The Clippers welcome in the Milwaukee Bucks, another one of those obnoxious Eastern Conference teams that have a very real shot at the playoffs despite owning a record only marginally better than the Clippers. They’re 19-26 and only a half game behind the Charlotte Bobcats. Yes, the Bobcats that the Clippers completely dismantled on Saturday night. But for once, it appears that the Clippers have the numbers on their side. The Clips have won their last 8 games at home and they’ve won 9 of the last 10 against the Bucks at home. The Bucks are in the process of returning to health, both their young star Brandon Jennings and Carlos Delfino have returned to play in recent games, but that might not make up for their offensive limitations.
• Just an unbelievable note on Blake Griffin: Over the course of the year, Blake has made 72 Top Ten Highlights on Sportscenter in only 46 games. That’s over 1.5 highlights per game. If you want to get crotchety and say that it’s not important, that’s fine, but I think the Clippers need all the positivity they can muster to change the culture.
• New York Times’ Rob Mahoney breaks down the complementary players on the Clips.
Keys to the Game:
– The Defense of Blake Griffin. The best defense on Blake has been the strong and quick guys (Chuck Hayes, Ron Artest, Grant Hill) or the long guys (Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol), but rarely can anyone in between handle Griffin. Considering the Bucks roster it wouldn’t surprise me to see a lot of Bogut on him. He has the size advantage combined with the length and shot-blocking ability to bother Blake. However, he’s not nearly as mobile as Pau or Tyson, so Blake can use his speed to race by Bogut. Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Mbah a Moute will also serve their sentence guarding Blake. Both of them are undersized, but quick. Mbah a Moute in particular has the length and good hands to play adept defense. However, neither Luc or Ilyasova have the strength of Blake. So the Bucks both have guys that might hassle Blake or might get torched. Since it’s the first meeting of the season, I’ll be interested to see how Blake handles the Bucks bigs and their sixth ranked defense (100 Defensive Efficiency).
– The continued contributions of Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes in Eric Gordon’s absence. EJ was a vital cog to the Clippers offense, but in his absence Randy Foye has stepped up averaging 18.7 points and three assists. Ryan Gomes jumped into the conversation with 18 points in the win over the Bobcats and has quietly averaged 13 points in EJ’s absence, up 5 points from his season average. More than making up for EJ, the assistance of Gomes and Foye also prevents Baron from turning into more of a shooter, which is a clear weakness of Baron.
– Sneaky key: Carlos Delfino. The Clippers opponent three point defense has been improving as the season goes on, they’ve only given up 36 percent shooting from deep against their last 8 opponents. However, the Timberwolves 1 for 16 performance brings that number down 4 percentage points. The Bucks aren’t known for their three points shooting, but that’s in large part due to the absence of their signed shooters. Both Carlos Delfino and Michael Redd have missed a mass of games. Well, Delfino is back and he has been lighting teams up similar to his pre-injury self. He’s 10 for 22 since his return and he’s the type of player that the Clippers sometimes forget about.
Eric Gordon: wrist/back, out
Chris Kaman: left ankle, out
Craig Smith: herniated disc, out
Drew Gooden: left plantar fasciitis, day to day
John Salmons: right hip strain, day to day
Michael Redd: left knee, out