Forty-one games ago, as Elton Brand wailed in pain and Mike Dunleavy gnashed in unrest, we asked who would finish the season with the better record: Sacramento or the Clippers?
62% picked the Clippers, and this was way, way before the Mike Bibby injury. Yes we are optimists, yes we are biased... but yes, we are (halfway) vindicated.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (12-25) 101.2 ORtg (#29), 106.7 DRtg (# 9), 92.0 Pace (#11)
BALLHYPE | NBA.com PREVIEW | CLIPS NATION
The Clippers do not score well, second worst points-per-possession rate, behind only those potent SuperSonics (who have a 19-year-old as the offensive centerpiece). Corey Maggette, as we know, can score his ass off. Sam Cassell can drill it, Chris Kaman knows his way around the basket (especially against Brad Miller) and Al Thornton (like Kenny Thomas) can flat-out score. It doesn't add up, though, likely because a) Cassell been injured and minutes-starved, b) Thornton can score only because he takes too many shots, c) Brevin Knight is the anti-A.I.
I appreciate the pass-first point guard as much as anyone, but: You cannot win consistently with a PG who's afraid of shooting the basketball. Look at New Jersey: Jason Kidd's offensive numbers are horrible (horrible!), and NJ often has trouble scoring. Knight's the same thing (without the rebounds and flash) -- he's just not going to shoot. Ever. He makes Orien Greene look like Damon Jones. He's scoring 8.9 points per 40 minutes this year. Comparable: Mikki Moore is scoring 8.2 points per game, in 30 minutes. Mikki Moore gets at most two plays run for him in a normal game. Brevin Knight touches the ball on practically every possession he's in the game. Per-minute, Mikki scores about 30% more than Knight. Chew on it. Work it up real good. (Spit it out, that stuff's nasty.)
The Clips defense has remained surprisingly good -- here's where Knight helps: He's a terrific defender. With Kaman soaking up defensive rebounds and Quinton Ross offering 20 minutes of Hell every night, the #9 defense in the league almost makes sense. The Clips handcuffed Kevin Martin last year -- Speed went for 13 points on .333 FG% in four matches in 2006-07. Ross is a big part of that; also, the Clippers zone (with plenty of away-from-the-basket doubles) spells trouble, since Martin won't ever take a bad shot (which is good for the team and bad for Martin's stats).
If the Sacramento offense clicks like it did last night, it might not be a competitive game. I suppose you have to decide whether Tuesday was a positive aberration or whether it was a true sign of sustainable potential. The Clippers, surprisingly, are a good test.
Game's at 7:30 p.m. Go Kings.