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The CW (Clipper Weekly), 3rd Edition
Current Record: 6-2, T-1st Pacific
Last Week: It was a slow week for the Clippers, and they appeared out of sync. In a battle of division leaders on Tuesday, Utah manhandled the Clips, dominating the inside with a 54-34 advantage on points in the paint and 11 offensive rebounds. And early in Saturday’s game against short-handed Philadelphia, it looked like more of the same with the Clippers falling quickly into a 16-point deficit. But Elton Brand and Corey Maggette salvaged an otherwise forgettable performance by the team, with Brand finally breaking out a slump by hitting for a season-high 33 points, with 12 boards while Maggette put in 21 and 8. The Clips were fortunate to escape with an ugly OT win.
Quick Take: Coach Dunleavy set a goal of winning at least 30 home games this season, and so far, the Clippers are 6-0 at Staples, taking care of the games they should win (even if it’s an ugly performance like Saturday). However, for the Clippers to prove they belong with the big boys, they need to show some strength in the face of adversity, namely on the road and in back-to-back games. They were a respectable 20-21 away from Staples last season, but have failed their two tests so far this year against Phoenix and Utah. The Clippers were also only 8-9 on the back end of back-to-back games last season, so this week will be a good litmus test with two road games (plus the “away” game against the Lakers) and two sets of back-to-backs.
Tuesday: at Lakers (KTLA-CW for Clipper broadcast/FSW for Laker broadcast, 7:30 pm) – the CW usually likes to make snide comments about the Clippers’ opponents, but when it comes to the other LA team, we’re going to give them some props to show some LA solidarity. For the first time, possibly ever, first place will be on the line. The Lakers have overcome their rash of injuries thanks to the surprising emergence of their young talent. The game may be decided underneath, where Lamar/Bynum/Kwame will be going toe-to-toe with Brand/Kaman/Thomas. Hopefully, the first of many classic battles this season.
Wednesday: vs. Seattle (PRIME, 7:30 pm) - the Sonics are kind of like the team that you run into at the YMCA: they run a lot, they gun a lot of threes (5th in 3 pt attempts, 27th in FT attempts), and they don't play much defense (dead last in FG% defense). The sweet-shooting tandem of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis average close to 50 points a game between them. If they're on, it could be a long night for the Clips. However, Seattle's 4-7 record indicates that it's more likely that they won't hit enough outside jumpers to compensate for all of the easy layups they'll give up to the Clippers post players.
Saturday: at Minnesota (KTLA-CW, 5:00 pm) - quick recap: 2004-2005, T-Wolves finish 44-38, Clippers 37-45; T-Wolves trade "malcontent" Sam Cassell to Clips for underachieving Marko Jaric during the offseason; 2005-2006, Clippers finish 47-35, T-Wolves 33-49. Oops. KG is becoming the new Elton Brand, putting up nice numbers for a crappy team. Those seven consecutive first-round playoff losses must sound heavenly these days with Minnesota looking doomed to its third consecutive trip to the lottery. It will take a true fan to tune into this game with USC-Notre Dame on at the same time. Then again, if you are an insomniac, watching this game is highly recommended as the T-Wolves second-worst scoring offense will put you to sleep rather quickly.
Sunday: at Denver (KTLA-CW, 5:00 pm) - since their season-opening three game losing streak (including a one-point loss to the Clippers), the Nuggets have won four of five by beating up on the weak sisters of Eastern Conference. Carmelo Anthony, who got ejected in the first Clipper game, is leading the league in scoring at 31.2 ppg. He'll need to average 40 to carry this team to another division title with Kenyon Martin recently out for the season with knee surgery, and the seemingly always hobbled Nene also sidelined with a bruised knee. The Nuggets are so thin up front that 5'5" Earl Boykins may need to line up at center.
AP photo by Branimir Kvartuc