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Open Thread and Contest: Game 68

Regular Season Game 68
Wizards (37-30) at Clippers (33-36)
Staples Center
10:30 PM

Previous Results: Wizards 116, Clippers 105.

After yesterday's game, playing the suddenly hot Clippers is not a very good predicament.  

After struggling for most of the season, the Clippers seem to finally be getting back to what got them 47 wins last year.  They're not fancy, but they beat you inside, take good shots, and have excellent defensive rotations.  Last night, they held a very good Jazz team to 72 points.  Deron Williams had only five points and six assists, and Elton Brand and Chris Kaman were fantastic down low.  

Clipperblog, however, points to Corey Maggette's improved play as a primary reason for their resurgence.

Corey Maggette continues to play near-perfect basketball.  Though he sat out most of the first quarter with two fouls, Corey returned in the second and put together another efficient performance.  What is Corey doing differently over the past month? For one, he's found his 20-footer, and he's stopped taking contested jumpers.  

Second, he's giving up shot attempts that aren't there, which goes a long way to explaining his increased assist numbers.  About four times a night now, he's dumping the ball back into the post instead of driving headfirst into a clogged lane, or kicking it out after drawing opponents' help defenders into the lane with a dribble-drive.  I can't be certain, but I feel as if Corey has been setting up on the ball side with Elton a lot more often, with Cat now playing on the weak side perimeter.  Earlier in the season, it was reversed, with Cat dropping the ball into Elton and Corey standing out on the arc.  

Finally, the defense.  There was a time not long ago that if you saw a blown rotation in the Clippers' defensive halfcourt, there was a better than 50% chance that Corey was the culprit.  He'd get lost on weak side screens [particularly against a team like Utah who does so much off the ball] and his judgment in help situations was awful - doubling when he didn't need to and hedging such that he was ineffective both on his guy and on the playmaker.  With his strength and quickness, Corey has never been a bad on-ball defender.  But now he's using those same attributes in almost every defensive situation. It's miraculous, actually.  Over the past month, he's truly a different defensive player.

Either way, this might be a game where it would pay to go small.  Brand and Kaman are going to eat the Wizards alive if they match up directly to them.  The problem is that, with Brand's phenomenal defensive ability, the Clippers have the ability to go small as well.  The key then will be to speed the game up, and prevent the Clippers from dominating with half-court defense.  As we saw yesterday, against an incredibly proficient half-court team, the Clippers absolutely dominated.

Clippers blogs: Clips Nation, ClipperBlog.

Your lines for tonight:

Wizards at Clippers: Clippers by 4.
Over/Under on Big 2: 48.8 points.

This is an open game thread, so any Chris Kaman alien jokes go here.