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Clippers-Bucks preview: Trap-schmrap

The Clippers conclude their seven game Grammy road trip against the worst team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks. Stranger things have happened, but the Clippers are playing well and the Bucks are playing poorly, so get the win and get home.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
2013/2014 NBA Regular Season

January 27th, 2014, 5:00 PM
BMO Harris Bradley Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
13-8 East 7-22
18-7 West 1-13
18-3 Home 4-16
13-12 Road 4-19
12-10 .500+ 1-18
19-5 <.500 7-17
8-2 L10 1-9
9-3 noCP3 N/A
Probable Starters
Darren Collison PG Brandon Knight
J.J. Redick SG Luke Ridnour
Matt Barnes SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
Blake Griffin PF Ersan Ilyasova
DeAndre Jordan C Larry Sanders
Advanced Stats
97.73 (10th of 30) Pace 93.90 (26th of 30)
107.9 (4th of 30) ORtg 95.6 (30th of 30)
101.9 (8th of 30) DRtg 105.4 (23rd of 30)
Chris Paul (separated shoulder) out
Carlos Delfino (foot surgery) out

Zaza Pachulia (foot) out

The Back Story (The Clippers won the season series last season 2-0):

Date Venue Final

12/15/12 Milwaukee Clippers 111, Bucks 85 Recap Box
03/06/13 Los Angeles Clippers 117, Bucks 101 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are 4-2 on their Grammy trip. Their offensive numbers are steadily rising as they are becoming the offensive juggernaut we thought they'd be (and were to start the season) despite the absence of Chris Paul. Unfortunately the defense has been pretty poor, but it mostly hasn't mattered because the offense has been so good. A win in Milwaukee will give them a 5-2 Grammy trip and a 14-12 road record, making them two games over .500 for the first time this season. Milwaukee is easily the worst team in basketball this year, and about the only thing that would cause the Clippers to lose this game is a major letdown. It could happen -- they are expected to win, they leave for Los Angeles and warm weather and family and their own beds after the game. It wouldn't be surprising if they looked past the Bucks. They're probably good enough to beat the Bucks even if they look past them, but let's hope they don't. Let's hope that Griffin and Redick and Crawford and Jordan stay in the zones they're in and end this one early.

The Antagonist:

