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Clippers-Bucks preview: passing the Bucks

The Clippers can win their ninth game in a row tonight, which would be their longest winning streak since moving to California.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
2012/2013 NBA Regular Season

December 15th, 2012, 5:30 PM
BMO Harris Bradley Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
See Chris Paul and Blake Griffin
Buy Clippers Tickets today
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Brandon Jennings
Willie Green SG Monta Ellis
Caron Butler SF Marquis Daniels
Blake Griffin PF Ekpe Udoh
DeAndre Jordan C Larry Sanders
Advanced Stats through games of Dec. 13
91.9 (16th of 30) Pace 93.6 (5th of 30)
110.3 (4th of 30) ORtg 103.0 (20th of 30)
102.1 (7th of 30) DRtg 103.3 (10th of 30)
Chauncey Billups (ankle) out
Mike Dunleavy (knee) doubtful
Grant Hill (knee) out
Tobias Harris (lacerated elbow) out
Trey Thompkins (knee) out
Beno Udrih (sprained ankle) doubtful

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The Clippers won the only meeting between the teams last season.

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are rested and ready to win their ninth game in a row. The team has a chance to put together a truly impressive winning streak, not to mention an undefeated road trip. After tonight's game in Milwaukee there's only Detroit left against a pretty terrible Pistons team. So a win here would put them in position to be heading back to L.A. riding a 10 game winning streak. The Spurs have lost two straight, the Grizzlies have lost three, and the Warriors finally lost one, so if the Clippers can keep rolling they could begin to separate themselves from the pack (along with the equally sizzling Thunder). Of course, getting placed near the top of power rankings in December doesn't really mean anything, but at the same time the more the Clippers are discussed as a legitimate title contender, they more they are treated as a legitimate title contender, the more confidence they will have.

The Antagonist:

The Bucks are 12-9 and currently in fourth place in the East, but it's pretty difficult to look at them as a top tier team. They haven't played a particularly difficult schedule so far, they don't have any really marquee wins to speak of, and they have allowed as many points on the season as they've scored. Likewise on paper they don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. They rely on their backcourt for much of their scoring and have a front court by committee right now. It's hard to see how they'll be able to matchup with the Clippers, particularly against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Bucks have a 12-9 record which currently ranks them fourth in the Eastern Conference. But they've allowed exactly as many points this season as they've scored, and they're offensive and defensive efficiency numbers are essentially the same as well, and that's the sign of a .500 team. As you would expect from a Scott Skiles team, they are better defensively than they are offensively, although that seems counterintuitive when you look at their starting guards.
  • Clips Nation Night at Hooters. Don't forget that tonight is Clips Nation Night at the Hooters in Santa Monica. They'll have 20% off food and merchandise for everyone in Clippers gear, and they'll also be giving away a pair of tickets.
  • Gaining ground. Through most of the Clippers eight game winning streak they've gotten nowhere in the standings in relation to their immediate rivals. The Thunder are on a 10 game win streak of their own, and for the longest time the Grizzlies, Spurs and Warriors were winning also. But the Grizzlies have suddenly lost three straight, the Spurs have lost a couple, and the Warriors lost in Orlando a couple night's after winning in Miami (go figure). Of course if the Clippers turn around and lose to the Bucks it will be a missed opportunity.
  • Bucks against the west. The Bucks are 12-9 overall, but 15 of their 21 games have come against the weaker Eastern Conference. Against the West, they're just 2-4, with the two wins coming against the two last place teams, New Orleans and Sacramento. Wins over Chicago, Brooklyn and Boston (twice) are the closest things to quality wins for Milwaukee this season.
  • Revolving bigs. A quick disclaimer on the probable starters I've listed for the Bucks: your guess is as good as mine on their front court. They've had some minor injuries and illnesses recently and a bit of a revolving door in the front court at any rate. As a result seven different players have started for them at power forward or center this season. With all of the bigs healthy for this game, I'm just guessing that it will be Udoh and Sanders out there -- you could see Sam Dalembert or rookie John Henson or Ersan Ilyasova or Luc-Richard Mbah a Moute; it's difficult to know. Marquis Daniels is currently starting at small forward for the injured Tobias Harris.
  • Dalembert. Dalembert has gone back and forth from starter to DNP over the last two weeks. It seems as if Skiles is moving away from him and towards the younger bigs like Udoh and Sanders and Henson. That's certainly what I would do.
  • Clippers looking to make history. A win in this game would set a couple of different records for the Clippers. A nine game winning streak would be the longest since the team moved to California, which is to say the longest in the "Clippers" era for the franchise. Also, 17-6 would be the best record after 23 games in franchise history.
  • Rested Clippers. The Clippers are on the road, but they haven't played since Wednesday night in Charlotte. They spent Thursday and Friday in North Carolina before heading to Wisconsin. The Bucks on the other hand played last night in Cleveland, with Ellis and Jennings logging big minutes (42 and 40 respectively).
  • Ellis and Jennings. The Bucks are a unique team, with two small guards leading them in scoring. Ellis was paired with Steph Curry (a scoring point from the 2009 draft in Golden State) and that wasn't working out so they shipped him out to Milwaukee where he's paired with Jennings (a scoring point from the 2009 draft). You almost feel sorry for Ellis as he continues to find himself in less than ideal situations. His true shooting percentage this season, never a strong point, is a career low .480. Paired with Jennings at .497 and the Bucks have two high volume, low efficiency shooters in their backcourt.
  • The Larry Sanders show. One of the bright spots for the Bucks this season has been the play of Larry Sanders. The third year big out of VCU has been a per minute monster, averaging 11.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per 36 minutes. He's the best shot blocker in the NBA -- by almost one full block -- on a per 36 minute basis.
  • Connections. Bucks reserve forward Drew Gooden (who saw his first action of the season last week while some other bigs were injured or ill) was a Clipper for a half a season in 2010. Clipper Caron Butler was born and raised in Racine Wisconsin. Bucks small forward Mike Dunleavy is the son of the Clippers former coach. Clipper coach Vinny Del Negro played two seasons in Milwaukee in the late 90s.
  • Get the Milwaukee perspective at Brew Hoop.
  • Lyrical reference:

    Buck Naked -- David Byrne

    Give me your heart
    I'll give you mine first
    Give me your time
    And I'll give you my trust

    And we're buck naked now
    Like when we were born
    When will we find out?
    And why does it take so long?

    It took me way too long to embrace Talking Heads, but I have come to have a great appreciation for them as well as for the other work of pretty much everybody in the band. David Byrne has done some great stuff, and I really dug Tom Tom Club which was the side project of Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz.