Saturday, April 08, 2006 

CLIPPERS ARE CHOKING DOGS, KINGS THEIR OWNERS AND MASTERS

If the Sacramento Kings are "queens," then the Clippers are mere court jesters. They played the fool again Friday night at Staples Center, coughing up a late four-point lead in a 96-93 loss, their thirteenth in a row against Rick Adelman's team. Those attending their first game of the year could be forgiven for calling them the "same old Clippers" after a choke job redolent of decades of failure. Sacramento's embarrassing and humiliating ownership of them will hang over the Clippers all summer regardless of whatever else happens and will make each game in next season's series much harder to win. The Clippers will aspire to greater accomplishments going forward and cannot allow a division rival to pencil in four sure wins a year.

The box score reads remarkably even and many categories favor the Clippers. The teams shot field goals at an almost identical rate (SAC 44%, LAC 43.7%). The Clips dominated the boards (11-41-52 to 9-27-36), limited their turnovers to 12, and outblocked the Kings 9-1. Six Clips scored in double figures and a seventh -- Chris Kaman -- had nine. But Sacramento took more than twice as many free throws (36 to 17), and who would have thought they would establish better inside position and get easier looks for baskets?

The Kings also connected on 7-15 3FGs to 3-17 for the Clippers. Cuttino Mobley made 1-3, Sam Cassell 1-6 (about which more below), and Vladimir Radmanovic a horrific 1-8. The man must have taken 50 threes at halftime and may have missed two. Why were his first two shots of the second half two-pointers? He missed those, lost his rhythm, and obviously didn't regain it from downtown.

Nevertheless, the Clips scratched and clawed their way to a 91-87 lead when, with under two minutes remaining, Kaman pulled down the rebound of a missed Elton Brand jumper and got it out to Cassell. But rather than running the clock or a set play, Sam jacked up a tough three that clanged off the rim. "Here you go, Sacramento," said the savvy veteran who's going to teach our youngsters how to win in pressure situations, "we're going to give you extra possessions and extra time."

Shortly thereafter, Radmanovic missed a defensive rotation as badly as any professional ever has, leaving Ron Artest alone in a ten-foot force field. His threeball tied the game with 1:10 to play; his fade-away jumper with 0:34 left put the Kings up for good. During that stretch, Brand missed another turnaround J and a free throw, Cassell missed another three, Kaman missed another flying hook shot, and Mobley missed the first of two potentially tying FTs. Sound like a meltdown? Try Kilauea.

In other news, the Clips clinched a playoff spot with the Hornets' loss tonight in Dallas. They're now .5 games ahead of Memphis for the fifth seed and will likely drop to the 6 spot this week. Remember that the Grizzlies haven't won in Denver in forever and want no part of the Nugz; I'm sure both teams will do what it takes to assume their preferred positions.

If the Clippers and Nuggets do match up in round one, L.A. will hold home-court advantage unless Denver wins two more games in its last five than the Clips win in their last seven. That seems unlikely, as does the possibility of either the Lakers or Kings catching up to the Clips. Even though they gave away for the first time a game they had in hand, last night's loss -- however frustrating -- is livable in the long run.

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

Friday, April 07, 2006 

Bill Simmons

It is always good to read his articles. Bill has always posted gems on the Clippers and as usual, this is another good one. It has been interesting how he has slowly moved from a guy covering the NBA to somehow falling for the Clippers like many of us have. I hope you enjoy todays selection like I did-Tollis

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/060407

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 

CLIPS MIGHT JUST HALF A CHANCE

A great second half of defense made up for a historically awful first half and allowed the Clips to make the third-biggest comeback in their history and hold on to defeat the Denver Nuggets, 111-109, last night at Staples Center. With the win, the Clips move 3.5 games ahead of the Nuggets, take the season series, 3-1, and will likely hold home court if the teams meet in the first round.

In the first half, the Nuggets drove, drilled and dunked their way to the best-shooting first half in recorded NBA history, hitting 81.6% on 31 field goals off 26 assists. They scored 38 and 39 points in the first two quarters against absolutely no resistance whatsoever from the Clippers.

