San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles ClippersStaples Center, Los Angeles, CA
December 16, 2013, 9:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: KENS - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
The San Antonio Spurs overcame a sleepy first half against the Utah Jazz to win its fourth-straight game of the week, which included two back-to-backs. The good news for San Antonio is it still sits in second place in the Western Conference behind Portland, but the bad news is that the Spurs will have to face one of the tougher teams it has faced this season when the Los Angeles Clippers (16-9) host the Spurs tonight.
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The Clippers come into the game fresh off a lopsided victory over the Washington Wizards, a game in which all five Clipper starters scored in double-figures. Chris Paul led the way with one of his signature performances loading the box score with 38 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. Doc Rivers is known for being a player's coach that allows his point guard freedom, and the L.A. offense seems to be going in the right direction, although scoring points has never really been an issue for the Clippers over the past few years.
Los Angeles is averaging 103.7 points per game, good for fifth in the NBA. The Clippers are third in assists, 17th in rebounds and 12th in points allowed, giving up 99.2 a game. Paul is averaging his double-double a night with just fewer than 20 points a game to go along with 11.5 assists and over two steals a game. The assembled media have tried to crown the next great point guard for years now, but CP3 has is still considered the best in the league.
The issue for the Clippers comes in the paint, specifically in half-court settings and down the stretch. It is the reason that the Spurs have bested the Clippers in the playoffs and it remains the reason few pundits give Los Angeles a chance to reach an NBA Finals despite having a loaded starting lineup, a decent bench and a coach with championship pedigree.
That may be unfair for one of the top teams in the West, but until Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can become serviceable big men in the half-court and at the free throw line, the Clippers have a lot of liabilities as a team in crunch-time situations. The offense basically becomes "Chris Paul or bust" and that doesn't work against a team like the Spurs. It may work in December, but it won't come playoff time and the Spurs are as aware of that point as any team in the league.
The Spurs are past skins on the wall, while Los Angeles is still starting its creepy collection. Being at home, this game may mean more to the Clippers than it does to the Spurs, but the keys to the game remain the same. San Antonio has to keep Paul out of the lane and Griffin and Jordan off of the offensive glass. If that happens, Los Angeles becomes one of the most predictable teams in the league. It is easier said than done, obviously, but the Spurs have used the formula to perfection before. It comes down to whether San Antonio exerts enough defensive energy for 48 minutes for the strategy to completely pay off.
Outside the trio of Paul, Griffin and Jordan, the Clippers' role players are lacking a bit right now. J.J. Redick, who normally starts at the 2, is out with a broken bone in his hand; and Matt Barnes, a key bench player, is still recovering from having eye surgery. Guard Jamal Crawford is their best scorer outside of Paul and Griffin, and with these injuries, he's had to take on a larger scoring role. An outstanding ball-handler, Crawford can get his shot up whenever he needs to.
Matchup to watch: There will be a few intriguing matchups to watch on Monday night, but for my money I'll take the battle between Chris Paul and Tony Parker. Any time you can watch arguably the best two point guards in the league go at it, you just have to.
Clippers perspective can be found here: Clips Nation
Game Prediction: Spurs by 3.
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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