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Clippers-Raptors preview: Going for six in a row

The Clippers are looking for their sixth straight win today. After this game, they hit the road for a four game trip, so a win would be great so they can take all that momentum out on the road.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
2012/2013 NBA Regular Season

December 9th, 2012, 12:30 PM
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
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Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Kyle Lowry
Willie Green SG Mickael Pietrus
Caron Butler SF DeMar DeRozan
Blake Griffin PF Andrea Bargnani
DeAndre Jordan C Jonas Valanciunas
Advanced Stats through games of Dec. 7
92.4 (14th of 30) Pace 92.3 (16th of 30)
109.3 (4th of 30) ORtg 102.7 (22nd of 30)
102.1 (7th of 30) DRtg 109.4 (29th of 30)
Chauncey Billups (ankle) out
Landry Fields (elbow surgery) out
Grant Hill (knee) out
Alan Anderson (foot) out
Trey Thompkins (knee) out

The Back Story:

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

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are looking to put together their second six game winning streak fewer than six weeks into the NBA season. The team has one six game winning streak last season, and before that it was 20 years to their previous six game winning streak. So two such streaks in a single season would be quite the accomplishment. (In case your curious, the 91-92 Clippers had one eight game winning streak and one six gamer, but that's the only other time in franchise history they've had two streaks of six or greater in the same season.) The only thing standing between them and their sixth straight win is a Toronto Raptors team that is 1-12 on the road and has lost 9 of their last 10. In their win over Phoenix on Saturday the Suns managed to hang around against the Clippers first unit, but the second string came in and finished Phoenix off with a huge fourth quarter. Which is good given that the Clippers are playing their second matinee of the weekend -- none of the starters played a minute in the fourth quarter so they should be plenty fresh today.

The Antagonist:

Only the Washington Wizards have fewer wins than the Raptors this season. No one has more road losses. The Raptors had relatively high hopes going into the season -- they gave up a first round pick to acquire Kyle Lowry from the Rockets in the offseason signed restricted free agent Landry Fields away from the Knicks, and also brought their coveted 2011 lottery pick, Jonas Valanciunas, over from Europe. Along with re-signed small forward DeMar DeRozan and former first overall pick Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors seemed to have an impressive starting lineup, at least in theory. In practice, it has worked out that way. Fields made exactly five shots in his five games before undergoing elbow surgery, DeRozan never earned a $40M contract and isn't earning it now, Valanciunas shows promise but is still very raw, and Bargnani is having the most disappointing season of a disappointing career. Lowry's been terrific and Ed Davis is playing well also, but they are not nearly enough. So six weeks into the season, a team that once had visions of making the playoffs in an Eastern Conference with a plenty of room in the top eight is already trying to figure out how to blow things up and start over -- again.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. 24 hours after playing one of the worst defensive teams in the league, the Clippers get to play another one of the worst defensive teams in the league. That's a friendly home schedule.
  • Wizards-Heat. If the Clippers are thinking that there's no way that they can lose to a team with a 1-12 road record, they would be wise to take a look at the NBA scoreboard from last Tuesday night. That's when the defending NBA champion Heat played the 1-13 Washington Wizards -- and lost. If you don't show up ready to play, you lose. It's that simple.
  • Get away game. After this game the Clippers head out on the road for a four game Eastern swing. They absolutely need to head out riding a long winning streak as opposed to trying to put a bad loss behind them.
  • Double matinee. The Clippers played at 12:30 Saturday and beat the Suns. Now they've got a 12:30 Sunday tip. As the third priority tenant of STAPLES Center, the Clippers play plenty of weekend matinees -- but it's relatively rare to play them back-to-back. It's hard to know what to expect from the team on the back end of a double matinee -- but at least no one played major minutes yesterday.
  • Don't believe everything you read. The STATS LLC preview of this game preview for this game includes this encouraging factoid: "The surging Clippers seek their sixth straight win on Sunday at the expense of the Toronto Raptors, whom they've beaten 12 consecutive times." Wow. I knew they were looking for their sixth straight, but I had no idea they were on such a roll against the Raps. In fact, I had the impression that the Clippers had done poorly against Toronto in recent years. Twelve straight wins would be pretty much the entire history of Clips Nation -- which would mean I had never written about a Toronto loss. But here's the thing -- it's not true. The Clippers have won two straight -- but lost five in a row before that. I have no idea where the bad info came from, but just remember that just because you read something does not necessarily make it true. Unless I wrote it. You can take that to the effing bank.
  • Lowry and Bledsoe. Eric Bledsoe has been a per minute monster this season. He's also an uncommonly good rebounder for a guard his size. It turns out, when I've run queries trying to establish just how unique Bledsoe is, another name frequently crops up -- Kyle Lowry. Lowry plays many more minutes, and would get some consideration for the All Star game if he were on a better team, but on a per minute basis his numbers are very similar to Bledsoe's. Lowry's a better defensive rebounder, scores a little more and gets more assists. Bledsoe shoots a higher percentage and gets more offensive rebounds, steals and blocked shots.
  • Raptors in America. There are 30 NBA teams, and 29 of them are in the United States. So every time the Canadian Raptors play away from home, they are actually going to another country. Given that they have to undertake international travel on every single road trip, is it really any wonder that the Raptors are 1-12 on the road this season?
  • Odom. It's not much, but eight points against Phoenix Saturday was Lamar Odom's season high. In his last four games, he's averaging over 6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in just 21 minutes per game. He still has no jump shot to speak of, but in almost every other way he's looking very much like the Lamar Odom the Clippers were hoping they'd get. He's been their best per minute rebounder lately and has been playing solid defense as always.
  • Warriors keeping the pressure on. The Clippers remain atop the Pacific Division, but the Golden State Warriors appear to be for real. The Warriors keep winning and remain just a half game behind the Clippers. And this is all without Andrew Bogut.
  • Connections. Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, who is currently out with tendinitis in his ankle, spent the second half of his rookie season with the Raptors after being traded there by Boston. He played 29 games for them before being traded once again. That's it. That's all I got.
  • Griffin. Blake Griffin continued his recent tear with 24 against Phoenix yesterday. Jamal Crawford has been the Clippers' leading scorer since the first game of the season, but as of this moment Crawford has scored 341 points and Griffin has scored 340. So it seems inevitable that Griffin is going to take over team honors in scoring soon enough. Valanciunas is crazy long -- but not nearly strong enough to handle Griffin. He could have another big game.
  • Get the Toronto perspective at Raptors HQ.
  • Lyrical reference:

    Beyond Electric Dreams -- Bad Religion

    Let's go where the raptor goes to the mountain in a cosmic glow
    We'll have a genuine terrestrial show on a mountain - on a mountain
    Let's scan the horizon clean for any trace of human schemes
    And try to touch upon immortal themes on a mountain - on a mountain

    It shan't be easy finding raptor references in lyrics. I'm rather pleased with a Bad Religion song though I'm not a huge fan; it's pretty good. Not sure what I'll do for the game in Toronto, but I've got a couple of months to figure that out. I will say that I am happy to see that Bad Religion is using raptor in it's proper sense, as a bird of prey, not as a carnivorous dinosaur.