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Clippers-Hornets preview: Home remedy

The Clippers face 11 2012 lottery teams in their next 14 games beginning tonight against the Hornets, who are without Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis. Seems like a good opportunity to end their three game losing streak.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
2012/2013 NBA Regular Season

November 26th, 2012, 7:30 PM
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Greivis Vasquez
Willie Green SG Roger Mason, Jr.
Caron Butler SF Al-Farouq Aminu
Blake Griffin PF Ryan Anderson
DeAndre Jordan C Robin Lopez
Advanced Stats through Nov. 25
92.6 (12th of 30) Pace 88.7 (29th of 30)
106.7 (8th of 30) ORtg 104.6 (16th of 30)
101.6 (6th of 30) DRtg 110.4 (30th of 30)
Chauncey Billups (Achilles surgery) out
Eric Gordon (knee) out
Trey Thompkins (knee) out
Anthony Davis (ankle) out
Grant Hill (knee) out

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The Clippers won the season series last year two games to one.

The Big Picture:

The Clippers went from being the hottest team in the league to losing three in a row in the blink of an eye. That's the way it goes sometimes. The NBA's 82 marathon schedule defies snapshot analysis -- yet that's what we try to do, game-by-game, quarter-by-quarter, minute-by-minute. And since halftime of their game in Brooklyn, the Clippers have looked terrible, in stark contrast to the team that so recently was riding a six game winning streak. Things that were coming easily for the club a couple weeks ago are now a struggle. Issues have cropped up pretty much across the roster, but look no further than Chris Paul for the biggest problem -- Paul is 12-37 with 10 turnovers in the last three games. He'll work things out and start playing better, and so will the Clippers. They've got a very, very soft stretch of their schedule (perhaps the softest stretch of the season) starting tonight, so now would be an excellent time to start playing better. The Clippers have had their issues getting up for bad teams -- but this time it's an opportunity to get back to winning ways and avoid a four game losing streak. Hopefully that's all the motivation they need.

The Antagonist:

The Hornets could have a very bright future, building a team around former Clipper Eric Gordon, first overall pick Anthony Davis and top ten pick Austin Rivers. Unfortunately, in the present, with Gordon yet to play a game with a mysterious knee ailment, Davis sitting out the next couple of weeks with a stress reaction in his ankle and Rivers shooting 31 percent as a pro, things are decidedly less bright. They're pretty dim in fact. The Hornets have the worst record in the Western Conference and a riding a seven game losing streak. They played last night in Denver and lost big. Their leading scorer in that game was a rookie named Brian Roberts who is about a week away from his 27th birthday. Gordon and Davis both have the ability to make things happen on an NBA court -- but there aren't really any other players on their roster who can, and it's going to be pretty ugly for them until they get their stars back.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. It must be killing Monty Williams that the Hornets are last in the league in defense. The Hornets were completely undermanned last season as well, but they still managed to be 15th in the league in defensive efficiency. But they're getting lit up this year.
  • Soft stretch. Beginning with the Hornets tonight, the Clippers play 11 of their next 14 games against teams who missed the playoffs last season. And the three teams that did make the playoffs -- Utah, Dallas and Chicago -- aren't exactly tearing it up this year. After a beginning to the season that has featured 11 of their first 13 against teams over .500 including games against most of the best teams in the league, this soft stretch will be a welcome break for the Clippers. Of course, this is a team that lost home games to Golden State and Cleveland already this year -- the soft stretch in the schedule is only a good thing if you take advantage of it by winning a whole bunch of games. The schedule gets turns tough again on Christmas Day. What will the Clippers record be heading into that stretch? 20-7 would be a nice Christmas present for the fans.
  • Losing streak. The Clippers had only one losing streak of three games last season -- and that didn't come until late in the year. Losing three straight in November is not something they wanted to do -- but you can rest assured that they really don't want the first four game losing streak of the Chris Paul era in L.A. coming against Paul's former team tonight.
  • AFA. Former Clippers Al-Farouq Aminu has been one mini-bright spot for the Hornets this season. He's not making anyone in New Orleans forget Chris Paul (remember that he and Rivers are the only players currently playing who the Hornets received for Paul), but his numbers are way up across the board after 11 games. He's shooting .525 from the field and grabbing almost eight rebounds per game. AFA's length and athleticism were always apparent -- it wasn't hard to see why scouts loved him. But he almost always looked like a deer in the headlights in his first two seasons. Is he beginning to figure it out. (It's worth noting that AFA was drafted 10 spots ahead of Eric Bledsoe in the 2010 draft.)
  • Jason Smith. Clipper fans in STAPLES tonight will not doubt give Jason Smith a very rude reception when he first checks into the game. Smith is a bit of a non-entity in the NBA who will forever be best known as the guy who put an open field tackle on Blake Griffin in New Orleans last season. Smith was suspended a couple of games for the hit -- which wasn't enough.
  • Ryan Anderson. New Orleans is clearly undermanned against the Clippers, but they are not without weapons. The Clippers would be wise to keep a close eye on Anderson, who dropped 34 on Phoenix on Friday. Anderson made more three pointers than any player in the league last year in Orlando, and he's been red hot from deep lately. He's made 26-44 three pointers (59 percent) in his last six games.
  • Robin Lopez. A couple games ago it was Brook Lopez lighting up the Clippers, but his brother Robin has a history of doing so as well. Robin's career high of 30 came against the Clippers a couple of seasons ago. The second best game of his career was 21. Of course he was playing pick and roll with a guy named Steve Nash when he got his 30 which definitely helped him that night.
  • Clippers bench. The second unit was the most impressive thing about the Clippers during their six game winning streak. Time and again the Clippers bench would turn a close game into a blow out by overpowering their counterparts. But they scored a paltry 24 points in Brooklyn Friday and then went 33 minutes in Atlanta before scoring a point (the team was down 27 by the time Matt Barnes hit a third quarter three). Getting back to their winning ways means having the bench play like the best in the business again. Tonight they'll be going against a group of guys you've most never heard of with names like Lance Thomas and Brian Roberts.
  • Matchups. The power forward matchup between Anderson and Griffin is the one to watch. Anderson can't possibly handle Griffin's athleticism and strength either in the post or when Griffin faces him up. But Griffin is going to have to come much further out on the perimeter than he likes to defend Anderson's three point shooting.
  • Get the Hornets perspective At the Hive.
  • Lyrical reference:

    The Sound of Music -- Maria

    She'd outpester any pest
    Drive a hornet from its nest
    She could throw a whirling dervish out of whirl
    She is gentle! She is wild!
    She's a riddle! She's a child!
    She's a headache! She's an angel!
    She's a girl!

    Show tunes! I can't believe we're at game 14 already and this is my first Rogers and Hammerstein reference!