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Game 58 Preview: Blazers vs. Clippers

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A Look at the Clippers

At 19-35 the Clippers are a semi-sad story.  Normally I don't root for anyone or anything in L.A. but you know these guys were the paragons of futility in this league for years.  They went through a small flirtation with success with Larry Brown and Danny Manning but like Sisyphus they ended up squashed at the bottom of the hill again.  Then lo and behold they traded Chicago hope and dreams for Elton Brand, raided the Timberwolves for Sam Cassell, and made some solid draft picks for once.  They looked poised to threaten and then...injury. Injury.  More injury.  Now here they are, trudging through another season, trying to figure out which stars to keep and hoping their main guy makes it back soon.

That's not to say that the Clips aren't dangerous.  Corey Maggette is shooting 48% from the field and 39% from the three-point line.  He's drawing 9 foul shots per game and shooting 83% from the stripe.  That totals to 22 points and 6 rebounds per night.  (Hello, contract year.)  He's just the kind of guy who can wreck your evening all on his own.  Chris Kaman is also having a standout year with 16 points and 10 rebounds per outing.  He's more powerful than he looks.  Cat Mobley is dangerous from the outside.  Tim Thomas has been playing well lately.  And they have a rookie named Al Thornton who is Travis Outlaw-level athletic and has also caught on fire this month.  It's not inconceivable that we could get overwhelmed by their offensive options tonight.  Sam Cassell always bakes our biscuits but fortunately he's not playing otherwise I'd be worried to no end.

Unfortunately for the Clippers the nights when everyone clicks are few.  They shoot poorly as a team.  A big part of that is just not being able to set up good plays in the halfcourt.  The ball remains in the hands of non-passers most of the time and you see a fair amount of one-on-one play.  For all of their athleticism and potential talent they average under 95 points per night, 27th in the NBA.  Worse, they give up 99.  Worst of all they have one--count him, one--rebounder and that is Kaman.  They never get offensive boards.  They're not great defensive rebounders either.  They run an enormous -3.5 rebound deficit overall.  They don't generate enough turnovers or easy buckets to make up for that most nights.

Basically you don't get a lot of in-between with the Clippers.  They have some nights where their offense is clicking and they win big.  If that's not happening they get blown out.  They have about 4.5 wins against decent teams all season.  Otherwise they only beat bottom-feeders.  Our chances of victory depend largely on which kind of game we bring and which Trailblazer team shows up.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  My #1 fear is that after expending all of that energy and emotion against the L*kers last night we're going to come out flat.  I feel comfortable saying that if we do that, in the absence of Brandon Roy, we don't have a chance.  We need to see that same rebound-grabbing, floor-diving unit that showed up in Staples Center last night.
  2.  The main key to beating a team like this is to limit their easy buckets.  They're going to shoot themselves out of the game if you just keep men in front of them.  But if you're coughing up balls, not getting back in transition, and opening the lane like the Red Sea don't be surprised if they take it and thank you.  If the Clippers aren't dunking we have a decent chance tonight.  But if you see Al Thornton flying down out of the rafters to that ESPN music you're in trouble.
  3.  If you let them get ANY offensive rebounds something is WRONG with you.
  4.  You know they have scorers who don't like to give it up, so be aggressive in harassing the dribble and flooding the ball side.  Why let Corey Maggette face one defender when he can face two?
  5.  Move your feet and don't reach.  These guys can hit free throws.
  6.  We don't have to take the first shot offered tonight because if you're smart you should be able to get a number of good shots.  Get Chris Kaman out of the middle (by making him defend the pick and roll, for instance) and the lane should be yours.
Let's hope we don't bork this.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)