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Clippers at Cleveland - Game Preview

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season

Quicken Loans Arena
February 8th, 2012, 4:00 PM
FS West, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Kyrie Irving
Randy Foye SG Alonzo Gee
Caron Butler
SF Omri Casspi
Blake Griffin
PF Antawn Jamison
DeAndre Jordan
C Anderson Varejao

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The teams split two game last year.

The Big Picture:

The Clippers played the first third of the 66 game regular season with Chauncey Billups. They will have to play the final two thirds without him. Billups went down to the floor late in Monday night's game in Orlando, clutching his lower left leg. An MRI on Tuesday confirmed what everyone already feared -- Billups had torn his Achilles tendon. He'll be out for the season, throwing his future with the team into uncertainty, though he says he plans to play again, and would like to play for the Clippers. On paper, the loss of Billups is not insurmountable. The backcourt happens to be the one position at which the Clippers are deep. Randy Foye will move into the starting lineup, where he has always done a respectable job. Caron Butler, Chris Paul and Mo Williams will probably all need to take a few more shots to make up for Billups' absence, but again that's all doable. It's the intangibles that will be harder to replace. But then again, it helps to have Paul in that regard. In this, the first game since the injury, the Clippers' emotions may be the biggest hurdle. Dealing with the weight of the loss may be harder than his actual absence from the basketball court. We'll see. The team could come out in a funk over the situation, or they could come out extra motivated to win in his absence.

The Antagonist:

The Cavs are not nearly as bad as I thought they would be. In fact, in the still-embarrassingly-weak-despite-some-good-teams-at-the-top-of-the-standings East, Cleveland is currently in tenth, just a half game out of the eighth playoff spot. Kyrie Irving, whom they selected first in the 2011 draft with a pick they received from the Clippers, appears to be the real deal. His PER of 22.1 isn't just good for a rookie, good, it's just plain good. Especially for a rookie. Especially for a point guard. Irving is leading the team in scoring, while shooting 50% from the field, which is a pretty amazing percentage for a point guard. The Cavs also have Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao back, both of whom spent large portions of last season injured, so that helps as well. But at this point it would seem that the future in Cleveland will be built around Irving and ... well, pretty much just Irving.

