Los Angeles Clippers at New Orleans Hornets
New Orleans Arena
April 12, 2013
5:00 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
3 Seed Western Conference Standings Check
Denver Nuggets, 54-24
L.A. Clippers, 52-26, 2 GB
Memphis Grizzlies, 53-25, 1 GB
Records can be deceiving. Sure, the Hornets are 27-52, but they have weapons. And don’t forget that New Orleans has already defeated the Clippers once this year, a 105-98 victory at the Staples Center. This time, the Clips head out to the Big Easy. Now, onto 3-on-3:
1. Where does healthy Eric Gordon rank among the NBA’s best shooting guards?
Jeremy Conlin, (@jeremy_conlin): That’s a difficult question to answer, if for no other reason than “healthy Eric Gordon” might not actually exist. In the last four seasons, he’s missed 20, 26, 57, and 40 games, and we’re now basically two full calender years removed from seeing Gordon at full health. If the Gods of basketball smile down upon him and return him to peak form, he can be an All-Star caliber guard (although his underratedly terrible rebounding remains a head-scratcher), but don’t bet on that happening.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): If he’s healthy, he’s in the top four – right behind Wade, Kobe, and Harden. But here’s the problem: Eric Gordon never seems like he’s healthy. And because of that, it might be difficult even to use the “if healthy” qualification to describe his talent.
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): Put it this way, a healthy Gordon — with his shooting and knack for getting to the line — can play within arm’s length of the league’s best shooting guards: Wade, Harden, and Bryant. But Gordon’s problems extend beyond health. He lacks the defensive energy that endeared him to Clippers fans, he’s still turnover-prone off the dribble, and (rightly or wrongly) he’s developed a reputation as a malcontent. At this point, there’s just so much that needs to fall into place for him to maximize his potential.
2. What’s the matchup to watch in this game?
Conlin: Anthony Davis will miss the game with a mild knee injury (luckily, no major structural damage has been reported), so that robs us of the obvious answer. That being the case, I’ll go with Al-Farouq Aminu vs. Matt Barnes. I’m a sucker for forwards who can’t shoot but make up for it by playing with energy and rebounding the crap out of the ball (Aminu averages double-digit rebounds per 36 minutes, unheard of for a small forward). Watching them dart around the court away from the ball will be fun.
Katz: The Clippers’ bench vs. the Hornets’ bench. This isn’t necessarily a matter of production as much as it’s a matter of style. The Hornets play one of the slowest games in the league (ranking 28th in the NBA in pace) and like to manage a game in the half court. If Eric Bledsoe and the rest of the second-stringers can get out on the run, it could really take New Orleans out of its comfort zone.
James: With no potential for Blake Griffin tussling with the injured Jason Smith, and with Anthony Davis hobbled, the Clippers should dominate the paint. It’ll be interesting to see whether DJ continues his inspired play against Robin Lopez, an efficient center who’s a true seven footer. When your coach doesn’t believe in you, every game is an opportunity to prove him wrong (and force his hand). The better DJ plays, the more time he’ll see, and (in all likelihood) the better the Clippers will fare — Friday and beyond.
3. What’s the antidote to Ryan Anderson’s poisonous shooting?
Conlin: The Clippers have actually had pretty good success (or maybe just good luck) defending Anderson on the three-point line this year – he’s gone just 5-for-21 in the three previous meetings. The Clippers’ stumbles in defending threes usually come from spot-up shooters after the ball swings – when the three-point line is the point of attack (as it often is for Anderson in pick-and-pops), they’re much better.
Katz: There is no antidote for Ryan Anderson if he wants to make his threes. Nothing. A 6-foot-10 forward with a high release and ridiculous accuracy is pretty tough to stop when he’s on. If the Clippers overtrap beyond the three-point line, like they’ve been known to do, then it may not matter how well individuals actually defend one of the best shooters in the NBA.
James: April is the cruelest month, and Ryan Anderson is lost in a shooting wasteland. Granted, many slumping shooters have ended their cold streaks simply taking the floor against the Clippers, but Anderson is really cold: shooting under 25 percent from the field his last five games, while attempting just two free throws a night. Regardless, the Clippers need to stay glued to Anderson so he perpetuates his slump (maybe with a whimper), rather than ending it (with a bang).