San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Clippers
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
January 4, 2014, 7:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: KENS - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
Championship-winning coaches, top-two point guards, award-winning sixth men, and franchise-shifting power forwards -- despite having completely different public images, these two teams share a common makeup. The greatest discrepancy that remains is precisely what one of them is trying to fix: a missing championship.
How to avoid the panic button
The Spurs will look terrible sometimes in the regular season, just like every team does. Here's a guide to survive those letdown games without unnecessarily panicking.
On Saturday night the Spurs welcome a Los Angeles Clippers team on the second half of a Texas back-to-back trip. LA comes into town after playing the Mavericks in Dallas the night before. San Antonio meanwhile is coming off a disappointing home loss to the Knicks on Thursday, dropping them to 25-8 on the year.
Pounders will remember that the Spurs lost the first meeting in LA, 115-92, a game that mostly slipped away late, after Tony Parker left with a shin contusion. With Parker healthy again and playing at home, it would be safe to assume a closer contest this time around.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul was injured in last night's game versus the Dallas Mavericks, and is expected to miss 3-5 weeks with a separated right shoulder. The Clippers are sure to miss their top-tier point guard, and will have to look to replace his ball-handling responsibilities with a combination of Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison.
Thanks to a few prior injuries in the backcourt, and a pressing need for scoring in the main unit, perennial sixth man Jamal Crawford had been inserted into the Clips' starting lineup already. And while his individual scoring shouldn't be a problem, Crawford will be looked at to fill the roll of playmaker. He's shown to be a capable passer over his career, but with no other real creators on the team besides Collison, they'll need him to find open teammates more often.
Collison has been a solid option as a backup point guard through his time in the NBA, but he's become more of an off-ball player in Los Angeles since he's usually paired with Paul or Crawford in the backcourt. With Paul out, and Maalik Wayns being the only other true point guard on the roster, Collison will now have to go back to carrying a significant load offensively. His ability to play with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the pick and roll, and finding open shooters on the perimeter will be a huge key to the game. All this goes without mentioning that he'll have to play extended time guarding Tony Parker on defense, which is no small task for any guard.
Blake Griffin has been playing some of the best ball of his career as of late, scoring more than 30 points in three of his last four games - including a 40-point night in a win against Utah. For he Clippers to have any chance at this game, that recent production increase will have to hold. Griffin's been shooting better from mid-range and the foul line, the two key aspects that many felt were missing from his offensive game. Still though, he has an unorthodox post-up game - one in which he seems to leap off the wrong foot more often than not - and while his jumpshot is improving, it's still not at the point where you think it's going in. That and I still can't bring myself to like the guy.
The Clippers can expect good offensive production from Griffin and Crawford, but the rest of the team will have to step up for this game, and the rest of the time Paul is out. Center DeAndre Jordan scores primarily on alley-oops and put-backs; Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes rarely create for themselves, and Willie Green is Willie Green.
Defensively, the Clips can hide Griffin by putting him on Boris Diaw or Tiago Splitter, leaving Timmy to go to work on DeAndre Jordan, who's improved as a defender but not as much as coach Doc Rivers would hope. The freakishly athletic big man is capable of impressive blocks, but also struggles staying vertical when contesting shots at the basket. A few early fouls, and a befuddled look towards the bench, wouldn't be all too surprising from Jordan and would also really open the paint for San Antonio.
It'll be interesting to see if Pop continues to roll with Marco Belinelli in the starting lineup. Marco erupted for 32 points in the loss against New York, but Green's defense could be vital in containing the opposing Crawford early on.
San Antonio is currently winless in 2014 after dropping the first game of the new year to the New York Knicks. That should change tonight, as the Spurs haven't lost two games in a row this season. Of course, before Thursday they hadn't lost to a below .500 squad. So...
Matchup to watch: Two of the great sixth men of the past decade (Manu and Jamal Crawford) will be going at it, though one (Crawford) will be in the starting lineup; Blake and Timmy will have their moments matching up against each other -- and don't get me started on a potential Byron Mullens-Matt Bonner three-point fest. But with one of the league's best guards out, there's no more intriguing matchup than Parker vs. Collison.
Clippers perspective may be found at Clips Nation.
Game Prediction: Spurs by 9.
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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- GIF: Manu Ginobili's driving, hanging layup in the lane against the Knicks
- A guide to avoid freaking out about the Spurs in the regular season
- J.R. Wilco discusses Parker's quenelle gesture on the Phil Naessens Show
- Recap: Spurs lose at home to Knicks, 105-101
- Final Score: Spurs lose to Knicks, 105-101