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Clippers-Pistons preview: It's about damn time

It's been forever since the Clippers played a game, and the last one was a rare loss, the first in weeks. They'll look to get back to their winning ways against the Pistons tonight.

2013/2014 NBA Regular Season

March 22nd, 2014, 7:30 AM
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
19-9 East 20-21
29-12 West 5-22
29-5 Home 15-21
19-16 Road 10-22
24-14 .500+ 10-26
24-7 .500- 15-17
9-1 L10 2-8
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Brandon Jennings
Darren Collison SG Kyle Singler
Matt Barnes SF Josh Smith
Blake Griffin PF Greg Monroe
DeAndre Jordan C Andre Drummond
Advanced Stats
98.30 (7th of 30) Pace 97.80 (11th of 30)
109.1 (2nd of 30) ORtg 102.3 (21st of 30)
101.4 (6th of 30) DRtg 104.8 (21st of 30)
J.J. Redick (bulging disc) out
Chauncey Billups (knee) out
Jamal Crawford (calf) probable
Josh Harrellson (knee) out

The Back Story (Clippers lead the season series 1-0):

Date Venue Final

01/20/14 Detroit Clippers 112, Pistons 103 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers haven't played since their 11 game winning streak ended in Denver on Monday. That's a long time between games, especially with the disappointing Denver result lingering. The good news is that the Clippers myriad injured guards (J.J. Redick who has missed the last 18 games, Jamal Crawford who has missed eight of nine, Darren Collison who has missed the last two and Willie Green who tweaked his ankle Monday night) have all been healthy enough to practice during the long layoff, and all be Redick are expected to play against the Pistons. The Clippers have two home games against struggling Eastern Conference teams before heading out on their last long road trip of the season, a five game affair that will take them into some tough town, so these are games they should win and need to win before things get difficult again. Blake Griffin had his worst game since the new year against the Nuggets so look for him to bounce back tonight.

The Antagonist:

