San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles ClippersStaples Center, Los Angeles, CA
February 21, 2013 9:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: TNT - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
The San Antonio Spurs approach the toughest stretch of the Rodeo Road Trip with a visit to the elite Los Angeles Clippers. This is a FIGABABA with the second game against the slumping but still competent Golden State Warriors.
So far, the Spurs have had a tough time with the Clippers despite sweeping them in the past playoffs. The keys to the Clippers holding the season series in their hands have been Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan. Bledsoe is talented enough to start on every other team yet sits behind the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul. This is in sharp contrast to the Spurs, who have yet to settle on a full-time backup for Tony Parker. On the other hand, while Jordan has yet to improve his free throw stroke, his improved post game has meant he is no longer a non-factor on offense.
Nevertheless, the Spurs the Clippers beat twice this season aren't what they'll be facing. Kawhi Leonard is back in the lineup and will be called upon to prevent Caron Butler and Matt Barnes to get open from beyond the arc or even switch on Chris Paul to prevent him from attacking. Gregg Popovich has made the (long-awaited) decision to start Tiago Splitter alongside Tim Duncan, where the Spurs can apply their size advantage and improve their offensive execution despite the poorer spacing in theory. Manu Ginobili continues to be an effective per-minute player despite his numbers being down across the board.
That said, the Clippers' athleticism ties directly into their defensive capabilities. Paul and Bledsoe are two of the best point guards in taking away the ball, and the Clips do lead the league in opponent turnover rate. If the Spurs don't hold on the ball well (and they've struggled in holding on to the ball with everyone healthy) they'll likely be on the wrong end of the phenomenon known as Lob City. Nevertheless, they're not as efficient at guarding the 3 point line(25th in 3 point line defense), and their big man depth is a bit questionable, with Lamar Odom being unremarkable (though that's an improvement compared to the previous season), and Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins are best suited as limited-minute energy guys. Gregg Popovich is also a much more accomplished coach than Vinny del Negro, and it remains to be seen how Pop will play chess against a checkers-playing coach.
Clippers perspective can be found here: Clips Nation
Game Prediction: Spurs are raring for vengeance and finally get a win with their lineup all healthy. Spurs by 7.
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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