The Sixers last faced the Clippers on the eve of leaving Philly for their longest road trip of the season. This time, the Clippers will play their first game back in LA after a five-game trip against the visiting Sixers. Slowing Blake Griffin down will be a focus, but I could care less if he scores 50, as long as the Sixers get the W.
When it comes down to the particulars of beating this Clippers squad, you probably have to look at how you can limit the damage Blake Griffin does. The first time the teams met, they basically walled him off from the rim. Griffin finished with 20 points and 18 boards, but didn't shoot well from the floor. The one time he got a clear look at a dunk, Elton Brand dumped him on his ass (and was called for a flagrant foul). The Sixers sent Griffin to the line 11 times. We can probably expect the same approach tonight. Give fouls early and often to keep Griffin off the highlight reels and on the free throw line. Today is Blake's birthday, which probably means the NBA is trying to having it declared a national holiday to celebrate his superstardom. I'm hoping his gift is a bunch of floor burns, bumps and bruises.
The Clippers have a bit of a different look these days. Chris Kaman is back from injury, he isn't starting and on most nights he plays about 20 minutes, though a couple of times he's passed 30. Gone is Baron Davis, his replacement is Mo Williams. Eric Gordon is still nursing a wrist injury. Their starting lineup consists, basically, of two cornerstone big men (Griffin and DeAndre Jordan) and three warm bodies. Williams can still shoot it, and still can't spell defense. Randy Foye continues his Willie Green career trajectory and Ryan Gomes is, well, Ryan Gomes. The Clippers basically have zero talent on the perimeter when Gordon is out of the lineup. Eric Bledsoe has the best shooting percentage of the group, at a dazzling 42.1%. Their starting back court of Foye and Williams combine to shoot 38.1% from the floor.
The vast promise of their "young" lineup has basically been reduced to Blake Griffin dominating the ball and DeAndre Jordan cleaning up for easy hoops when he gets the opportunity. Gordon's injury has been a huge blow, but Eric Bledsoe and Al Farouq Aminu have fallen out of favor all on their own.
There are a couple of keys to this game. Jrue needs to stay at home on Mo Williams and chase him off the three-point line. The Sixers need to smother Griffin when he gets the ball in the post, double off anyone but Williams, and spread the fouls you use on him around among the bigs and perimeter plays helping down. Most important, though, is keeping their bigs off the offensive glass. Griffin, Jordan, Kaman, Diogu, Craig Smith and even Aminu are all very, very good offensive rebounders.
On the offensive end, they desperately need Jrue to wake up and take advantage of the tremendous mismatches he's going to have. Mo Williams is not only undersized, but he's a disinterested, physically weak defender. Randy Foye isn't much better. 20 efficient points and less than 3 turnovers is the goal for Jrue tonight.
Prediction: PHI 105, LAC 97
Predicting this team these days is an extremely difficult proposition. Right now, I think they come back strong from their two disappointing losses to begin this trip. The Clippers get more ink than any team 16 games under .500 deserves. This game will almost have national attention, simply because everyone wants to grab highlights of Griffin dunking on someone. They should be properly motivated to blow the lesser LA squad's doors off. Then again, I thought they'd come out with that fire against Utah, and there's a chance Iguodala won't play, so who knows.