The Back Story (Clippers lead the season series 1-0):
|01/01/14||Los Angeles||Clippers 112, Bobcats 85||Recap||Box|
The Big Picture:
For the second straight game, the Clippers are facing a team that is good enough to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, and at the same time not at all good. This is the second meeting this month and the final meeting of the season between the Clippers and the Bobcats, and in the first meeting the game was close at halftime before the Clippers ran away with it with a 56-19 second half. Blake Griffin's perimeter shooting from that game may not be easy to replicate, but the second half defense can be. The Bobcats are offensively challenged, and if the Clippers are dialed in on defense they should be able to shut them down. Ironically, while the loss of Chris Paul would theoretically hurt the Clippers more on offense, the fact is that the offense has been on fire since Paul's injury (111.6 points per 100 possessions in the last nine games including the first Dallas game in which he suffered the injury) while the defense has been average (105 points per 100 possessions). A couple of shootouts against the Mavs and a red-hot Spurs team skew those defensive numbers upward, but clearly the defense could be a lot better, especially considering the five of the nine games have come against some pretty bad opponents. But the good news is that the Clippers keep beating those bad opponents. If Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford play at a level anywhere close to the way they played in Detroit on Monday, this should be another winning effort against a losing team.
The Bobcats lost Kemba Walker to a sprained ankle on Saturday, less than a week after getting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back from a broken hand. The Bobcats (soon to be Hornets again) may or not have a decent future on the horizon -- but having Walker and MKG, their lottery picks in 2011 and 2012, on the court together would almost certainly be a part of it if it is to be bright. The good news for the Kitties is that Walker's replacement in the starting lineup, Ramon Sessions, is more than capable. In fact, Sessions has been one of Charlotte's most productive players all season and just happens to be a guy who has had some big games against the Clippers. With Walker out, more of the scoring burden will fall on center Al Jefferson, who has been on a tear lately, averaging 25.5 points over his last six games. But basically, Jefferson had better score, because there really isn't much in the way of a plan B.
- Comparison of key metrics. The disparity of the conferences is something that we all know about and has been discussed at length. But perhaps nothing illustrates the issue more starkly than this simple -- a truly dreadful offensive team, the fourth worst in the NBA, would be in the playoffs if they started today.
- Sharing the ball. The Clippers have been pretty great at sharing the ball since Chris Paul left the lineup, which is interesting considering that Paul leads the league in assists per game by a wide margin. The Clippers have averaged 24.5 assists per game since Paul was hurt -- 27 in the wins. They are among the league leaders in assists per game at just under 24 per game but have been slightly better since Paul was injured. Darren Collison, Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick are all making plays for their teammates, and one assumes (hopes?) that the ball will be moving even better when Paul returns.
- Barnes in, Dudley out. We'll see at tip off, but I got the impression from Doc's comments in Detroit that the Matt Barnes for Jared Dudley change in the starting lineup is something he's going to try for a while. I don't really think there's much story here, frankly. Small forward was always going to be by committee, and Dudley certainly wasn't christened the starter -- he was the starter by default because Barnes was hurt. Barnes was great on the second unit last season, but this is a different team, and there's a lot going on at this moment especially. Giving Barnes a shot at starter minutes is fine, and kind of a non-story. Barnes was already getting more minutes most nights.
- Clippers walking wounded. Darren Collison (toe), J.J. Redick (knee) and Matt Barnes (thumb) all got banged up in Indiana on Saturday, and they all played in Detroit on Monday. Collison has said that he would probably take some time off to rest if Paul were healthy, but that he'll play through because the team needs him. The other two seemed fine on Monday.
- Coach Chris. The injured Chris Paul has joined the team in Charlotte, which happens to be very near his hometown of Winston-Salem. He'll remain with the team for the rest of the road trip and be an extra assistant coach on the bench.
