Series Preview: Los Angeles Clipper vs. San Antonio Spurs
*Photo via Getty images
The Wild West:
The only place a 3 and 6 seed can both have at least 55 wins and one game separating them.
The number 3 seed L.A. Clippers are set to face off against the 6 seeded San Antonio Spurs. The series begins Sunday at 7:30 PST in Los Angeles. During the regular season the series was tied 2-2 with the Spurs taking the first two games and both teams winning one on the road, with the biggest margin of victory going to the Clippers by 10 Jan 31st. These 2 teams haven’t faced off since mid-February and they have both been playing much better basketball since then. The stage is set for a clash of opposites, pairing the ever-disciplined Spurs, led by puppet master Greg Popovich verses the emotionally erratic Clippers. Additionally, the Spurs are oozing with playoff experience on-court behind Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and a strong supporting cast. The Clippers, on the other hand, are a team that continually falls short of the expectations put on themselves and created by others when it comes to the post-season. Despite always having a top tier offense in the Black Griffin and Chris Paul era, this will be their fourth consecutive playoff appearance coming off the back three consecutive first or second round exits. Jalen Rose said it best “the regular season is checker, it’s about the players, and the playoffs is chess; it’s about coaching”. It would be wrong to say that Doc Rivers isn’t a good coach. You can ask folks in Boston and they’ll tell you all about 2008 through 2010. However, Coach Pop may be the greatest ever. There is a reason why Vegas has the Spurs as favorites at -170 in this series.
This is going to be an interesting series because you have one of the most talented teams in the league pitted against one of the greatest sports dynasty’s of the modern era, who up until two months ago looked Jurassic. The greatest questions that remain are, will the Spurs still have enough in the tank after an 82 game regular season and will the Clippers be able to harness their emotions and let it fuel them to victory rather than implosion. The shame of the lopsided talent gap between the East and West is that, unfortunately, we have this matchup in the first round, rather than the second or Western Conference Finals. These are, arguably, the two hottest teams in the league with the Clippers winning 15 of their last 16 games and San Antonio going 21-3 since February 27th.
A couple things to look for:
The Spurs have been implementing the Hack-A-Player strategy with increased frequency as the season wound down. The Clippers have one of the league’s most egregious offenders in poor free throw shooting with DeAndre Jordan.
Who is going to cover Blake Griffin? He’s a dynamic player with elite level, speed, power, quickness, and a much more consistent mid-range jumper. He’s too quick for Duncan, and probably too strong for Kawhi Leonard.
Bench depth has been a question for the Clippers all year. If Jordan Crawford cannot be the Jordan Crawford of years past, the Clippers have to rely heavily on Austin Rivers, Hedo Turkoglu, and Spencer Hawes. The Spurs have a plug-and-play system with defined role players, who always seem to perform above their talent level.
My Bold Prediction:
The Clippers will beat the Spurs and Vegas in 7 games. I think they understand that they are the more talented team at this point and that their window is closing. DeAndre Jordan will be a free agent this offseason, Chris Paul is nearing the end of his prime, Blake Griffin wants to prove he’s a transcendent multi-skilled player, and they have home court. The X-factor is being able to keep Jordan on the floor and getting some semblance of production from a shallow bench.
How to Watch:
SCHEDULE (all times ET)
Game 1: Sunday, April 19. Staples Center, Los Angeles CA. 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2: Wednesday, April 22. Staples Center, Los Angeles CA. 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3: Friday, April 24. AT&T Center, San Antonio TX. 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 4: Sunday, April 26. AT&T Center, San Antonio TX. 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5 (if necessary): Tuesday, April 28. Staples Center, Los Angeles CA. TBA.
Game 6 (if necessary): Thursday, April 30. AT&T Center, San Antonio TX. TBA.
Game 7 (if necessary): Saturday, May 2. Staples Center, Los Angeles CA. TBA