The Subplots

  • Set those DVRs. Don't make the mistake I made. This game, like Monday's, is on Fox Sports West, not Prime Ticket. Since the season series on my DVR is set up for Prime Ticket, I ended up missing the first half of the Orlando game. Of course, this happens when the games are starting at 4. Friday's game in Philadelphia is on FS West also.
  • Road winning streak. The Clippers have won four straight on the road. Believe it or not, that is the longest road winning streak in the Clippers era, while a win tonight would be the longest road streak since 1974, when the team was in Buffalo. Somehow I think there are going to be a lot of new Clippers records set now that Chris Paul is in town.
  • Cleveland on a back to back. The Clippers catch a break on the schedule, with Cleveland playing after losing in Miami Tuesday night. The Clippers had Tuesday off and have been waiting in beautiful Cleveland, enjoying the sights.
  • Last meeting in Cleveland. Almost exactly a year ago, the Clippers did what no other team in the NBA had been able to do for a record breaking period of time - they lost to the Cavs. Cleveland was on an NBA record breaking 26 game losing streak when the Clippers strolled casually into the Q. It wasn't easy, but led by Mo Williams (now a Clipper of course), the Cavs pulled out a victory in overtime. Williams and J.J. Hickson did the damage for the Cavs in that meeting, and neither is still with the team. At any rate, It's not the way the Clippers wanted to enter the record book.
  • Parker out? Anthony Parker has missed the Cavs' last four games dealing with a bad back. He's called day to day, but I don't expect him to play against the Clippers.
  • Gibson? Like Parker, Daniel Gibson has missed several games recently, in Gibson's case with an infection in his neck. He was originally supposed to play on Tuesday, but had a set back in his recovery. It's unclear what his status is for this game.
  • No Solomon Jones. Not that you would really notice, but there won't be any Solomon Jones for the Clippers tonight. He was waived yesterday, the last day to do so before his contract would become fully guaranteed. Without Jones and Billups the Clippers have 13 players who could be in uniform. Of those, Kenyon Martin hasn't played an NBA game in over 9 months, and is probably not in game shape, and Eric Bledsoe had a minor setback with his surgically repaired knee recently. Then you have Brian Cook, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, none of whom should really be getting into competitive games at this point. Bottom line is, the Clippers may be looking at an 8 man rotation until Martin and/or Bledsoe are back, or maybe they sign someone to a 10 day contract.
  • Who are these guys? I wish I could give you a thorough accounting of this opponent, but I really don't have a lot to say about Samardo Samuels or Alonzo Gee or Christian Eyenga.
  • Jamison and Griffin. Antawn Jamison has been a tweener his entire NBA career. Tonight, he'll be matched up on Blake Griffin, decidedly NOT a tweener. Blake is a lot bigger than Jamison, and should be able to overpower him in the post. But on the other end, Jamison is a nifty scorer who possesses every scoop, flip and push shot in the book. Jamison has a knack for scoring in some of the ugliest ways, and I can imagine him giving Griffin fits, throwing those old YMCA moves at him that Blake has likely never seen before.
  • Gee. With Parker hurt, the Cavs will likely start Alonzo Gee at the two guard. Gee is a 6'6" big time athlete who will have a major size advantage against the LA guards. Foye will have his hands full; Mo Williams will be giving away even more size. I doubt the Cavs really want their offense to run through Gee, and I'm not sure how much game he's got in the post, but it's a matchup to watch.
  • Three guard lineup. Continuing the thought above, if Vinny Del Negro tries to go with the three guard lineup he has been using recently, it will probably need to be when Irving and Ramon Sessions are both in the game. Even then, Foye will at best be matched up with the 6'6" Gee or the 6'7" Eyenga.
  • Paul. It almost goes without saying that Paul is the key for the Clippers. He's the key in every game. But in the first game without Billups, he will need to look for his own shot more in the early going, and he will need to set the tone for the team to stay focused. The Clippers are a perfect 10-0 on the season when he scores more than 16. I think he'll probably be feeling a little extra motivation as well, going up against the new hotshot point guard of the league.
  • Counterfactual history. I was never a fan of the Baron Davis trade. I didn't like giving up the draft pick, regardless of where it fell in the lottery. I didn't think Mo Williams was as good as Baron. A third of the way through this season, things have broken incredibly well for the Clippers. They used the cap space to sign Caron Butler, who has been a major upgrade at the small forward. Baron was amnestied in Cleveland and is hurt and has yet to play a game. Mo has played the best basketball of his career. The team was able to trade for Paul, and so clearly has little use for Irving. Bill Simmons presented a counterfactual recently in which the trade didn't happen, and the Clippers ended up dealing for Dwight Howard instead. The more straightforward alternative history seems to be that they still did the Paul trade, amnestied Baron and kept the pick. They could have packaged that pick into the Paul trade, perhaps keeping Eric Gordon in the process. Of course, Sterling would never have agreed to amnesty Baron, so the Caron signing would not have been possible, and the team would at best have a $14M Baron Davis backing up Chris Paul. Bottom line -- it all worked out pretty well, and we don't have to think about alternative histories anymore on this one.
  • Ramon Sessions. In the summer of 2009, Ramon Sessions was an almost daily fixture on Clips Nation during a slow part of the off season. There wasn't much else to talk about, and Sessions was an intriguing free agent point guard who the Clippers had shown some interest in. Those crazy Minnesota Timberwolves (KAHHHHNNNNN!), stockpiling point guards at the time, signed Sessions - and promptly buried him behind the underwhelming Jonny Flynn. Apparently disenchanted with Sessions, Kahn then dumped his contract on Cleveland for nothing (Delonte West who was cut and former Clipper Sebastian Telfair). In Cleveland, Sessions has returned to being the quietly productive point guard he had been in Milwaukee. Of course, he's only ever played on terrible teams, so the question of whether he could be the starting point guard on a good team remains unanswered. Now Sessions is the target of trade rumors involving the Lakers.
  • Famous Quotation:


    an uncircumcised penis or someone with an uncircumcised penis.

    a cavalier is someone with whom one can snoodle.

  • Get the Cavs perspective at Fear the Sword.