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Clippers-Kings preview: The game before the game

The Clippers will look to make it two wins in a row tonight against the Kings in the opening act leading up to Clips Nation Night, when the citizens of Clips Nation take the court at STAPLES Center!

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

Dece mber 1st, 2012, 7:30 PM
Prime Ticket, NBA-TV, KFWB 980 AM
See Chris Paul and Blake Griffin
Buy Clippers Tickets today
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Aaron Brooks
Chauncey Billups SG Marcus Thornton
Caron Butler SF John Salmons
Blake Griffin PF Jason Thompson
DeAndre Jordan C DeMarcus Cousins
Advanced Stats through Nov. 30
92.1 (16th of 30) Pace 91.4 (19th of 30)
107.4 (7th of 30) ORtg 102.0 (21st of 30)
103.0 (11th of 30) DRtg 107.4 (25th of 30)
Trey Thompkins (knee) out
Tyreke Evans (bruised knee) ?
Grant Hill (knee) out

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The Clippers swept the three game series last season.

The Big Picture:

So far this season the Clippers have been a bit streaky as a team. They won two, then lost two, then won six, then lost four. They won on Wednesday, and hopefully the pattern will continue and they're at the beginning of an 18 game winning streak. Of course, that will be followed by an eight game losing streak, which will suck. The Kings are one of the two worst teams in the Western Conference this year, but guess what? The other one is New Orleans, a team that beat the Clippers in STAPLES Center on Monday, so hopefully the Clippers will remember that little lesson. It should help having Chauncey Billups back in the lineup -- still another coach on the floor for the team. Most of the Clippers wing players -- Caron Butler, Billups, Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe -- were ice cold on Wednesday. It would be nice to make some shots tonight. Of course the Clippers-Kings game is just the opening act -- Clips Nation Night is happening after the game as the citizens of Clips Nation take the court themselves.

The Antagonist:

The Kings are a pretty sad story right now. Their future in Sacramento remains incredibly uncertain, and the product on the floor is a bit of a mess as well. Tyreke Evans was the Rookie of the Year in 2009, but has not really been the same player since. (His numbers are a bit better this season, but he sat out last night loss to the Pacers with a bruised knee and his status for the Clippers game is unknown.) DeMarcus Cousins has a world of talent but also a nose for trouble. And it's simply not clear that anyone else on the roster is a keeper though certainly the jury is still out on rookie Thomas Robinson, the fifth pick in the draft, and Jimmer Fredette is beginning to show signs of being a legitimate scorer if not actually living up to his hype. Evans did not sign an extension and will be a free agent this summer. The makeup of this team, and indeed its location, are open questions going forward.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Kings are in the bottom third of the league in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency. That's not a recipe for success. The Clippers D-rating has taken a hit lately, but it's still better than they were last season. The defense against Minnesota on Wednesday was very good from the middle of the second quarter until the end.
  • Clips Nation Night. If you're going to Clips Nation Night, meet us on the Main Concourse outside of Section 112 after the game. Remember your shoes and two shirts you can play in (one light and one dark). We'll pick teams and start playing.
  • Griffin. As I wrote on SBNation LA yesterday, Blake Griffin's productivity is down across the board this season. He has not really had a breakout game yet. At some point he's going to get things going and get on a big time roll. In his career against the Kings, Griffin has won six of seven games while shooting better than 60% from the field, his highest career shooting percentage against a Western Conference team. So this seems like a good opponent to break out against.
  • Pacific Division. It's really too early to be worrying about this sort of thing of course, but the Clippers still find themselves tied with Golden State for first place in the Pacific Division after leading it by three games just last week. A loss tonight coupled with a Warriors win over Indiana would knock the Clippers out of first place for the first time this season.
  • Jimmer. Jimmer Fredette was billed as a world class shooter/scorer coming out of BYU. He shot 38.6% from the field as a rookie. So far this season he's shooting 51% and making 45% of this threes. Of course, his minutes have been cut in half and he's playing fewer than 10 minutes per game, but he scores nearly 24 points per 36 minutes on the court, which is a higher rate than Jamal Crawford.
  • Tiny point guards. Last season one of the few pleasant surprises for the Kings was the play of Isaiah Thomas, a 5'9 point guard the acquired with the final pick in the draft. So naturally during the offseason they signed free agent Aaron Brooks. Brooks is listed at 6'0 but he's not that tall, giving the Kings two of the smallest players in the league. Thomas retained his starting position through the first eight games of the season, but has since lost it to Brooks while Thomas has dropped out of the rotation. Chris Paul, listed at 6'0 himself, will post these guys up all night.
  • Why the Kings are still scary. The Kings could win this game. Cousins is a beast, and Evans (if he plays) is still very talented. Meanwhile, Marcus Thornton has had some big games against the Clippers, and no one in the NBA defends Blake Griffin better than Chuck Hayes. You don't have to work to hard to come up with a scenario where the Kings win this thing.
  • Actors in L.A. During a game in Sacramento last year, Cousins was whistled for a key foul late in the game when he took a swipe at the ball while defending Griffin. Griffin gestured towards his face, the ref blew the whistle and Griffin hit the free throws, the Clippers went on to win the game. After the game Cousins insisted that he didn't touch Griffin and talked about how everybody in L.A. is an actor. One gets the impression that these two guys don't like each other much, so keep an eye on them when they are matched up tonight. It could be interesting.
  • Back-to-back. Prior to the Hornets game we discussed how this is probably the softest part of the Clippers schedule this season. The schedule makers did the team an additional favor by bringing in opponents playing the second game of back-to-back games. New Orleans was on a B2B, so was Minnesota, and now so is Sacramento. Meanwhile the Clippers are at home and haven't played since Wednesday night.
  • Get the Kings perspective at Sactown Royalty
  • Lyrical reference:

    Paranoid Android -- Radiohead

    Please could you stop the noise, I'm trying to get some rest
    From all the unborn chicken voices in my head
    What's that...? (I may be paranoid, but not an android)
    What's that...? (I may be paranoid, but not an android)

    When I am king, you will be first against the wall
    With your opinion which is of no consequence at all
    What's that...? (I may be paranoid, but no android)
    What's that...? (I may be paranoid, but no android)

    From now on I'm only going to use Radiohead lyrics. Actually, that won't be feasible, but it's going to be my first stop for sure. OK Computer is among my three or four favorite albums of all time. Unbelievably good.