It's one thing to be an Eastern Conference team at the start of a long rebuilding project and missing the playoffs when even 37 wins would probably get you in this season. It's another to have spent a lot of money thinking you were ready to compete -- and still missing the playoffs in the weakest conference in several decades. The Pistons made a big splash this off-season but find themselves six games out of the playoffs at 25-42. Of the unrestricted free-agents to change teams in the off-season, Josh Smith signed the second biggest contract after Dwight Howard. Detroit also executed a sign-and-trade for restricted free agent Brandon Jennings, another big signing. After having gotten talented big men in two of the last three drafts, the Pistons seemed to have an array of talent to really do some damage. Then again, when you've already got Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond playing close to the basket, that's not a good fit for Smith, who loves to play on the perimeter, but isn't very good at it. The Pistons fired coach Maurice Cheeks after a 21-29 start, which seemed pretty bad right? Well, they're 4-18 under interim coach John Loyer. The problem is probably in the front office, where GM Joe Dumars hasn't made a decent decision since he signed Chauncey Billups -- the first time, that is. The Pistons are coming into LA on a back to back after having lost a tough one in Phoenix last night.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The numbers don't lie. By offensive and defensive efficiency, the Clippers are a good team and the Pistons are a bad team. The Pistons, with a huge front line, have as much rim protection as any team in the league, but still they allow opponents to shoot an effective percentage of .516 against them, fourth worst in the league. The Clippers rose from eighth to sixth in defensive efficiency since the last time they played -- because Toronto and Charlotte had some poor defensive performances in the interim.
  • Health update. All the guards practiced, but Doc Rivers has said that he doubts Redick will play in the next few days. He does expect him to play again this season though. As I suspected, the "shutting him down" talk was just that, probably just the normal tendency of the media to create news when there isn't any news. It sounds as if Doc is planning on bringing Crawford off the bench and starting Collison, which does seem to make some sense in the scheme of things since Crawford is so great with the second unit while Collison has been productive with the starters. Collison will give up a lot of size to Kyle Singler -- but it's not as if Singler is going to be a major post up threat.
  • Detroit rotation. The Pistons start three bigs; but then they use almost exclusive guards and wings (Rodney Stuckey, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Will Bynum get the most minutes) off the bench. So while Josh Smith plays the three when he's out there with the starters, he slides to the power forward spot for much of the game.
  • Favorable numbers. The Pistons are terrible against teams with winning records (10-26) and they're even worse against the Western Conference (5-22). The Clippers need to add to all of those futile records.
  • Drummond and Jordan. In the off-season, Jonathan Tjarks of SB Nation picked Andre Drummond as the third best player in 2017, behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Obviously, that's just one man's opinion for four years hence, but Drummond was chosen to try out for the Team USA roster this summer and Tjarks is far from the only NBA pundit raving about him. He's incredibly athletic for a player his size, he runs like a deer, he has long arms, he's a great rebounder, shoots a high-percentage (mostly on putbacks and dunks), blocks shots; his only real weakness is that he's a terrible free throw shooter. Sound familiar? Take a peak at their numbers side-by-side. DeAndre Jordan has been as good as or better than Drummond almost across the board. Essentially the only thing Drummond does better than Jordan is take more shots, but then again Drummond plays on a bad team. I haven't seen a lot of Drummond, but the more shots seem more or less like more shots -- I don't think he has a better post game than Jordan per se, which is to say neither has much post game. Obviously Drummond is younger than Jordan; but at 25, it's not as if DeAndre is old. If Detroit has a foundational player in Drummond, that I think you have to admit that the Clippers have one in Jordan as well.
  • Billups. Former Clipper Chauncey Billups signed with the Pistons this summer in order to end his career where he had had the most success. Billups went to Detroit thinking he'd start -- which was of course his attitude when he joined the Clippers also. But having traded for Brandon Jennings and drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, with a team that has lots of young talent, Billups really never made a lot of sense. He's been 'hurt' -- but mostly he's just done. He has played just 19 games and a little over 300 minutes this season, and he's made just over 30% of his field goals. He is signed for another season in Detroit. It's always a bit sad when great players try to hang on longer than they should and sink into irrelevance.
  • Three point shooting. The Pistons shoot .314 from three point range, second-worst in the league. They are one of only three teams in the NBA who make fewer than a third of their threes (Philadelphia and Boston are the others). Josh Smith is 55-221 (.249) from deep this season. Here's an idea Josh -- stop taking that shot!
  • History in the making. I sensed that something special was happening here, so I looked it up and I was right! Smith's three point percentage is currently the worst in NBA history for any player taking at least 200 three pointers in a season. The current record holder is Antoine Walker, who shot .256 on 285 threes in 99-00. They should call it the Antoine Walker award in fact, since three of the worst percentages in NBA history prior to this season were compiled by Walker.
  • Connections. Chauncey Billups, who has played a lot of places in his NBA career, had his best seasons in Detroit, winning an NBA Title and a Finals MVP. He is back with the Pistons for a curtain call after playing two injury-plagued seasons with the Clippers. Willie Green is a Detroit native who played his college ball at the University of Detroit (go Titans!). Jamal Crawford played down the road in Ann Arbor for Michigan in his college days.
  • Get the Detroit perspective at Detroit Bad Boys.
  • Shakespearean reference:
    I know that knave; hang him! one Parolles: a
    filthy officer he is in those suggestions for the
    young earl. Beware of them, Diana; their promises,
    enticements, oaths, tokens, and all these engines of
    lust, are not the things they go under: many a maid
    hath been seduced by them; and the misery is,
    example, that so terrible shows in the wreck of
    maidenhood, cannot for all that dissuade succession,
    but that they are limed with the twigs that threaten
    them. I hope I need not to advise you further; but
    I hope your own grace will keep you where you are,
    though there were no further danger known but the
    modesty which is so lost.