Thursday, March 30, 2006 

The Sports X-change

Usually I like to find articles and information on the Clippers for those who hunger for any tidbit on the Clippers and today I like to introduce you to the sports x-change on cbs.sportsline.com. I remember searching high and low for information on the Clips and many of the sights having little to no info except around game time. How much we have grown fellow Clipper Fans. The info on sportsline is akin to what you will find on NBA.com or ESPN and adds a little more to your Clippers experience. Check it out, though I will warn you now that I am unsure at how often they update the information -Tollis

http://www.sportsline.com/nba/teams/report/LAC/9346367

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 

CLIPPERS CAN'T GET PAST VELVET ROPE

Again the Clippers crashed an A-list party, and again they got bounced. Last night at Staples Center, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs gave the Clippers a clinic in defense, shotmaking and playoff intensity, turning a fair fight into an instructional video midway through the third quarter en route to a 98-87 rout.

Viewed objectively, the Clippers have had a nice little year. But to reach elite status, they must make quantum leaps in two categories: overall consistency and games against top teams. Any 82-game season will have its vicissitudes, but the up-and-down Clippers have had no winning streak longer than their longest losing streak (five). Elite teams put together stretches of seven, eight, nine wins in a row.

Similarly, the Clippers have shown an inability to compete with the premier teams in the NBA. Against the four Western Conference opponents with the best records, the Clippers have gone a woeful 3-8. Against the five best teams in the league, they're a pitiful 3-9 with exactly one win since early December. Obviously, most teams struggle with the Spurs and Mavericks and Suns of the world, but the Clippers don't view themselves as most teams.

Last night, the Clips hung with the Spurs for a few minutes before Gregg Popovich implemented a zone defense that discombobulated L.A. When you lateral the ball more than you pass it, you know your offense is in trouble, and the Clips promptly fell behind 18-10. But Pop took out the zone and the Clips, after trailing 48-42 at halftime, went ahead 51-50 on the kind of aggressive move we need more of from Chris Kaman, picking the ball up in traffic and laying it in quickly with the right hand.

Right after that, though, San Antonio went on a 13-0 run that put them up 63-51 and effectively ended the ballgame, the Clippers starting the fourth quarter down ten and never coming closer. By then, the Spurs had imposed a lockdown worthy of Pelican Bay, holding the Clippers to 37.8% FGs and 1-10 3FGs while hitting 49.3% and 10-25. The Clippers double-teamed Tim Duncan and the Spurs' bigs too much, leaving wide open perimeter shooters who made them pay again and again and again.

Elton Brand had 20 and 10, but Brand as a 20-and-10 man is so last season. This year, that's a bad game for Elton, and indeed it was, as he missed 11 of 18 attempts. At times, EB gets the ball in scoring position and almost waits for the defender or double-team to come; I'd like to see him assert himself more down the stretch.

Corey Maggette got to the line 12 times, leading the Clippers to one of their few statistical advantages, but shot 3-11 from the field, and many of the misses were who-opened-the-door head-scratchers that turned Coach Dunleavy eight shades of red.
Sam Cassell took too few shots and made too few at 3-8, while Cuttino Mobley missed all six of his looks, most of them uncontested.

I did see a lot of positives:
-- Kaman did not shrink from the challenge, posting 18 and 8 on 6-10 FGs and 6-7 FTs. He's showing flashes of the quickness and aggressiveness that can make him one of the best bona fide centers in the game.
-- While Vladimir Radmanovic remained ice-cold from downtown, he added some moves to his repertoire, driving to the basket once for a dunk and again for a layup. I'd love to see more of the same from Vlad Rad even when he rediscovers his stroke.
-- It's great to see Zeljko Rebraca healthy and suited up. He contributed three points, three rebounds and two blocks in 12 high-energy, high-quality minutes. I just love having his presence on the court.
-- Q Ross did his job in limited minutes, helping hold the Spurs' starting backcourt to 12 points.
-- Most important, the first half may have been Shaun Livingston's best half of basketball as a pro. That highlight-reel dunk in Portland must have loosened him up, because he showed no fear, driving in for a layup, hitting turnaround jumpers, canning free throws, and closing the scoring with a slam dunk off a Kaman feed. Keep it up, Kid!

The Clips have a chance to close out March 10-6 with a getaway win Friday night over the Utah Jazz at Staples. The Jazz are healthy, highly motivated, and just spanked the Nuggets in Denver. The Clips had better find their shooting touch -- oh yeah, and an answer for the pick-and-roll.

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 

What are little Clippers made of?

We know that little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, whilst little boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails. In 13 games over the next three weeks, we'll find out what the Clippers are made of, as they face the toughest gauntlet of villains since the Tom Kennedy game show Whew!

And though the Clips may encounter close calls, narrow escapes and split-second decisions, they'll play not for $25,000 in cash but for home court in their likely first-round playoff series with the Denver Nuggets. With that in mind, let's turn our attention to the team's remaining schedule.

The Clips will play seven of their last 13 games at home, starting with this week's season-series rubber matches with the Spurs and Jazz. The 13 games include three brutal back-to-backs (vs. DEN/@ PHX Apr. 4-5, @ LAL/vs. DAL Apr. 9-10, @ MEM/@ DAL Apr. 18-19). Only three games with playoff outsiders remain, one with the Blazers and two with the vastly improved Sonics.