But after Coach Dunleavy chewed the team a new [butt]hole at halftime (a far less exciting activity since Marko Jaric left town), the Clips applied the clamps, holding the Nuggets to 16 points in each of the final two frames. Shaun Livingston and Quinton Ross led the way, Q finally frustrating Carmelo Anthony into throwing the ball into the stands with 1:11 to play and the game still up for grabs. The resulting free throws -- misses by Dunleavy's handpicked replacement, Reggie Evans, and a technical FT by Sam Cassell -- provided the razor-thin margin of victory.

Both teams had chances to win in the closing moments, but by hanging on through the frantic finish, the Clips earned the most important win of their remaining schedule. Given the disparity between their schedules, the Clips and Memphis should exchange seedings within the week (keep in mind that the Grizz haven't won in Denver in forever and want no part of the Nugz). I'm fairly confident that the Clips can stave off the Lakers and avoid dropping to the 7 spot.

If they play their cards right -- doing just enough to avoid the perception of tanking games while giving their key veterans ample rest down the stretch -- they should be well positioned to give a good account of themselves in round one. If nothing else, they're now in the Nuggets' heads. As Michael Eaves reported, he asked them whom they wished to face in the first round, and to a man, the Nuggets answered, "We don't want to play the Clippers." Nice!

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POSTSCRIPT: Tonight's game in Phoenix was a variation on the theme of second-half defense. Against the Suns, the Clips actually erased an 11-point lead before halftime, leading 59-55 at the break en route to an unlikely 119-105 victory in the absence of floor leader Cassell.

Livingston and Ross were the story again tonight. Shaun finished three rebounds shy of a triple-double at 12-7-13 in 36 great, growth-enhancing minutes. Q Ross held Livy's Canadian counterpart, Steve Nash, in check with just nine points and five assists. Elton Brand returned to first-half form with a monster 34-15 double-double. Corey Maggette had a 23-10 double-double and just two turnovers in 28 minutes, while Chris Kaman and Vladimir Radmanovic both fell a board shy at 11-9 and Ross and Cuttino Mobley contributed 12 points apiece. The Clips clicked on all cylinders, connecting on 54.8% FGs (55.6% 3FGs), outrebounding the Suns, 52-37, and only turning the ball over 12 times.

That's the good news. Now, the bad news: These two unexpected wins will make it a bit harder to drop inconspicuously to the 6 spot. They're now 1.5 up on Memphis with two weeks to play. They've got to start losing some ballgames. Fortunately, Friday night brings just what the doctor ordered: a visit to Staples from the Sacramento Kings, whose ownership of the Clippers extends three seasons without a loss. Knowing what they need, I might even stick around for the second half of that one.

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

Sunday, April 02, 2006 

ARCO AGAIN A CLIPPER CRIME SCENE

"I don't understand how players could show up for a big game and play flat." -- Bob Miller, voice of the Los Angeles Kings

It didn't take the Sacramento Kings long to bend the Clippers over and gang-rape them before an appreciative audience at Arco Arena, where the Clippers completed a decade of futility with a flat 106-96 loss in which they led for a grand total of 17 seconds. As in their nationally televised loss at Phoenix, the Clippers lost the game within moments of tip-off. Sacramento scored the first nine points in 2:32 and the Clippers never really recovered.

After the L.A. Kings went 0-3 on their recent road trip through Western Canada, I referred to the team as "gutless, pathetic pukes." The Clippers are not in the same dire straits, but if anything they have more to play for: not merely a playoff spot but seeding and possible home-court advantage. I'm frankly sick and tired of getting hyped up for big games against good teams and seeing the Clippers not even show up. Perhaps no 42-30 team has ever had fewer big wins.

And let's talk about the road. The Clippers own a perfectly respectable 17-19 road record (the Rockets are a half-game better at 17-18), but how many playoff teams have they beaten? They won "at" the Lakers Nov. 18 and at Denver Jan. 27. Against Eastern Conference playoff teams, their only road wins came Nov. 9 at Washington and at Milwaukee Mar. 11. I keep hearing that the Clippers "can scare some people in the playoffs." WHO??? With that calibre of play on the road, they'd be lucky to win two games.

