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Game 69 Preview: Clippers vs. Blazers

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At 21-46 the Clippers are on the fast track to lottery-land this season.  To long-time NBA fans that has the exact same ring to it as "Lindsay Lohan was seen at a nightclub sipping champagne out of her bra cups Saturday night."  But never fear...these Clips don't have the same problems as their Darwinian-nightmare ancestors.  I mean, yeah, they do have a strong star player on the verge of leaving the franchise.  And they have a few too many so-so, aging veterans under contract.  But they have a couple things the old-school Clippers lacked.  One is a legitimate, bankable post player...that being Elton Brand.  They don't come much better all-around.  Another is a seemingly good eye for young talent.  Chris Kaman, Shawn Livingston, and Al Thornton were all good pick-ups.

Unfortunately nobody I just mentioned except for Thornton is guaranteed to play tonight.  Brand and Livingston haven't played all season.  Kaman is having back problems and is listed as questionable after having missed the last six games.  (Oh, and back-up-to-the-back-up center Aaron Williams is out too.)  Who does that leave watching Corey Maggette and Al Thornton's back?  Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley.  Woo.

(That "woo", by the way, was understated, in case you missed it...with a tinge of sarcasm.  It wasn't an excited "woo", which would probably have another two o's and an exclamation point, thus:  "Woooo!"  See?  Blogspeak.  Learn it.  It may save your life someday.)

Of course Thornton is like one of those gag cans of peanut brittle you fooled your friends with as a kid.  You're going, "Well, he's just a rookie and he's only averaging 12 points..." like he's a nice, innocent peanut-y snack and then SPRING!  SPRING!  SPRING!  "WAAAAA!!!"  Welcome to your 25 points, chump.  If you've never seen someone who jumps as high and quick as Travis Outlaw, here's your chance.  He has the potential to be a game-changer someday.  Of course without many sidekicks he should theoretically have a harder time shaping the game tonight.  Theoretically.

Chris Kaman, if he plays, can also provide us some trouble.  Like that freaky librarian you used to date he's turned out WAY better than he looks, as his 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game would attest.  In the pantheon of Clippers superheroes he's still kind of the Aquaman of the group.  But hey, Aquaman IS a superhero and if you get him in the right element he will kick your fanny.

If Kaman is Aquaman, then Maggette is full-on Superman.  He looks the part too.  If he were cut any sharper Billy Mays would be hocking him at midnight on your local independent station, slicing onions on his biceps.  At 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists he can be a handful.  The guy dropped 32 on us last time we met and we're going to be hard-pressed to contain him.  He's got a features package--strength, size, athleticism, scoring ability, occasionally fiery play--that our wings can't quite match.

Despite the talent and because of the injuries the Clippers have lost 13 of their last 15 games.  They've only scored 100 or more 4 times in that stretch.  They've given up some fairly prolific binges, letting teams top 110 seven times, including in 2 of the last 3 (one of those being an overtime game though).  One of their big problems is that they're getting obliterated on the boards.  They're giving up some amazingly high field goal percentages as well.  When the opponent controls the pace, you can't rebound, and you're letting them shoot lights out you're probably going to have a teensy bit of trouble winning the game.  This pretty much provides our blueprint for the night.

Things I'd Like to See

  1.  As I said...I think we're going to have trouble controlling some of their individual scorers.  However that doesn't matter much if you score more.  The key to this game will be on the offensive end.  We should be able to get good shots against this team with regularity.  
  2.  We should be able to get up shots more quickly than normal as well.  If the other team doesn't rebound well and they're also short on depth running is a dandy idea.
  3.  I don't say this a ton, but OFFENSIVE rebounding could be a big key tonight.  The more possessions you keep away from them the more chance they end up in the 80's.  (And those extra points wouldn't hurt either.)
  4.  Their bench shoots like a blind, drunken hippopotamus with no legs.  Don't ask me for an exact percentage on the hippo, but it ain't good.  If our White Unit can't provide some cushion tonight something is wrong.
  5.  How about this for something old-fashioned:  in addition to being semi-expected to win at home against a team on the skids, why don't we also hustle like we mean to win?  That alone might be enough to pull the game out.  They don't exactly have a lot of knee-burn guys.
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)