Los Angeles Clippers (10-9) vs. Orlando Magic (11-8)
7:30 p.m. PST
December 5, 2015
Fox Prime Ticket
Last time they met?
December 3, 2014 — Just over a year ago. The Clippers wiped the court with Orlando Magic in a 28 point drubbing. Both Blake and CP3 sat out the entire fourth quarter and the Clippers moved to 13-5.
What’s changed since then?
The Magic got a new coach and are above .500 for the first time in years. An exciting young core group including Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton have Orlando currently sitting 7th in the East.
1. Complete the simile : “A life without a starting back court is like…”
Brandon Tomyoy, (@dingyu): A box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. In this case, though, Blake Griffin doesn’t run a few blocks over from the bench where he’s been sitting and telling his stories to find Chris Paul and JJ Redick waiting to come back home and continue this union, also finding out Lieutenant Dan got metal legs in the process. Judging by the contest against Indiana, it would seem that the ballhandler duties should be handed over to Lance Stephenson for stretches of the game when Blake isn’t bringing the ball up, but that still leaves the lineups with spacing issues that will allow any defense to make the court smaller for the Clippers. This in turn means that how successful the team can be in this stretch relies heavily on inconsistent three-point shooting and inconsistent outside shooting in general.
Like I said, a box of chocolates.
Ben Mesirow (@SemNeb): Pizza without tomato sauce – sure, there are some interesting possibilities (pesto, BBQ sauce, 4-5 pick & rolls) and it can even be fun once or twice, but it doesn’t really feel like pizza. And then when you get a bite of that sweet, sweet cut dribble marinara sauce, the memory of what is good and right comes flooding back. Pizza is better with tomato sauce, and the Clippers are better with JJ and CP3, no matter how seductive buffalo chicken and Point Blake are.
Roscoe Whalan (@RoscoeWhalan7): Taking a knife to a gun fight. The Clippers are severely disadvantaged without J.J. and CP3. Sure, knives can be handy and can strike a few blows. Hell, Blake may be sophisticated enough as a knife fighter to help the Clippers win a few but, ultimately, without the starting back court the team is ill-equipped for battle.
2. Matt Barnes > (Luc Mbah a Moute + Lance Stephenson + Wesley Johnson + Paul Pierce)?
Tomyoy: Paul Pierce, at least if we are judging based on this current point in the season. Even for a slow starter as Pierce has been the past two seasons, he just wrapped up a career worst November in terms of percentages and averages, and while these are certainly signs of both age and rust as he has to play himself back into form, it’s a process that has frustrated many a fan. On the other side of the coin, while Matt Barnes has also struggled mightily to start the season, he’s had a recent stretch of games that would seem to indicate that he’s rounding into form. What he provides that the Clippers miss the most, though, is consistency at the Small Forward position, and consistency has been the Rubik’s Cube that the team has yet to solve.
Mesirow: Yes. Can I answer this question by saying yes? Sure, this year’s edition of Matt Barnes hasn’t exactly been lighting it up for the Grizzlies, but the things he brought to the starting five feel like a lot of what the Clippers are missing. Toughness, fortitude, energy, sharp cuts, crafty defense, and the ability to make open shots. As a collective, this new group of Clippers should be able to outproduce one Matt Barnes, but finding the right balance of skills and the right timing for each player has been a challenge, to say the least.
Whalan: I guess you don’t know what you’ve really got ’til it’s gone — except that Doc knew exactly what he had and apparently never liked it. I don’t fault the Stephenson trade — even if it just meant getting Hawes out of town but Barnes, besides his whippet-like frame running the wings and his slashing ability, brought an intangible doggedness to this team. I guess, the idea was that Pierce could bring some of that soul with him but it’s very hard to do so when he’s not performing on the court. And so, the Clippers’ revolving door of small forwards continues…
3. Is Scott Skiles a great coach or does he just have a great opportunity?
Tomyoy: He’s a good coach, and whatever stop he’s gone to has seen a large improvement on the defensive end. In Orlando’s case, he’s taken a team that was 24th in defensive rating a season ago now to 8th in defense. While there has been improvement on the offensive end as well, there are still questions that he is still searching for answers to, such as what is the best way to balance minutes for both Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo in the backcourt. Others would also make a case that Aaron Gordon should be the team’s starting Power Forward. All that said, he’s certainly met if not exceeded the expectations many had for the Magic in their first 19 games.
Mesirow: Scott Skiles is a good coach, with an interesting reputation – the perception is that he’s smart and good at both schemes and development, but because he is of the strict taskmaster school he can grate on his players, and so by year three or four they tend to stop responding. This Orlando team, though, is an ideal situation for him, where he can step in and immediately make the team better – the defense has gotten off to a great start (8th in efficiency at 99.1 points/100 possessions), and their young core looks as fun and talented as imagined, with a lot of room for growth. So I guess my answer to the original question is a soft version of both – I think Skiles is a solid coach with a great opportunity.