Thursday, March 23, 2006 

TOTAL DISAPPEARING ACT BY CLIPPERS

A lot of Clipper fans have been talking about tanking to drop out of the 5 spot and avoid facing Dallas or San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs. Well, you heard it here first: the Clippers will have lost the 5 seed within the week and will not come close to regaining it. You can kiss that sucker goodbye.

How can I be so sure? For one, after flapping their gums about how tonight's game would be a battle of toughness, the Clippers showed absolutely none -- never showed up at all -- as the Memphis Grizzlies coasted to a wire-to-wire 95-85 win. Moreover, Memphis' remaining schedule is a Ralph Lawler-certified "cakewalk": while 10 of the Clippers' final 15 games are against playoff-bound opponents, 10 of the Grizzlies' final 14 are against playoff outsiders, starting with the Knicks, Bobcats and Sonics next week. (Don't be surprised when you hear about their eight-game or longer win streak.) Most important, the Grizz are playing playoff basketball, while the Clippers look soft and tired, mentally and physically weak.

Wait a minute, you say, we're eleven games over .500 and Clipper fans have never had it so good. I don't think I'm being too tough on them when Cuttino Mobley said this week, "We should be nineteen games over .500." I'm sure nobody in that locker room is satisfied with the team's level of play in the last two games. Nor am I being a drama queen -- remember, I shrugged off last week's loss in Phoenix -- to suggest they'll have to raise their level measurably to stave off the Kings and Lakers (who close the season with five straight at home) for the 6 seed.

Tonight, the Clippers were a mess from start to finish. Elton Brand finally resembled the Elton Brand we know, recording a 25-and-11 double-double. But only Sam Cassell shared the scoring load, putting up 21 points on 8-17 shooting. Chris Kaman contributed all of seven on 3-9 shooting and made Lorenzen Wright look like an absolute All-Star, completing a trip from hell in fitting fashion. Has he ever hit a wall. Cat Mobley hit just 1-4 before sitting out the second half with a sprained ankle; with Zeljko Rebraca due back within the week, we may find out tomorrow whether Coach Dunleavy will ever get to field a fully healthy roster.

Off the bench, Vladimir Radmanovic was a Matt Pinto-proclaimed "nonfactor," scoring most of his 12 in garbage time, while Corey Maggette was a horror story, shooting 1-5 from the field and committing five turnovers. In total, the Clippers turned the ball over an obscene 24 times, and you'll never win with numbers like that. Meanwhile, Memphis had five men in double figures, taking full advantage of the Clippers' lack of interior defense. The teams post almost identical records, but the Grizzlies appear far sharper coming down the stretch.

The Clippers have feasted on the fair to poor teams in the NBA. And, as Lee Klein notes, all the games count the same. But there's one problem with that: the Houstons and Minnesotas and Chicagos of the league won't be around come playoff time. Tonight was billed as a "statement game," and I can count the team's statement wins on one hand: the last San Antonio game, the Denver back-to-back, the first Miami game, the first Phoenix game. Maybe you throw the last Laker game in, but even the less talented Lakers have bagged more big game than the Clippers. And with both L.A. teams facing higher seeds in the first round, one thing no Laker hater wants -- least of all in this, our best season in forever -- is for the purple and gold to outshine us in the postseason.

Click on Clipper Talk and join the discussion. -- Jordan

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 

LOSS HAS HIM BARKIN' MAD

Well, not really. But certainly better things have come out of the Crescent City than last night's 120-108 Clipper loss to the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. Not their famous fried food -- you need a cast-iron stomach to eat that stuff -- but, for example, my favorite book, John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. Pick it up sometime; if you don't laugh yourself hoarse, I'll buy it back from you.

Or, for instance, The Big Easy, one of the best films of 1987, with Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin, who was so sexy back in the day even I would have switched. Barkin appeared in a string of good movies around that time -- including Sea of Love opposite Al Pacino and the underrated Blake Edwards comedy Switch -- but my favorite line reading of hers came in Bad Company, after Frank Langella invited her to his lakeside retreat for a weekend of fishing. She leaned into his ear and whispered, "I don't want to fish. I want to fu*k."

But back to last night in Nawlins, where the Clippers' defense may have been the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina. A brief review of the good, the bad and the ugly from the game:

The Good:
-- The Clips jumped out to a 12-3 lead and did a lot of things right. They shot 55.4% overall (including 4-5 by Quinton Ross), made seven threes, converted 90.5% of their free throws and outboarded the Bees, 37-35.
-- The Clips' bench continued to produce, paced by Corey Maggette's 25 on 9-15 FGs (3-6 3FGs) and Vladimir Radmanovic's 18 on 6-12 (4-7). The Clips' reserves outscored the Hornets', 45-31.
-- I love the way the Clips reacted to the loss. Take this excerpt from the Long Beach Press-Enterprise: "'We shouldn't have let these guys beat us, man,' said Clippers guard Cuttino Mobley, who later cursed and punched a locker." Sam Cassell and Maggs also lamented the team's lack of toughness. These guys hate to lose, and as an L.A. Kings fan, let me assure you not every professional athlete does.
-- Although the Clips are in no position to play Santa Claus and give games away, the Hornets and their fans have been through enough in the past year to derive special meaning from their win. Better, it moved the Hornets to within a game of the Lakers for the eighth spot in the West (which the Lakers' unbelievably cushy remaining schedule should allow them to retain).

