room to improve. In the first meeting of these season between these teams it was the Clippers bench that made the difference, finally putting the game away in the fourth quarter.

The Antagonist:

The Hawks have won four straight -- against Sacramento, Orlando, Washington and Charlotte. It will be a bit more difficult beating the Clippers. Atlanta is 7-4 and certainly has a very good shot at the playoffs in this post-Joe Johnson transitional year. But you would think that Josh Smith might have to step up and have a huge season, and so far the opposite is happening. Smith has been terrible -- shooting 42 percent from the field and worse than that from the line (he's a career 67 percent free throw shooter so that's tough to figure). Al Horford is a former All Star, Jeff Teague is playing well and Lou Williams is filling the sixth man role well. If the Hawks can get Smith back on track they can be a second tier playoff team in the East (or about the tenth best team in the West).

The Subplots

  • Viewing Party. Remember that there's a viewing party for this game at Joey's Smokin' BBQ in Torrance, 25308 Crenshaw Blvd. Come on out and eat some ribs and watch the game with your fellow citizens of Clips Nation.
  • Comparison of key metrics. Over the past few games the Clippers have been playing at a slower pace, and their offense has tailed off quite a bit. The good news is that the defense continues to be solid, top five in the league. The good news is that the offense will be fine, but it is interesting that the team has seemed to revert to a walk-it-up approach more on the road. The Hawks are currently the top rated defense in the league -- which you wouldn't really expect looking at their personnel.
  • Road trip. The Clippers began their first real road trip of the season with an important win over San Antonio. They then lost in overtime in Oklahoma City and fell apart in the second half in Brooklyn. This game in Atlanta will determine whether they come back with a respectable 2-2 split in four tough games, or if they go 1-3 with a three game losing streak. It's a big difference, psychologically if nothing else.
  • The good news. The good news for the Clippers is that the schedule turns really friendly after this one. After playing a very difficult schedule so far (in terms of the opponents if not in terms of the road mix) the Clippers will face a long list of teams that missed the playoffs last season starting Monday against the Hornets. From Monday until Christmas eve the Clippers play 14 games, with only Chicago, Dallas and Utah being teams that made the playoffs last season.
  • Crawford. Jamal Crawford had his best season in the NBA as a Hawk three years ago when he won the Sixth Man Award. In fact it was Atlanta where he found his real NBA niche as a bench scorer; he'd been a starter for most of his career before he landed with the Hawks. As well as he played when he was in Atlanta, he's been even better in his first season with the Clippers.
  • Willie Green. In addition to Crawford, Clippers guard Willie Green will be playing against his former club. Green had a very solid season in Atlanta last year, hitting a career high 44 percent of his three pointers. He's making 40 percent for the Clippers so far this season.
  • Going for the sweep. The Clippers are trying to sweep the Hawks for the first time since the 2005, 2006 season. Coincidentally that year they also played the Hawks twice in November, winning both. Strangely, the Clippers have won six straight November meetings with Atlanta going back to the year 2000.
  • Anthony Morrow. Morrow was one of the players the Hawks received for Johnson. Clipper fans remember all too well the huge games he's had against the LAC in the past. He's had difficulty finding consistent minutes in coach Larry Drew's rotation, and did not appear at all in the first meeting, which is probably just fine with the Clippers. He's one of the best pure shooters in the entire league, and it's hard to figure why he's not getting more of a chance in Atlanta.
  • Hawks starting lineup. Head coach Larry Drew seems to be going a bit situational with his lineup this season. Against big teams he starts ZaZa! at the five and slides everyone over a spot, while against smaller teams he sits ZaZa! and starts DeShawn Stevenson at the two. Against the Clippers I am assuming that he will go big, which is what he did last time they played.
  • Get the Hawks perspective at Peachtree Hoops.
  • Lyrical reference:

    Elvis Costello -- Turpentine

    Airless shaft of an underground railway
    Effete assassin with a hawk in a sack
    The earth will offer us in when our hearts fail
    As it swallowed the river running under the track
    Under the track yeah

    Can't say I'm actually familiar with this Elvis Costello song, but it's Elvis Costello, so it must be good.