Record: 17-13 (Pythagorean 18-12), 6th seed in the West
Record last 10 games: 3-7
Laker Record against Clippers: 0-1
Offensive Rating: 105.2 (19th in league)
Defensive Rating: 105.0 (10th in league)
About the Clippers: After starting the season 14-5, the Clippers have been lost at sea. They are 3-8 in their last 11, including a loss last night in Sacramento.
The collapse has been on both sides of the ball. For the first 20 games of the season, the Clippers had an offensive rating of 104.3 (points per 100 opponent possessions), but in the last 10 that has fallen off the charts to 97.8. At least part of that can be blamed on the absence of Corey Maggette to injury, he was averaging 25.5 points per 40 minutes (he was +8.1 per 48 minutes). (Side note: You may notice my numbers here vary some from the numbers above in bolded ratings, that’s because those are from Knickerblogger’s stat page, these I whipped up using a different possession formula and Dougs Stats. They key is both are consistant with what they are being compared to and mine are just here to show the changes in the Clipper O and D.)
On defense, in the first 20 games, the Clips had a defensive rating of 100.1 (opponent points per 100 possessions). In the last 10 that is105.9. The weakest point defensively for the Clippers is at the point, which is not a surprise, Cassell has long been a good offensive player but questionable on the other end of the court.
Right now, I think you could make a good case for Elton Brand as the MVP, and certainly as an All-Star game starter. In the one game between these two teams this season Brand had 23 points and 14 rebounds. Another gut to watch for is Cuttino Mobley, who had 20 in that last game these two played against each other.
One thing I hope to see tonight: A new haircut for Chris Kaman. Or at least that he gets in foul trouble so I can stop making Hulk Hogan jokes everytime he touches the ball.
Also, I want to hear Chris Mihm, former University of Texas star, talk about going to the Rose Bowl game with his USC alumni girlfriend.
The Lakers coming in: The Lakers come in off one of their best all around performances of the year. They shot an insane 67.7% (eFG%) while holding the Sixers to 44.1%. While Iverson shot 50% on the night the Lakers did a good job on the other keys â€” Webber was 5 of 15, Korver just 3 of 9. Kobe looked rested, Smush was hot and Chris Mihm was a big defensive presence (four blocks on the night). Most importantly, they got ahead and kept their foot on the gas.
Keyâ€™s to a Laker win: Sometimes itâ€™s about when you catch teams. The Lakers got the Sixers at the end of a road trip, and they didnâ€™t show much fight once they got down. Tonight they catch a slumping Clippers squad, and while both teams are in the second game of a back-to-back, the Clips had a close game then had to fly back down from Sacramento.
Kobeâ€™s going to be Kobe, but this can be another big game for Smush (or Sasha), scoring on Cassell. Iâ€™m curious is Kwame gets another start, my guess is yes with the responsibility of slowing Elton Brand â€” that will be a key match up. The Lakers need to be aggressive on the offensive glass as well, the Clippers have been the best defensive rebounding team in the league this season (opponents grab 24.4% of missed shots, the league average is close to 28%).
Being tired is no good excuse tonight, this is the kind of game I think playoff teams find a way to win â€” taking advantage of when you get slumping teams.