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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Clippers

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The Spurs and Clippers have nearly identical records in the Wild West. With LA facing an extend stretch without their star power forward, tonight presents a great chance for San Antonio to create some distance and move up in the standings.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Clippers

Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
February 19, 2015, 9:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: TNT - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

Haters gonna hate -- a self-assuring axiom regularly uttered in the early- to mid-00s by those who view themselves as persecuted in spite of (and often due to) their more-desirable qualities. When you're a popular team (say, the 2013 Clippers), fresh on the scene with a new brand of ball (let's call it "Lob City") and turning things around after decades of misery, it's not an unfamiliar trench to dig into.

But two years on, when you're still leading the league in technical fouls and yet to have the whole city of Los Angeles behind you despite the fact that the other local team defines organizational ineptitude, a new narrative is required -- one that extends beyond flashy dunks and media campaigns. And you can't really substitute leaping over Kias on All-Star Weekend with even more contrived marketing stunts like this:

In many ways the Clippers have failed to turn the hype they once overflowed with into hard currency. Part of that has to do with missing on free agents, as well as the whole Donald Sterling saga, but there is the feeling that the window is closing on a team many pegged to come out of the Western Conference scrum. They're half a game above San Antonio in the standings in what's been a disappointing season for both sides, but the urgency is (and should be) more felt on their side.

Diabolical hating aside, the Clippers did win the last matchup between these two teams decisively, 105-85, and in San Antonio, too. But that game saw an uncharacteristic level of energy and execution from Doc's boys, as well as 20 clunked threes on the Spurs' side. More importantly, it relied on a big showing (31 and 13) from star Blake Griffin, who will be MIA tonight (elbow).

The absence of Griffin obviously simplifies this game for San Antonio. Even with his rebound numbers at a career low (from 12.1 to 7.5 -- really?), Griffin has grown as a player yet again, and he's utilized his passing to punish teams that have to focus even more on his improved offensive game. Without his primary and secondary threat on that end, LA will struggle.

LA's riding a couple of wins (and 20-20 games from DeAndre Jordan) against Texan teams playing without their pivotal centers. But Jordan will have a combination of Duncan and Tiago keeping him off the offensive glass and limiting his effectiveness on pick-and-rolls. I'd be surprised to see him drop more than, say, 14 tonight, and that will mean guys like Paul, Redick and Crawford will have to be at their best.

With a huge bench advantage and an ability to hone in on Paul's trickery and Jordan's darts to the rim, I think the Spurs steal this one and start the second 'half' of the season on a high note.

Matchup to watch: Chris Paul vs. Tony Parker. There's extra weight on Paul's shoulders due to Griffin's absence, and he'll have to have a big impact on this game. If Tony takes advantage of the time off and shows up, I think San Antonio wins this game easily.

vs.

Los Angeles Clippers (35-19)

San Antonio Spurs (34-19)

February 19, 2015

Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

9:30 PM CDT

TV: TNT

Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Starters

Chris Paul

PG

Tony Parker

J.J. Redick

SG

Danny Green

Matt Barnes

SF

Kawhi Leonard

Spencer Hawes

PF

Boris Diaw

DeAndre Jordan

C

Tim Duncan


For the Clippers perspective, please visit Clips Nation.

Game prediction: Spurs by 10.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment: Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com