Game Preview: Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs - Cha-cha-cha changes

San Antonio Spurs vs Los Angeles Clippers


AT&T Center

December 27, 2011 8:30 PM Spurs Time

TV: Fox Sports SW (Area depending) - RADIO: WOAI

The NBA is suddenly back, and after two nights of rivalries and rematches we're settling into a familiar procession of conference matchups that we're used to seeing four times a year. Grizzlies - Spurs and Mavs - Heat were relevant pairings last year, but combination like Jazz - Lakers and Clippers - Spurs have been filling up the regular season schedule for decades. Pre-season, post-season and season are compressed this year and fans haven't had much time to adjust to the changes in team rosters. Rarely does true change come along, and trivia like Vince Carter to Dallas deserves to be buried under an avalanche of games, but we need to stop and consider these Clippers before the standings take shape. If these kids stay healthy and if Vinny Del Negro can teach them to play defense, they'll be favored to win a playoff series for the first time in team history.


Lineups

Starters
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Manu Ginobili
SF: Richard Jefferson
PF: Tim Duncan
C: DeJuan Blair

Key Bench Players
Tiago Splitter
Kawhi Leonard
Matt Bonner

Lineups

Starters
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Chauncey Billups
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Deandre Jordan

Key Bench Players
Mo Williams
Brian Cook
Ryan Gomes

It's bizarre to say, but the Spurs will be lucky to be competitive with the Clippers three years from now as LA enters the Griffin/CP3 era. Long-time fans can't comprehend being surpassed by the LA Clippers, who since 1997 have beat the Spurs about as often as the Generals beat the Globetrotters. The Spurs are 46-6 against the Clips in that time, have won 16 straight at the AT&T Center and had a 18-game streak going before blowing it last year. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin change the whole equation, though, and LA basketball fans have good reason to see the Clippers' days of being punching bag, whipping boy and laughingstock-all-in-one as over.

Chris Paul is the best player in the NBA at his position and the misfit role players in LA are an upgrade on his New Orleans team with or without the Blake. I don't rate Chauncey Billups as highly as some observers do but he should compensate for the inexperience of Griffin, Jordan and Eric Bledsoe.

There's not much to take away from their first regular season game besides how good Paul is - the Warriors shot 39% and the teams combined had 30 offensive rebounds in a complete failure to protect the boards. That's exactly as many offensive rebounds as in last year's streak-breaking debacle. Look to Tiago, Blair and the taller wings to help out on the defensive glass this time around.

Blake Griffin was the other reason we lost that contest and with CP3 to set him up he's even more dangerous this year. Vinny D seems to think Griffin could learn from Tim Duncan's example, which is a terrifying concept. I'm trying to imagine a second-year Tim Duncan flying through the air for blocks and covering everyone at once. If anyone needs a reminder of what '99 Tim Duncan could do to premier offenses, reminders abound.

Hopefully we can contain the Paul/Griffin pick and roll, rebound the misses and get some rest for our veteran players, because we're on the road tomorrow against the Rockets and any seasoning we can add to the rookies and newbies will be a tasty treat.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.

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