- Big Al. Al Jefferson signed with the Bobcats this summer for 3 years/$41M -- Charlotte may have overpaid some, but that's not really bad at the end of the day. Al remains one of the best post scorers in the league -- there really aren't that many guys you can give the ball to in the post and say "Go score" and Al is one of them. But it hasn't really worked out so far. Despite his recent uptick in production, Al remains at a career low levels in every shooting category. Al has always been a tough cover for DeAndre Jordan, who tended to bite on every fake in his earlier NBA days. DJ's gotten better about that, but AJ does have one of the best up fakes in the league and an assortment of moves on the block. It's a good challenge for Jordan.
- Biyombo. The Bobcats really rolled the dice when they drafted Bismack Biyombo with the 7th overall pick in 2011. Biyombo had barely cracked the Spanish ACB at the time as a little used reserve on a second tier team but he burst onto everyone's radar with a spectacular performance at the 2011 Nike Hoops Summit. Charlotte knew he would be a project -- and he has been. He can rebound and block shots at an NBA level (11.5 and 2.4 per 36 minutes so far this season; compare that to 13.9 and 2.5 per 36 for Jordan, among the league leaders), but he's a massive project on offense. He's making almost two-thirds of his shots this season -- but that appears to be because he's limiting himself to dunks and layups and he's taking significantly fewer shots. There are only two players in the NBA this season who have played at least 500 minutes with a single digit usage percentage, Biyombo and Shane Battier. Could Biyombo be what Jordan is trying to be? A defensive stopper who simply doesn't worry much about the offensive end? Maybe, but he's also a good two inches shorter than Jordan.
- The rest of the trip. The Clippers have started their seven game trip 2-1, losing on the second night of a back-to-back in Indianapolis to the Pacers, as we assumed they would. The ill-effects of extended travel are cumulative, but the Clippers should be as well rested as they are going to be for awhile after finishing their game in Detroit in the early afternoon on Monday and arriving in Charlotte at a decent hour. The team actually practiced on Tuesday, which could be their only practice the entire trip.
- McBobCat. When Josh McRoberts is your starting power forward, it's not a good thing. The Bobcats got McBob from Orlando for Hakim Warrick at the deadline last February. The Magic waived Warrick -- the Bobcats started McRoberts. Good deal for the Bobcats, I guess?
- Three point shooting. The only players they have who can reasonably be described as shooters are all fringe NBA guys, like Jannero Pargo and Chris Douglas-Roberts and Anthony Tolliver. And and Ben Gordon who never plays. Griffin will however have to be aware of McRoberts and Tolliver beyond the arc. The Bobcats don't have a lot of weapons, so might was well take that option away.
- Brendan Haywood. Being a thorough sort of person, I want to point out that Brendan Haywood, who has missed this season so far after having foot surgery, would fit into the Clippers trade exception and under the hard cap. In theory, Haywood will be healthy soon, and it seems like the Bobcats would be happy to be rid of him. Take it for what it's worth.
- Connections. There may be more former Bobcats on the Clippers than anything else. Weird. Ryan Hollins, Byron Mullens, Jared Dudley and the departed Stephen Jackson were all Bobcats at one point. Then there's the North Carolina thing -- Antawn Jamison and Reggie Bullock both went to UNC, while Chris Paul went to Wake Forest and J.J. Redick went to Duke -- all but Redick played their high school ball in the Tarheel state as well. Redick and McRoberts were Duke teammates for one season when Redick was a senior and McRoberts was a freshman. Henderson arrived in Durham the following season. Sessions and Barnes were Laker teammates for a half a season.
- Get the Charlotte perspective at Rufus on Fire.
- Shakespearean reference:
Merchant of Venice -- Act II, Scene 5 -- Shylock
The patch is kind enough, but a huge feeder;
Snail-slow in profit, and he sleeps by day
More than the wild-cat: drones hive not with me;
Therefore I part with him, and part with him
To one that would have him help to waste
His borrow'd purse. Well, Jessica, go in;
Perhaps I will return immediately:
Do as I bid you; shut doors after you:
Fast bind, fast find;
A proverb never stale in thrifty mind.