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Clippers-Kings preview: trying to make history

With a victory tonight the Clippers can run their winning streak to an even dozen, longest in their franchise history. Only the woeful Kings stand in their way.

Cary Emondson-US PRESSWIRE
2012/2013 NBA Regular Season

December 21st, 2012, 7:30 PM
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Aaron Brooks
Willie Green SG Marcus Thornton
Caron Butler SF John Salmons
Blake Griffin PF Jason Thompson
DeAndre Jordan C DeMarcus Cousins
Advanced Stats through games of Dec. 20
91.3 (19th of 30) Pace 92.2 (13th of 30)
110.4 (4th of 30) ORtg 103.1 (20th of 30)
100.8 (4th of 30) DRtg 109.7 (28th of 30)
Chauncey Billups (ankle) out
Tyreke Evans (knee) questionable
Grant Hill (knee) out
Francisco Garcia (back) questionable
Trey Thompkins (knee) out

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

It's official, the Clippers are the hottest team in the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder finally lost in Minnesota last night, leaving the Clippers with the longest active winning streak in the league. The Clippers haven't lost in 25 days, since November 26. A win tonight would be their 12th in a row, which would be a new franchise record. Back in 1974 Bob McAdoo led the Buffalo Braves to 11 straight wins, but no Clippers/Braves team has ever made it to a dozen in a row. The Clippers are home and well rested -- they played Wednesday, but the starters took the fourth quarter off in that one. In addition to setting the franchise record, a win tonight would tie the Clippers with the Thunder for the longest winning streak in the league this season.

The Antagonist:

The Kings are coming off a high-scoring win over the Golden State Warriors, a team that was almost as hot as the Clippers have been. But that win came in Sacramento where they have been reasonably good this season (7-7). The road has been a different story for the Kings. They're just 1-10 away from home this year and have been outscored by an average of 10.4 points in those games. The Kings are led by center DeMarcus Cousins, who scores almost 17 points per game and is among the best rebounders in the league. Unfortunately, Cousins shoots about 41 percent from the field, which is a disaster for a center. Tyreke Evans, the former Rookie of the Year who has struggled to rediscover his game since his rookie season, has been battling a bone bruise in his knee. He missed Wednesday night's game and will probably miss this one as well.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Clippers remain the only team in the league that is in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency -- they are fourth in each category. It has probably not been remarked on enough that the Clippers are as impressive a defensive team this season as they are an offensive team. That would not have seemed possible based on last season. The Kings on the other hand are pretty bad on offense and simply terrible on defense.
  • Clipparaoke Nation Night! If you don't have tickets to STAPLES tonight, then you should come down to Fullerton to watch the game with us at the Stadium Tavern. Everyone in Clipper gear gets drink specials, and after the game is over citizen Ray Samora will be DJ'ing karaoke. It's basketball and karaoke! What could possibly be better?
  • First meeting. In the Clippers win over Sacramento at the beginning of December the Kings verged on the embarrassing. They shot 38 percent and committed 17 turnovers. Some of that was good L.A. defense -- but a lot was just sloppy play as well. A large number of those turnovers were more or less unforced. I expect the Kings to do better tonight -- then again, they could hardly do worse.
  • Beating the bad teams. During the 11 game winning streak, the Clippers have faced seven teams currently below .500. That doesn't devalue the streak -- every team has easier and harder stretches of their schedule, and long winning streaks, if they happen at all, invariably happen during the easy stretches. The good news is that the Clippers, in contrast to some losses earlier in the season, have mostly been dominating the weaker teams lately. Win two in this streak came against these Kings by a margin of 35 points. It was the first time the Clippers really destroyed a bad team this year. Let's hope it happens again.
  • Chasing the Thunder. Their loss in Minnesota last night makes some things very interesting between the Thunder and the Clippers, at least for now. For one thing, at least for the moment, the Clippers now have the longest active winning streak in the league, since Oklahoma City's 12 gamer finally ended. A win tonight would keep the streak going, and also tie for the longest streak in the NBA this season, with a chance to pass the Thunder for that distinction on Friday Sunday. But here's the fun one -- as of this moment, the Thunder have outscored their opponents by 230 points in 26 games and the Clippers have outscored theirs by 221 points in 25 games. That's an average margin of victory of 8.846 for OKC, 8.840 for LAC, good for first and second in the league, more than 2 points better than any other team. If the Clippers beat the Kings by 10 or more, they'll take over the league lead in margin of victory. Margin of victory is a very simple metric that actually does a very good job of predicting playoff success, for what it's worth.
  • 1-10 on the road. The Kings are playing .500 ball in Arco Power Balance Sleep Train Arena, but they are 1-10 on the road. Their one win came a couple weeks ago in Portland. The Clippers could hardly ask for a more made-to-order victim to help them set their win streak record. Only the Wizards at 1-11 have a worse road record.
  • 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 they 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 wandered in and out of the rotation (he seems to be back in right now). Chris Paul, listed at 6'0 himself, will post these guys up all night. If you get a chance, look at Paul and Brooks standing next to each other -- Paul is at least an inch taller, and I doubt he's actually 6'0. I'm not sure how they can list Brooks as they do -- he's probably close to 5'10.
  • Why the Kings are still scary. The Kings could win this game if the Clippers take them lightly. They beat a Golden State team Wednesday night that had been almost as hot as the Clippers. Cousins is a beast, and Evans (if he plays) is very talented. Meanwhile, Marcus Thornton has had some big games against the Clippers, including hitting six threes in the first meeting, and no one in the NBA defends Blake Griffin better than Chuck Hayes. The Clippers certainly should win, but the Kings have enough talent to cause trouble.
  • Connections. Travis Outlaw was briefly a Clipper in 2010 before travelling to "terrible contract ville" and "amnesty land" and eventually "Sacramento". Matt Barnes played high school basketball and football at Del Campo High in Sacramento. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe were college teammates for one season in Kentucky before becoming NBA first round draft picks in the 2010 draft. James Johnson and Chris Paul are two of the seven current NBA players who went to Wake Forest. Clipper head coach Vinny Del Negro was originally a second round pick of the Kings in 1988 and played two seasons in Sacramento.
  • Get the Kings perspective Sactown Royalty.
  • Lyrical reference:

    Mustache Man -- Cake

    Launching loony thoughts into the bending of your mind
    You reach for something high but it's a mountain that you find
    He's a king dust demon with an icepick smile
    His music fills your feathers as you feel your passions fly

    With the mustache man on the carpet of his van
    You can feel your fatty tissues giving way to sweaty hands
    And the woofers keep distorting and the tweeters kiss the girls
    His horn-rimmed glasses lights a square beneath his curls

    Cake is doubly appropriate in this case. Not only was I able to find a lyric with king in it, but Cake is also a Sacramento band. Cake is playing a New Year's Eve show at the Wiltern in 10 days -- I'd go if I had someone to go with. Anyone want to meet me at the Wiltern New Year's Eve?