The Bad:
-- The defense took the night off, particularly on the perimeter. I'm not overly concerned, because the Clips have been one of the top defensive teams in the league this season, but the Hornets shot 51.8% overall and an ungodly 54.5% (12-22) from behind the arc. As Ralph Lawler noted, "Dribble penetration is killing the Clippers."
-- Chris Kaman took the week off. After subpar outings against Philadelphia and at Houston, The Big Silly evacuated The Big Easy with an unimpressive six-point, four-rebound performance. Shaun Livingston also never showed up, missing three ugly shots in 13 forgettable minutes.
-- The Hornets dictated the tempo. Nobody will confuse them with the Phoenix Suns, but they play a similar run-and-gun style and the Clippers cooperated, taking 20 three-pointers. Although 35% went down, that's not the Clippers' game. They're first and foremost an inside-out team, and Elton Brand, who scored 24 on 15 shots, needed many more touches.
-- The Clippers made Rasual Butler look like an All-NBA first-teamer. ROY-to-be Chris Paul and David West ran a two-man game to the tune of 21 points apiece, but Butler -- after going 1-for-9 against Denver -- went off for a career-high 32 on 12-16 FGs (7-9 3FGs!) as the Clippers struggled with both the pick-and-roll and individual coverage. Butler later showed class by apologizing to the Clippers for taking a meaningless three-pointer as time expired.

The Ugly:
-- The stat of the night: the Clippers turned the ball over 19 times. As Ralph said, "You have to cherish the ball. Possession is more than nine points of the law, it's everything." Or, to quote Cat, "We had 19 turnovers and they got 34 points. What's left to say?"

Click on Clipper Talk and join the discussion. -- Jordan

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 

HOUSTON, WE HAVE NO PROBLEM

Houston exploited the earlier absence of Corey Maggette from the Clippers' lineup to take a 2-1 lead in the season series, but without Tracy McGrady and David Wesley, one All-Star wasn't enough for the Rockets to keep the Clips from salvaging a split with last night's 99-91 win at Toyota Center. The victory evened the Clips' road record again at 16-16 and tied a Clipper record for most road wins. The franchise record of 19 road wins remains within reach.

Coach Dunleavy may sound silly when he says, "I thought we did a great job of defending Yao Ming even though he had 25 points." But he's right: Yao had been averaging 31 in the Rockets' previous seven games. Chris Kaman continued to struggle against Yao, picking up two quick fouls, but Dunleavy replaced Chris with Vladimir Radmanovic at halftime and assigned Elton Brand to defend Yao. The strategy worked, as the Clips' quick double teams and rotations -- not to mention two big blocks by EB on Yao -- kept the Rockets out of rhythm.

Forced into tough shots late in the shot clock, Houston hit under 43% overall and under 19% from downtown, while the Clips connected on 48% and 40%, respectively. Sam Cassell balanced Yao with 24 points on 9-16 shooting, while fellow former Rocket Cuttino Mobley contributed 14, Brand a quiet 15, and Kaman nine, including two big baskets in the fourth that, after six lead changes and nine ties, put the Clips ahead to stay.

But Houston's starting five outscored L.A.'s, 80-64, including 20 by hot-shooting Rocket rookie Luther Head. The key to the win -- and it's becoming a trend -- was the Clipper bench, led by Corey Maggette's 20 on 7-12 shooting, including back-to-back bingos that turned a 62-60 deficit into a 66-62 lead. Vlad Rad added seven and a team-leading 11 rebounds and Shaun Livingston eight and six assists, affording Cassell the sort of extended rest that will inure to the team's benefit in April and May.

Now 39-26 (.600) and thirteen games over .500 for the first time in three decades, the Clips complete a road back-to-back tonight against the slumping Hornets. Byron Scott's squad will seek to avenge their historic 89-67 loss Mar. 1 in L.A. and to gain ground on the Kings and Lakers for playoff position in the West. The fans at New Orleans Arena could never duplicate the Arco-like atmosphere of the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, but the Hornets' survival instinct should provide all the adrenaline they need to challenge the Clips.

Click on Clipper Talk and join the discussion. -- Jordan

 

Baylor Exec of the year?

No you have not entered the twighlight zone. If you would have asked any Clippers fans that he would one day have a shot at exec of the year, I doubt many would have believed you. Through what we can now call the dark ages of the Clippers, when the team was trying to find the right mix to become what we are today, the thought was far from anyone ones mind. But the original EB for the Clippers has done one hell of a job and is taking a modest approach to the whispers. From the times:

http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/clippers/la-sp-cliprep21mar21,1,7880767.story?coll=la-headlines-sports-nba-clippe

Sunday, March 19, 2006 

A Sunday without a game

It seemed like for a while we were watching a Clippers game ever Sunday or even on Saturday. But alas, the next game is on Monday so here I am filling the gap in your Clipperless weekend. And with everyone in the NBA world focus on the Sunday matchups, the news is little.

The first article is from the Dailybreeze. For those who have never heard of them, they are a paper that Covers from LAX to L.A Harbor. Their Clipper's article are far and few in between, but when they are there they are usually good. This was originally the post game article (Philly) but was updated later in the day.

http://www.dailybreeze.com/sports/articles/2487046.html?showAll=y&c=y

The next article is from a journalist who recently ( as of a few years back) began to take notice of the clippers and is now a fan. Bill Simmon's Page 2 tackles the NBA playoffs pecking order. It is an enjoyable read especially when you get to number 6.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/060317

I hope you enjoy these reads I found for you-Tollis


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