Anyone with a rooting interest in the Clippers would do much better to ignore wins and losses and segment the remainder of the season into a series of smaller goals. The Clippers are unlikely to win many basketball games between now and some point in the future when a combination of Baron Davis, Zach Randolph, Marcus Camby, and Chris Kaman returns. Whether you arrive at this conclusion with the requisite blame for whoever is at fault, or whether you’re just a Clipper fatalist, it’s important to get to that mental place as soon as possible.
The Clippers face the Lakers and the regenerative ring finger on Wednesday night. It’s entirely possible there won’t be more than 20 minutes of meaningful basketball, but that doesn’t mean the Clippers shouldn’t go into the game with a few items on their to-do lists:
- Eric Gordon: EJ’s Tour of Perimeter Killers continues against the league’s best scoring guard. Kobe Bryant has some height on Gordon, and will seek to exploit that advantage with his turnaround jumper. Gordon faces the same problem every smaller guard must contend with against Bryant. If EJ crowds him, Bryant will explode past Gordon en route to the rim. However much that dislocated finger is killing Bryant, he’s playing through the pain.
- Al Thornton: Thaddeus Young and Al Thornton both shoot about 36% on two-point jump shots. Here’s the difference: 54% of Thornton’s shots are of the two-point jumper variety, but Young makes the low-percentage shot only 35% of his overall selection. Instead, Young opts for more attempts inside, where both he and Thornton shoot greater than 60%. Thornton must resist the temptation to settle for stuff outside. He’ll start the game against Vladimir Radmanovic, a defender he should be able to take off the dribble. Al will still have to confront the Lakers’ stellar help defense, but penetration gives him a fighting chance. Firing jumpers over the Lakers’ lanky defenders doesn’t.
- DeAndre Jordan: The Clippers’ rookie center did an effective job staying out of foul trouble on Monday while defending the post adequately against Al Jefferson. The Lakers’ Andrew Bynum is a more athletic cover. In addition, the Lakers’ bigs move around the halfcourt a lot more than Minnesota’s, which means Jordan’s most challenging task won’t necessarily be bodying up, but staying alert.
- Rebounding: There’s one unintended benefit to the absence of Marcus Camby — it forces the Clippers’ wings to do some work on the glass. They did so admirably against Minnesota, a decent rebounding squad. The Lakers are the league’s 5th best team on the glass. The Clippers likely won’t outrebound the Lakers overall, but they should aim to do so at two positions.
UPDATE: Upon further consideration, it’s likely Gordon will draw Fisher, with Mardy Collins, at 6′ 6″, the natural size matchup for Bryant. For Gordon’s sake, a stint on Bryant would be instructive.