With Cuttino Mobley and Zeljko Rebraca due back tonight, Coach Dunleavy will have 13 games to fine-tune his finally fully healthy roster. And though I truly believe the matchups are set (the DAL-SAN winner against SAC and the DAL-SAN loser against MEM in one bracket, PHX-LAL and DEN-LAC in the other), there remains much to play for:

-- A number of teams have beaten San Antonio once. Heck, Seattle did it Sunday night. To take the season series with the Spurs would make a far louder statement.
-- The Clips have to get a game off the Kings to get the monkey off their back. When a team -- especially an inferior one -- sweeps you in back-to-back seasons, they gain an enormous psychological advantage over you. It would be great to exorcise the Clips' demons at Arco Apr. 2, but even a win at home Apr. 7 would put next season's games in play. Lose both, and the Clips will be at a significant disadvantage all four times next year.
-- The Apr. 4 home game with Denver could determine home court in the first round. The Clips handled the Nuggets easily Jan. 27-28, but the Nugz have refortified their roster with Reggie Evans and Ruben Patterson and Coach Karl has them clicking on all cylinders.
-- The Lakers would have to go on a major tear, and the Clips completely collapse, for the purple and gold to wrest the sixth seed away. But if the 6 spot is still in play, the "road" game at the Lakers Apr. 9 could decide it.
-- Finally, you want to get a game off Dallas and you'd like to show Memphis you can beat them at FedEx. But with the Mavs and Grizz in the opposite bracket, those games will be more important in terms of the Clips' overall record than as statement games.

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

Sunday, March 26, 2006 

CLIPS BLAZE TRAIL TO VICTORY

A day after finishing their feast on the East 20-10, including 7-3 against the Atlantic, 4-6 contra the Central, and 9-1 versus the Southeast, the Clippers equalled their high-water mark of 13 games over .500, rising to 41-28 with their Clipper-record 17th road victory, a wire-to-wire 97-83 win over the Trail Blazers tonight in Portland. The game capped a stretch of five in seven days during which the Clips went 3-2.

The Clips lost their Mar. 15 game in Phoenix within the first two minutes; tonight, they exploded to an 8-1 edge, extended it to 29-11 after one quarter, and held on easily from there. Elton Brand led all scorers by an expansive margin with 30 and 11 rebounds on 10-18 FGs. Corey Maggette contributed 19 and 6, compensating for 3-9 FGs with a perfect 13-13 from the charity stripe. Sam Cassell threw in 12, Chris Kaman 8 and 10 rebounds, and Q Ross 6 on 3-4 FGs to round out the starting five.

Shaun Livingston dished 5 dimes and scored 9 points, including a tomahawk second-quarter slam dunk that Ralph Lawler called "the most aggressive move" of Shaun's two-year pro career. Vin Baker made a surprise Q1 appearance and completed an old-fashioned three-point play with a layup-and-one off a nice assist from Cassell. Meanwhile, Vladimir Radmanovic continued to ache from the arc; his 8 points included 1-4 from the perimeter as the Clips hit just 1-5 3FGs.

Happily, the Clips did better from closer in, outshooting the Blazers 50% to 34.3% overall and 86.5% to 76.3% on FTs. Most of Portland's firepower came off the pine, as their young bench outscored L.A.'s, 57-22. The Clips' competition will improve appreciably in coming weeks (about which more in an entry on Tuesday), but tonight we can all sit back and appreciate a wonderful weekend of back-to-back wins.

Quotes of the Night:
-- After Ralph noted that Mike Smith rarely joins Brand and Cassell on the team bus that arrives at the arena first, Mike said, "I sometimes take the second bus to balance it out. You don't want all the talent on the first bus."
-- After Mike noted that the Clips hadn't scored for the first three minutes of the second quarter, Ralph said, "They haven't scored, and they're pulling away."

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

 

FOR CLIPS, LIFE BEGINS AT 40

In Aladdin -- the best movie of 1992, the summit of modern Disney animation and maybe the only decent Robin Williams picture -- the evil Jafar tells Aladdin, "If you do not bow before a sultan, then you will cower before a sorcerer!" Yesterday afternoon at Staples Center, it was the Washington Wizards who cowered and the Clippers who powered to a dominating 116-101 victory. They become the first Clippers to reach 40 wins since Larry Brown led the 1992-93 Clips to a 41-41 record.

Behind monster games by Elton Brand (32 points, 9 rebounds on 12-19 FGs) and Sam Cassell (26 points, 8 assists on 10-15 FGs) and Chris Kaman's triumphant return to form (21 points, 13 rebounds on 8-14 FGs), the Clips led by 12 after one quarter, by 16 at halftime, and by as many as 25 early in the fourth. They raise their home record to 24-10 and, with a win in Portland this evening, could bump their RW-HL number up to an impressive +7.

The Good: Quinton Ross held Washington All-Star Gilbert Arenas to 17 points on 5-16 shooting as the Wiz' league-leading triumvirate of Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison scored almost 20 points under their combined average for the season...In his first start since December, Corey Maggette contributed 19 points, five rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes...The Clips outshot the Wizards 51.3% to 41.1% and canned twice as many free throws (LAC 36-42, WAS 18-28)...The Clips recorded more rebounds, assists, blocks and steals and kept their turnovers to a livable 15.

The Bad: With Vladimir Radmanovic mired in a mini-slump, Los Angeles made just 2-11 3FGs; fortunately, Washington hit just 5-24...The Wizards killed the Clips on the offensive glass, 19-10, and in bench scoring, 34-11...Cuttino Mobley missed his first game of the season with a sprained ankle and will likely sit out tonight's tilt with the Trail Blazers.

The Ugly: Whatever your take on Maggette's complaints to reporters about not starting on the recent road trip, only our boy Maggs could airball two consecutive three-pointers and give up a four-point play within a matter of minutes...The Clippers did nothing to warn fans what a logistical nightmare downtown would present. We followed a series of handwritten arrows down a labyrinth of alleys to where a guy wearing an armband took $25 and moved his Toyota Tercel to make room for us.

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


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