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The CW (Clipper Weekly), 6th Edition

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Current Record: 10-9, 3rd Pacific

Last Week: The Clippers finally won a road game after seven losses to open the year, closing off a week in which they won the two games they should have (Miami, Memphis) and got embarrassed in the big road test against a real contender (San Antonio). While the wins were not terribly sharp performances (17 and 18 turnovers, respectively), the Clips at least managed to hold the fourth quarter leads by making enough stops down the stretch, something they hadn’t been doing the past couple of weeks. Chris Kaman still looked out of sync coming off his sprained ankle, but his activity level was higher (though he still can’t hit the broadside of a barn with his shot).

Quick Take: This is a big-time prove it week for the Clippers to demonstrate whether they are truly capable of being in the upper echelon or are just another also-ran: they play the top three teams in the league (Spurs, Jazz, Rockets), all at home. While Mike Dunleavy has continued to mess with the rotation, it appears that Shaun Livingston is now the starting point guard for the foreseeable future. Livingston gives the Clips the ability to push the pace more to score easy buckets in transition, which is important given the team’s inconsistency in the halfcourt offense. He would be well-advised to feed Elton Brand in the post, who is finally showing signs of the ‘old’ Elton, having scored more than 25 points three out of the last four games, after only doing it twice in the first 15 games. It would probably also help if someone could make an outside jumper – besides Cuttino Mobley (48.7%), the Clippers are a heinous 26.5% from long distance, which isn’t giving Brand and Kaman much operating room inside.

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This Week:

Monday: San Antonio (PRIME, 7:30 pm) - the Spurs will be smarting after the Lakers ambushed them last night, so the Clips will need to play their best ball to improve upon last week's 29-point woodshed job that wasn't even as close as the score indicated. Tony Parker continually got into the paint against Livingston to set up easy shots for everyone else (15 assists). Expect the Clippers to play with greater energy than Friday, particularly Brand who played extremely tentatively against Tim Duncan, with only 10 points and 3 boards to show for it.

Wednesday: Utah (PRIME, 7:30 pm) - coach Jerry Sloan just registered his 1,000th career victory, a testament to his teams' consistent (read: boring) play over the years. Last month, the Jazz executed flawlessly on offense to end the Clips' five-game winning streak, despite not having Andrei Kirilenko in the lineup. Kaman will have to play considerably better, both in defending Memo Okur (27 points in first meeting) and rebounding - Utah is by far the leader in rebounding margin.

Friday: at Portland (PRIME, 7:00 pm) - the Blazers are firmly nestled in last place in the Northwest, but have played with more intensity than last season's mail-in job. Jarrett Jack has been a nice surprise, playing quality minutes at point. Zach Randolph hasn't been a surprise, putting up huge numbers at the 4, while also upholding the Jailblazer tradition by flipping the bird to the Indiana crowd in front of more than 50 friends and family members. Frame that one for this year's Christmas card.

Sunday: Houston (KTLA-CW, 12:30 pm) - the Rockets are leading the league in points allowed and FG% defense; on the flipside, they're also near the bottom in points scored (23rd) and shooting % (22nd) - in other words, they're like the NBA version of the Baltimore Ravens. Tracy McGrady is battling back issues again, which means Yao Ming is a one-man wrecking crew. If T-Mac is still out, the Clips will likely surround the Houston center with big bodies to force other people to shoot (and most likely miss). Of course, at 7'6", Yao may just decide to shoot it himself anyway.

AP photo by Eric Gay