Whom do we want - the D'Antoni's or the D-Anti-toni's?
The case for Phoenix:
- If the formidable front line of Kwame Brown, Luke Walton and Lamar Odom is making life miserable for Phoenix's post defenders (is there such a thing?), imagine what two weeks of Elton Brand and Chris Kaman roosting in the box is going to be like. Throw in one of the better posting off-guards in Cat Mobley along with a specimen like Maggette and you begin to understand how the Clips decimated Phoenix at USAA on April 5.
- Pop quiz: The night of April 5, who started for the Clippers?
Incorrect. Here was Dunleavy's starting lineup:
Maggette and Mobley came off the bench for 29 minutes each with a brief spell from Singleton. Through circumstance and accident (Sam was out with a hyperextended forehead or something), the Clippers went long and fast defensively. And you know what?
- Although most Clipper fans would be loathe to admit it, the most persuasive case for preferring PHX is:
Kobe Bryant isn't a Sun.
The case for the Lakers:
- As a Clipper season ticket holder, I'll attend Games 1, 2, 5 & 7 rather than games 3, 4, & 6. There's been a lot of talk this week about how a Clipper home crowd will break down: 50/50? 65/35 Clippers? When the presale went out to Clipper fans and they gobbled up all those lower bowl seats, did they pawn them off to Laker fans?
As my younger sister says, like I give a shit. A Clipper home game - whatever the split -- means more Asians, less silicone, more bitterness and fewer Ed Limato ex-assistants in the stands. Essentially, a Los Angeles the rest of us can tolerate.
- The Lakers outplayed Phoenix over the first four games because they recognized the one irrefutable variable of the series:
Lamar Odom was the biggest man on the floor.
I suppose Kwame has an inch on Lamar, but neither of them will be anywhere near the low block with Brand and Kaman on the floor. The best the Lakers can hope for is that Dunleavy inexplicably sends Chris roving on one of his ridiculous perimeter trapping expeditions, or that Phil can effectively draw Elton out to the corner spot to cover Lamar where either (a) Brand can get taken off the dribble or (b) Elton gets into foul trouble.
All those pass options the Lakers have had against Phoenix from anywhere on the court? They better get their fill tomorrow night because that shit is coming off the menu on Monday morning. The Clippers are too long, too big and too physical. Barring Kobe, there's no one the Clips need to double in the post - and that includes Odom. And the Lakers have no one on the wing that'll sufficiently spread the Clipper defense.
And though I know Denver had success on the offensive glass against the Clips, it appears as if that hole has been plugged and then some. Have you read an interview with a Clipper player over the least ten days in which that player - as if hooked up to a Pavlovian buzzer - hasn't mentioned boxing out?
The elephant in the room: What can Quinton Ross do on Kobe -- not only in limiting his output, but in cutting him off from the rest of the team?
Because that's the thing - Kobe will score on roughly 20 possessions. That's a given. But if you can limit his options by funneling him into the corner spot or stall him at the top of the circle, then the Clippers' size can take over the possession from there. And, sure, he's gonna hit a few contested 22-footers with the shot clock expiring. But I'd rather Kobe do that than find Walton at the weak side basket because Corey fell asleep hedging on Lamar.
- Brand v. Odom: What's the over-under for the first "...and these guys used to face each other in practice every day" chestnut? Either way, freeing up Elton at the elbow will indisputably be the focus of the Clipper offense. The Lakers were successful in rushing the Clippers into contested jump shots in their last meeting, largely because Dunleavy didn't account for Parker's length - which allowed him to handle the side screen roll switch onto Brand with ease. And when the Clips become inert in the halfcourt, it became a Vladfest of missed 22-footers because...well...he can shoot over Walton...theoretically.
A month later, the Clippers operate a far more versatile offense. When they want to spread the halfcourt, they have Sam, Mobley and Vlad. When they want to destabilize defenders, they come at you with Livingston and Maggette - or even let Cat back his defender down.
And, as always, they have the best two-man post attack in the league.
Side note: Anyone catch the TNT guys dogging Vic the Brick at the postgame press conference? I used to think Vic was an ass - a "feral Jew," I think were my exact words. But now I've decided that his act is so off-the-charts bad that it's sheer genius - Shag gold ushanka and all.