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Game 73 Preview: Clippers vs. Blazers

A Look at the Clippers

The Clippers started the team as a darkhorse contender but are now locked in the tight playoff battle between the 7th, 8th, and 9th place teams.  Barring some sweeping changes it's going to be between Denver, the Clips, and Golden State for those two spots.  There's a lot at stake for Mike Dunleavy's crew tonight and if they lose this game they'll be plenty disappointed.  On the other hand the guys at GoldenStateofMind might just write us some more poetry if we could help propel the Clippers towards the lottery.

Los Angeles lost 6 of 7 to begin the month of March but rebounded to win 6 of their last 8 including a tough battle last night in Sacramento.  One of the main catalysts for their recent success has been the return to form of the oft-injured Corey Magette.  This guy is sculpted like a statue and can score in a ton of different ways.  He's been in double figures every game in March and has topped 19 nine times, including 6 of his last 7 games.  He's shot some freaky percentages in those games too, although in the last couple he has tailed off and settled for quantity of shots over quality.  Still, he's the kind of guy that often gives the Blazers fits.

The other guy you have to watch out for is Elton Brand.  He's got Zach-like scoring potential combined with freakish long arms, great defensive ability, and rebounding prowess.  He's capable of carrying the team on his back but also seems to fade in the background from time to time.  Brand is also on a scoring roll, topping 20 in 5 of his last 7 games.  He only scored 12 against Sacramento though, and he is capable of going into multi-game funks.  We can only hope.

One great blessing for our side is that Blazer killer Sam Cassell is struggling with injury and both his role and minutes have been diminished.  He hadn't played at all in the three games prior to last night and only managed 6 minutes and 1 shot in that contest.  That guy has put some serious hurting on this team through the years and it'll be good for us if he's out.

With Shawn Livingston's YouTube-worthy knee blowout Cassell's injury has left the team in the hands of one Jason Hart.  Much like Taurance Kinsey of the Grizzlies, he's stepped in and surprised with his scoring.  He's tallied 16 points in each of the last two games and is adding some decent assist numbers too.  Alongside Hart in the backcourt is Cuttino Mobley who has been firing up a lot of shots since Cassell went down.  Cat isn't as quick on the drive as he once was but he's still deadly from long range.  Center Chris Kaman rounds out the starting crew.  He does a little bit of everything and you never know whether it's going to be a 9 point, 4 rebound dud from him or 25 and 12.

Tim Thomas is the main guy off the bench for them.  He's also been a Blazer killer at times.  He can rebound, defend, and score a little.  As the playoff race tightens Dunleavy's bench gets shorter but we're likely to see a little bit of Daniel Ewing and Quinton Ross, both working out of the backcourt with quickness.

The Clippers can work a lot of styles well but my guess is they're going to want to try and pound the Blazers tonight, working the Brand, Kaman, and Magette size/strength advantages.  Mike Dunleavy has always been about matchups and his eyes will probably light up with Zach out.  The Clippers are decent at pretty much everything but excel at few things besides foul shooting, which is probably why they lie in the middle of the pack at the moment.  They aren't the dominant team that we saw flashes of last year.  They're pretty dependent on offense, tending to win when they approach 100 and lose in the 80's and 90's.  Even on an off night, however, they'll be expecting to be able to beat our now-depleted squad.

What I'd Like To See:

  1.  This is another one of those games where energy and hustle are going to be the main keys.  Most things we can do the Clips can do better, but if we run hard and want it more they may not be expecting to have to match our energy.  Active feet on defense, heroic struggles for rebounding, and a ton of cutting and motion on the offensive end should be the order of the day.
  2.  I think Jamaal Magloire is going to need a monster rebounding night tonight to help us win.  Otherwise I see real trouble on the defensive boards.  This isn't Lamarcus' specialty yet and unless Roy comes through with double-digits again there just aren't many other sources.
  3.  Corey Maggette is the main guy to try and limit tonight.  Brand can score a ton but doesn't always and we may be able to distract him a little chasing Lamarcus up and down the floor.  If I have to take my chances with Kaman, Maggette, Hart, or Thomas I suppose I can live with that.  But Maggette can score a ton of points very quickly and is the single biggest candidate to shove them over that magic 100 mark.  His athleticism is also going to be hard for our guys to handle.  He'll outrun and out-leap Martell.  Roy is a little slight to match up with him in the post.  Travis hasn't shown the ability to use his athletic prowess to stop anybody.  It's pretty much going to have to be a gang effort.  If you can double Magette quickly after he puts the ball on the floor and make him into a reluctant, pressured passer maybe you have a chance.
  4.  Lamarcus has to stay out of foul trouble and out on the court for us to have a chance.  Who else is there?
  5.  We'll also need big scoring nights from Roy, Jack, and probably one other person from the Webster/Outlaw/Rodriguez/Magloire group.  Aldridge will need to stay farther out on the floor on offense than he usually does because Brand and Kaman will both bully him around in the post.  That means the middle should be open for some other people.  If Brand does sag inside to cover the drives then by all means dish to Lamarcus and hope he hits it.
  6.  As has been generally true this season, transition buckets for the other guys will be the death of us if we allow them.  Hopefully our youth and enthusiasm will allow us to get back.
Surprisingly enough, I don't have that bad of a feeling about this game.  Maybe it'll be closer than most would expect.  It wouldn't be the first time we surprised somebody who expected us to roll over and play dead.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)