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HORNETS VS. CLIPPERS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
February 23, 2011

The Hornets begin the post-All-Star break portion of their 2010-11 schedule Wednesday by hosting one of the NBAs youngest and most exciting clubs, the Los Angeles Clippers. With these teams having defeated each other once apiece, Wednesdays matchup will determine the winner of the three-game, head-to-head season series.

The Clippers began the 2010-11 regular season in forgettable fashion, losing 13 of their first 14 games, including a 101-82 defeat in New Orleans on Nov. 9. The Hornets used a balanced scoring attack to dominate L.A., with six different players reaching double figures in points. However, the Clippers posted a 99-95 triumph over the Hornets on Nov. 22, a victory that helped turn the momentum of their season. Los Angeles had a stretch in December and January in which it won 11 of 15 games, including defeating elite clubs Chicago, Miami and the Lakers. The winning stretch helped vault the Clippers into the fringes of the Western Conference playoff race, prior to a mini-slump in early February.

The Clippers, who have not qualified for the NBA playoffs since 2006, are centering their hopes for the future on Rookie of the Year frontrunner Blake Griffin, a versatile force in the paint. Griffin missed what wouldve been his rookie season in 2009-10 due to injury, but has enjoyed a smashing debut, frequently delivering highlight-film dunks. The 21-year-old is part of a cast of promising players, which also includes 22-year-old shooting guard Eric Gordon, 22-year-old center DeAndre Jordan, 21-year-old rookie backup point guard Eric Bledsoe and 20-year-old rookie forward Al-Farouq Aminu.



INTRIGUING MATCH-UP


Point guard, Chris Paul vs. Baron Davis
Its a meeting between the Hornets current starter at the 1 position a four-time All-Star against the player who manned the same role for New Orleans from 2002-04. Davis made the All-Star squad twice early in his career, including in 2004, the second season after the Hornets moved to the Crescent City. Paul averaged 13.5 points and 7.0 assists in the pair of November games against the Clippers, while Davis missed the Nov. 22 game to injury. The UCLA product logged just 10 minutes on Nov. 9, posting four points and three assists.



HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT
A closer look at the Los Angeles Clippers:


Ryan Gomes


DeAndre Jordan

GUARDS
Former two-time New Orleans All-Star point guard Baron Davis often serves as a barometer for his team. When Davis is healthy and playing at a high level, the Clippers are a dangerous club capable of beating virtually any opponent. When the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is injured, or not in top physical condition, Los Angeles tends to struggle mightily. Davis only played a total of four games in October and November, while the Clippers were limping out of the gate with a 1-13 record.

A member of the USA Basketball mens team in 2010, shooting guard Eric Gordon is the Clippers leading scorer and has blossomed into one of the leagues best perimeter shooters. The Indiana University product sustained a wrist injury in January and was expected to potentially return to the lineup at some point in late February.

With Gordon sidelined due to injury, Randy Foye filled in admirably at starting shooting guard. The Villanova product has been shifted between point guard and shooting guard throughout his career, which includes stops in Minnesota and Washington, but appears to be more comfortable in a scoring role.

Rookie backup point guard Eric Bledsoe started in both games against the Hornets in November. He totaled 14 assists in the contests, filling in for Davis.

Former Hornets role player Rasual Butler has experienced a drastic reduction in playing time this season, his second with the Clippers. The perimeter threat only appeared in four January games, for example.

Rookie third-string point guard Willie Warren played in 15 of Los Angeles first 52 games, though he did see action in both early-season contests against New Orleans, including an 11-minute stint Nov. 22.

FORWARDS
Blake Griffin has made as large an impact in the NBA as any rookie in recent memory. Griffin put together a streak in November, December and January of 27 consecutive double-doubles, a span that ended due to minimal playing time in a blowout win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. While Griffin has received considerable attention for his athleticism and numerous jaw-dropping dunks, the University of Oklahoma product has shown a versatile offensive game as the season has progressed, including an accurate mid-range bank shot.

Ryan Gomes has been the player most often paired with Griffin at one of the starting forward spots for the Clippers. Gomes frequently shoots from the mid-range area or the three-point arc.

Rookie forward Al-Farouq Aminu enjoyed a breakout game Nov. 9 in the Clippers earlier trip to New Orleans. Aminu led Los Angeles with 20 points and eight rebounds; the scoring output was his career-high after hed tallied 19 points combined over the previous seven games.

Ike Diogu spent the entire 2009-10 season on the Hornets roster, but did not play in an official game after being forced to undergo microfracture knee surgery. Diogu signed with the Clippers as a free agent and has made a nice impact since his regular season debut Dec. 22. Despite rarely playing even half of Clippers games, Diogu has turned in several quality scoring and rebounding outputs.

At 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, Brian Cook is built more like a low-post, interior player but tends to stay on the perimeter offensively. Cook made a critical fourth-quarter jump shot in Los Angeles Nov. 22 victory over New Orleans.

Rugged power forward Craig Smith, nicknamed Rhino, has been hampered by a back injury. He did not appear in any games during the month of January.

CENTERS
At 6-foot-11 and blessed with impressive leaping ability, third-year pro DeAndre Jordan is a constant threat to convert on alley-oop slams or putbacks around the rim. Jordan has taken advantage of considerable playing time in the absence of Chris Kaman this season, averaging roughly seven points and seven rebounds.

Chris Kamans 2010-11 has been negatively impacted by injury. The former All-Star sustained a severely sprained ankle in New Orleans during the Nov. 9 game and has missed large stretches of games since then.


Players the LAC/NOH want shooting free throws in a close game
CLIPPERS HORNETS
Randy Foye
Eric Gordon
Ryan Gomes
Brian Cook
Eric Bledsoe
85.7
80.7
80.1
78.7
77.9
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
David West
Marco Belinelli
Marcus Thornton
85.5
84.7
84.0
80.7
79.7
If the LAC/NOH need a three-pointer, their best options are
CLIPPERS HORNETS
Brian Cook
Eric Gordon
Randy Foye
Rasual Butler
Ryan Gomes
39.5
37.5
36.3
36.0
35.9
Marco Belinelli
Marcus Thornton
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
Willie Green
38.7
37.1
36.5
34.9
31.9
Career FT percentage (through Feb. 10) Career three-point percentage (through Feb. 10)




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