Tonight, the Clippers stank up Cowtown like no rendering plant ever could. They shot a low 42.4% from the field while their much-ballyhooed defense allowed the Kings to make almost half their attempts at 48.8%. But you can overcome poor shooting; you can't overcome turnovers, and the Clippers turned the ball over an obscene 22 times.

We Jews sometimes use the term "shonda for the goyim" or "shonda for the neighbors." It refers to a source of extreme embarrassment and shame that others have witnessed and can hold over our heads. For the Clippers to come in well rested after a very light week and put up such a performance in such a game is indeed a shonda. To go over 10 years and 16 games without winning in Sacramento -- well, if Yuta Tabuse were still on the team, he might commit suicide rather than live with the disgrace.

A look at the Western Conference standings shows the Clippers in fifth, one game ahead of the sixth-place Grizzlies, two ahead of the third-place Nuggets, and now just 3-1/2 ahead of the seventh-place Lakers. You may not like it -- I don't -- but the gross disparity between the Clippers' remaining schedule and those of the Grizzlies and Lakers makes both teams very much a part of the conversation about the sixth or even the fifth seed. Consider that of the Clippers' final eight opponents, only Portland and Seattle own worse records than the Kings; tonight's was actually one of the "easy" games.

The Clippers will return to action two nights from now against Denver at Staples Center in a game that could determine home-court advantage if the teams finish in the 3 and 6 spots. But the Nugz squad that comes to town Tuesday will bear little resemblance to the team the Clippers waxed on back-to-back nights in late January. Fresh off a humiliating loss at Dallas today, they'll have all the motivation in the world to make the game an absolute war.

After the L.A. Kings' 5-0 home loss to Colorado, Bob Miller said, "I don't like the [team's] attitude. I don't like their body language." I'm starting to feel the same way. Any longtime Clipper fan knows to enjoy each and every win, but you can only take so much satisfaction in beating up on the Blazers and Bobcats and Hawks of the world when you go to Phoenix and Memphis and Sacramento and trip all over yourself.

The playoffs are weeks away. This is the time of year when good teams -- serious teams -- start rolling, while Matt Pinto described the Clippers tonight as appearing to be in "complete disarray." Band Aid sang, "Do they know it's Christmas?" My question is, do the Clippers know it's April?

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

 

JUST CALL 'EM PARKER LEWIS

The Clips can't lose. Friday night's convincing 106-91 home victory over a hot Utah team fighting for a playoff spot guaranteed the Clips their first winning record since 1991-92. They also won the season series with the Jazz for the first time in 20 years and will have their third opportunity to rise 14 games over .500 tonight against the Sacramento Kings at Arco Arena, where they have lost a downright embarrassing 15 straight.

Unable to throw a pea in the ocean against San Antonio Tuesday, the Clips came out smoking against Utah, making as many shots as the Jazz in 17 fewer shots (36-65 for 55.4% vs. 36-82 for 43.9%). Both teams took 10 threes, but the Clips hit six to three for the Jazz, and L.A. won the free throw battle with 28-37 (75.7%) to 16-24 (66.7%) for Utah. All of that and single-digit turnovers sufficed to compensate for a glaring 12-1 deficit on the offensive glass.

Elton Brand and Sam Cassell led the Clips' balanced team effort with 22 points apiece, although E.B. had only one more board than E.T. (4-3). Vladimir Radmanovic found his mojo again with 4-6 3FGs for 14 points. Corey Maggette scored 13 in a rare start at the 2 as part of Coach Dunleavy's unusually large starting lineup, while Chris Kaman rounded out the starting five with an 11-and-13 double-double.

Shaun Livingston continued to play well off the pine. He and Cuttino Mobley each contributed 8 in 20+ minutes in reserve, while Zeljko Rebraca added 6 and Vin Baker 2 as the Clips' bench outscored the Jazz', 24-15. L.A. built first-half leads of 29-19 and 47-37 but led by only one, 53-52, at intermission. A 17-5 run midway through the third quarter gave the Clips a 77-64 lead that the Jazz never trimmed to single digits.

I've written extensively about the importance of winning games in arenas and against teams that have caused problems in the past. Tonight's game represents such an opportunity, and I'm eager to see how the team responds. Meanwhile, click on Clipper Talk and join the discussion. -- Jordan


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