The Bucks are bad. Really bad. They weren't expected to be good, but they certainly weren't expected to be this bad. Their home record of 4-16 is worse than any ROAD record in the league except Orlando's. They have one win against a team with a winning record -- and until Chicago went on a recent winning streak they didn't have any. They have one win against a Western Conference team -- the Lakers at the depth of their own misery. They are 1-11 in 2014. They beat the Pistons when Caron Butler scored 30, and they only lost by five once in another game, which ranks as a real accomplishment for this team. Basically, nothing that they've done this season suggests that they have any chance against the Clippers. I mean, you still have to play the games, but this one looks like a tap-in for L.A.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Bucks are singularly bad on offense. In a league featuring a lot of teams who struggle to score, the Bucks are by far the worst. Of course, everyone scores on the Clippers lately, even if they still lose by a bunch. The Clippers offensive rating is climbing on this trip, but so is their defensive rating (which is a bad thing).
  • Last season. No series was more lopsided in the Clippers favor last season than the one with the Bucks --and that was a pretty good Bucks team comparatively speaking. The Clippers scored 228 points against the Bucks last season.
  • Backup point guard. The Clippers declined to sign Darius Morris for the rest of the season yesterday, letting him go after his second 10-day contract with the team. That leaves them without a true point guard to back up Darren Collison while Chris Paul is out -- at least for a moment. Don't be surprised if a new point guard is in uniform in Milwaukee. The Clippers have more than 10 days left until the All Star break, but fewer than 20 -- they could sign a new player to consecutive 10-days and get to the break, at which point they're supposed to get Chris Paul back. Even if they ride out this game with Jamal Crawford and Willie Green picking up the point guard minutes (which is mostly what happened with Morris around anyway) I feel certain they'll have a new emergency point in the fold when they return to LA.
  • Jamal Crawford. I'm not usually a fan of highly specific number based stats, but this one's too great to pass up. After Saturday's 37/11 game against the Raptors, Crawford has now had two games of 31 or more points and 11 or more assists off the bench this season. Eric Patten of points out that before this season, no NBA player had ever accomplished that. Think about that: no one had ever done it, and now Crawford has done it twice! If you prefer rounder numbers, there have been six 30/10 points/assists games in NBA history (or since 85-86 when game log data is available at any rate). Crawford has two, including the highest point total among them.
  • Nine is the Magic number. The Clippers are now 20-0 this season when they make nine or more three pointers in a game. That leaves them 11-15 when they don't make at least nine threes. Big deal right? I mean, every team is going to be better when get extra points. But 20-0 is pretty remarkable. Of course they needed all 17 of their makes to beat Dallas a couple weeks ago -- 16 would not have done it that night. So the good news is that they're almost unstoppable on offense when the perimeter game is working. The bad news is that they've been very inconsistent from deep this season, with 14 games where they've made 25% or worse from deep -- they'r 4-10 in those games.
  • What the eff happened to the Bucks? The Bucks seemingly had some pieces, at least in the front court. Sanders was a defensive terror last season, Henson is one of the only players in the league as long as Sanders. Their first round gamble on Antetokounmpo has even paid off. But the backcourt was always going to be trouble, and Sanders' season may have been lost in a bar fight just five days into the season. Not exactly the behavior you want from a guy whose $44M contract extension hasn't even kicked in yet. On the bright side, it's a great draft and the Bucks will have a lot of ping pong balls.
  • Two guard. The Bucks had a disastrous off-season, losing Brandon Jennings and J.J. Redick and Monta Ellis, though they did sign free agents O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal, a couple of shooting guards. So who starts at the two for the Bucks? That would be Luke Ridnour, a point guard. Neal is basically on his way out in Milwaukee (the Bucks are actively trying to trade him and he recently had a locker room argument with teammate Larry Sanders). As for Mayo, he's been in and out of coach Larry Drew's doghouse and is currently coming off the bench.
  • Greek Freak. The good news for the Bucks is that the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo is far more developed than anyone imagined. He's played surprisingly well already, and at just 19 still has almost limitless upside. (Antetokounmpo has only been 19 for a month, which confuses me -- it means he was 18 on opening day this season, and I thought that was a no-no for the draft.) He's long, he's got point guard type skills, he's 6'9 and still growing -- there's a lot to like. The good news for us is that it looks like he'll play. He left their game three days ago with a sore back, but he played Saturday so seems like he's OK. It's rare for a player to come out of nowhere the way Antetokounmpo did (he was playing in lower division Greek basketball when he was picked). It's rarer still for them to pan out right away.
  • Poster boys. There are two veterans of poster dunks playing for the Bucks tonight. Brandon Knight became infamous last season while with the Pistons when he foolishly tried to contest a lob to DeAndre Jordan. Less famous, though one of my favorites none the less, is the time Blake Griffin went by Ersan Ilyasova so quickly that Ilyasova was falling even before Blake started his dunk.
  • The trip. The Clippers have a chance to go 5-2 on the Grammy trip, which is about as good as anyone could have hoped for. Just a couple of more makes in Charlotte and they'd be shooting for 6-1, but they'll take 5-2. With Portland's loss last night in Oakland, the Clippers can pull within two games of the Blazers with a win. I don't think anyone thought the Clippers would be GAINING ground in the standings as opposed to losing it when Chris Paul got hurt, and certainly not when they went out on the road.
  • Connections. Former Clipper Caron Butler was traded to Phoenix, and then from the Suns to his home state Bucks this summer. He's played well for Milwaukee and scored 30 three games back. J.J. Redick spent a very unfruitful few months in Milwaukee at the end of last season, wondering why Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings never gave him the ball. Bucks head coach Larry Drew played point guard for the Clippers in the late 80s.
  • Get the Milwaukee perspective at Brew Hoop.
  • Shakespearean reference:

    Merry Wives of Windsor -- Act III, Scene 3 -- Ford

    Buck! I would I could wash myself of the buck!
    Buck, buck, buck! Ay, buck; I warrant you, buck;
    and of the season too, it shall appear.
    Gentlemen, I have dreamed to-night; I'll tell you my
    dream. Here, here, here be my keys: ascend my
    chambers; search, seek, find out: I'll warrant
    we'll unkennel the fox. Let me stop this way first.
    So, now uncape.