Friday, January 25, 2008

Memphis vs LA Clippers - 1.26.08

Memphis struggled in their last game as both Pau Gasol and Stromile Swift were inactive for the game and Michael Conley left the game with a shoulder injury in the 3rd quarter. The Grizzlies scored a mere 9 points in the first quarter and seemed to be taking the night off until Kyle Lowry entered the game. Suddenly the 'Great' Kyle Lowry (13 pts and a career high 10 assists) was back throwing his body around the court and energizing the Grizzlies who actually got as close as 6 points in the first quarter before fading. Gasol is supposed to play against the Clippers. It has been obvious for the last three games that something was bothering Gasol and hopefully the day off will help correct the problem. Stromile Swift and Mike Conley (contusion of the shoulder and rib) status is uncertain at this time. Mike Miller had a good game (21 pts and 9 rebounds) trying to shoulder the scoring burden without Gasol but Rudy Gay, saddled with foul troubles all night, was off scoring only 14 pts with 6 rebounds.

Los Angeles were blown out in New Orleans 111-92 but still managed to play their main stars serious minutes with Sam Cassell logging 31 minutes, Chris Kaman playing 38 minutes, Tim Thomas played 31 minutes and Cuttino Mobley logging 35 as well. Peculiar distribution of minutes for a team playing back to back games on the road. The Clippers got some encouraging news today as Elton Brand was cleared for more difficult exercises as he tries to return from Achilles Tendon surgery. While still unable to work out with the team Brand is allowed to do more intense conditioning work. Chris Kaman has excelled during Brand's absence averaging almost 14 rebounds a game. Correy Maggette is leading the Clippers in scoring doing a large amount of his damage from the free throw line. Maggette has already shot 298 FT's this season. Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley may be the oldest starting backcourt in the league which partially explains the Clippers starting low scoring Quinton Ross lately. Recently Coach Mike Dunleavy and owner Donald Sterling have been arguing in the press which is never a good sign for team stability.

Point Guards: Kyle Lowry vs Sam Cassell
With Damon apparently banished from game play and Mike Conley questionable with the shoulder injury, and yes it is the same shoulder he injured earlier in the season, Kyle should log a lot of minutes in this game. Lowry has proven capable when given extended minutes and has not been playing as much lately so fatigue shouldn't be a big issue. Who subs for him when he does need a breather is still uncertain. Juan Carlos Navarro could slide into the backup point guard role. The starters role in LA is set. Sam Cassell, back from injury, is the starter and performing decently for a 38 yr old PG. He's crafty and tall for a PG at 6-3.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Shooting Guard: Mike Miller vs Quinton Ross

Quinton Ross is a good defender and a bad scorer. Mike Miller is a good scorer and a bad defender. Should be interesting to watch, well at least for half the game. Miller took a step forward against Washington when he seemed to realize that he needs to be aggressively looking to shoot. Mike has games when he gets it and games when he doesn't and Memphis always does better when he does. He will need to get it in this game. Memphis hasn't won a game all season when he hasn't scored 17 or more points. Ross is not going to leave Mike wide open but a good offense will beat a good defense every time and Mike is at home.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Correy Maggette

Rudy is starting to struggle with the responsibility of being the #1 scorer. It is difficult when the team doesn't have any interior scoring with Gasol out, a secondary scorer who is unselfish to a fault and rookie PGs splitting time. Rudy still needs a little time in the oven before he becomes a major scorer in the league but at 21 he still has some time. Corey Maggette has matured into the player many people predicted coming out of Duke as a sophomore. Maggette will get his points every night but he does most of his damage from the line. That is rather ominous as Rudy Gay has been in foul trouble too often this season. A very tough match up for Rudy, especially if the bigs aren't playing.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Tim Thomas

Power is an interesting term for this match up. Tim Thomas is known more for his range than his physicality and Gasol's problems with physical play are well known in Memphis if not the world. Gasol is technically averaging 19 pts and 9 rebounds this season but in January he is averaging 22 pts and 11 rebounds. Seems like the early season difficulty with Iavaroni's system are over. Unfortunately not the problem with injuries as Gasol's back has been acting up forcing him to miss the Washington game. Tim Thomas has been disappointing for LA since signing as a free agent. He has that lost Stro-tential in his game. Thomas averages 33 minutes and 12.5 pts as a starter and 17 minutes as 11 pts as a bench player. That means in the extra 16 minutes of play he scores an additional 1.5 ppg. Some players are just meant to come off the bench.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Chris Kaman

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me present you with the most improved player in the NBA. Unfortunately it isn't Darko Milicic as many Memphis fans hoped. Chris Kaman is 3rd in the NBA in rebounding averaging 13.9 rpg. Combine that with 17.2 ppg and he has made many Clipper fans forget that he was supposed to play second fiddle to Elton Brand. The 27 yr old center has finally found his place in the sun. Darko has been nicknamed the 'Dark One' by some fans and the difference is night and day between these players. Darko is questioning his game while Kaman is full of confidence. Amazing what a couple of years of experience can do for a player. Kaman has been given the time to mature into a player while Darko has been plagued by high expectations since entering the league but he is actually beginning to improve. Not enough in this game but he is playing better.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Bench: Memphis vs Los Angeles
Memphis' bench could be very thin in this game if Gasol and Swift don't play. Throw in Conley's uncertain status and Memphis could be forced to play Andre Brown, Bobby Jones and Juan Carlos Navarro some extended minutes. The problem is that none of these players are very experienced and consistency is an issue. Hakim Warrick can score and is starting to play some better defense but he has to score a lot to justify his court time and that makes team play secondary in Hak's mind. LA has a better mix of experience and youth off the bench. With Cuttino Mobley LA has a dependable veteran scorer. With Al Thornton LA has a mature rookie (he's 23) who is starting to understand what it takes to play in the NBA. Memphian Brevin Knight returns for the last time as a Clipper this season and will probably have a nice cheering section for himself.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Update (Spartacus): According to the Commercial Appeal, the Griz have agreed on the framework of a buyout for Damon Stoudamire that could be announced today or Monday. Given Conley's uncertain status, expect them to find a PG from the D-League or free agent pile as soon as this occurs.

Relevant blogs/websites:
Clips Nation
Commercial Appeal Preview

No comments: