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Spurs vs. Clippers preview and predictions

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After going through the other series, it's time to see what J.R. Wilco, Michael Erler and Jesus Gomez think of Spurs vs. Clippers.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

J.R. Wilco
We have 47 minutes left. Is that enough time for us to handle Spurs versus Clippers?

Michael Erler
Let's start now. 3) LA Clippers 6) San Antonio. Gents, tell me why I should pick the Spurs.

Jesus Gomez
I'll let J.R. start. He's great at talking people off the ledge.

J.R. Wilco
Cuz their awesome.

Jesus Gomez
I... was expecting something more elaborate than that.

J.R. Wilco
The first thing is that Los Angeles is incredibly thin. They have those five great players and no one else. Second, San Antonio seems to own them. Third, Chris Paul's antics don't seem to help his team when he gets out of sorts. Fourth, I can see San Antonio sweeping LA, but not the other way around.

Michael Erler
Big Baby is not thin. The Spurs bench has been dog meat on the road. The Spurs seem helpless against a CP pick-and-roll. I don't think anybody is sweeping anybody.

J.R. Wilco
Okay, consider this: Kawhi on Paul.

Michael Erler
One screen and poof goes Kawhi.

J.R. Wilco
So you think Chris can keep his dribble to actually make it to the pic then?

Michael Erler
More often than not yes. He's very good.

J.R. Wilco
Fair enough. P

Jesus Gomez
Tag me in. Tag me in, J.R.!

Michael Erler
When the Spurs got the better of Paul, it was when Parker could wear him out offensively. Not sure he can

J.R. Wilco
Go go gadget-Gomez.

Jesus Gomez
The Clippers play two traditional bigs. Duncan and Splitter will cheat off one of them on pick and rolls. So Paul will have to kill the Spurs from the elbow. He can, of course. But it won't be easy.

Michael Erler
What happens when Clips use three guards? They killed Spurs with Paul-Crawford-Redick in the game.

Jesus Gomez
Kawhi won't go 1-11 from the field again.

Michael Erler
Okay, here are my concerns: 1) Paul getting cheap fouls on Green or Leonard. 2) Parker not being able to score enough to make Paul work 3) the bench on the road 4) The Clips doing what the Mavs did, sticking on shooters, making Spurs big three beat them. I see a lot of Kawhi isos on Barnes. I worry even if the Spurs have a successful defensive scheme, Pop won't trust it, that he'll go to hack-a-Jordan and kill his own team's offensive momentum.

Like, I'm serious, if you can tell me Pop would never use hack-a-Jordan, I'd love their chances.

I wish they'd play straight defense. Give Leonard the opportunity to make a steal or Duncan to make a block, actual momentum plays and live turnovers.

J.R. Wilco
That's the huge thing that is missed when we send the opposing big's worst foul shooter to the line.

Jesus Gomez
The numbers say it makes sense. I'm for it. Not all the time but at the end of quarters and to protect leads? Sign me up.

Michael Erler
For me, it comes down to Tony and Manu. It's hard to trust either of them at this point. If you tell me they'll average 32 between them, I love the Spurs. If they average less than 25 between them, Spurs are toast.

Defensively you have to play them like Phoenix back in the day. Let Paul and Griffin have theirs, don't leave the shooters, don't give up transition crap, don't get crushed on the boards by Jordan.

J.R. Wilco
All of those things seem eminently doable.

Jesus Gomez
Turnovers will be key. That's why I'm worried about Manu.

J.R. Wilco
It's not that his turnovers have gotten so much worse recently. It's that the good plays have seemed to come farther and farther between.

(I hate the fact that we are actually having this conversation.)

Michael Erler
Manu gets in turnover funks when they never change anything up and it's always the screen and roll up high. Give it to him on the move or the baseline or the wing. Something different.

Jesus Gomez
He also turns it over more than usual against the Clippers.

Michael Erler
They trap him hard.

J.R. Wilco
I wouldn't mind seeing him used more off the ball and even in spot-up situations. I think that would help his three point shot.

Michael Erler
Yeah, he should never take a three off the dribble. Ever. Just catch-and-shoot.

I can't figure out why he can shake free and get the shots he wants at home, but is like in a straight jacket on the road. And it's happened for three years now. Either people defend him way less aggressively on the road or he does something different, but I can't figure it out for the life of me.

J.R. Wilco
He just tries for too many homerun plays.

Michael Erler
I saw that yesterday.

Jesus Gomez
Discouraging stat coming: Among pick and roll ball handlers who have used 200 possessions, Manu has the highest turnover percentage. Worse than Zach LaVine, Evan Turner and Jeremy Lin.

Michael Erler
I think the problem with his pick-and-rolls is often he waits too long and has literally no options.

J.R. Wilco
I used to marvel at the way that he was able to wait so long before he made the pass. But it's just not working at the same rate that it used to.

Michael Erler
And sometimes the screens are so bad he's just enveloped. That's the underrated thing. Duncan and Splitter set much better screens than Diaw or Baynes.

Jesus Gomez
Agreed. He needs Splitter.

J.R. Wilco
Everybody needs Splitter. Which brings up the question of whether we will get him back or not.

Michael Erler
Against the Clips, definitely. If he can play at all, they'll throw him out there. It's a big team.

Against the Dubs, they wouldn't sweat it. (Which is another reason he's overvalued, but I digress)

J.R. Wilco
Golden State is a long ways away.

Michael Erler
I'm looking forward to like Kyle Anderson playing three minutes and getting six fouls.

Jesus Gomez
Those two matchups (Splitter-Griffin and Paul-Parker) are the most significant ones but I'm worried about Duncan against Jordan. He always gives him trouble.

Michael Erler
Duncan can bait him into fouls.

J.R. Wilco
Doesn't seem to have worked recently.

Michael Erler
Didn't Duncan score like over 30 last time they lost at LA? He'll get his because Jordan will jump out trying to block other people and he'll get easy passes or points off offensive rebounds.

I'm not too worried about Kawhi and Tim. It's gonna come down to Manu and Tony. If Manu is bad, the whole bench will sink. I just can't figure out why he has no juice or confidence on the road.

J.R. Wilco
It probably comes down to the way the games are being called. When he's drawing fouls teams have to defend him differently.

Jesus Gomez
J.R. might be onto something with Manu. A lot of his possessions either end on turnovers or fouls.

Michael Erler
Anyway, being on the road is rough. It means no mulligans at home. If you lose Game 1, then not only do you really want to win Game 2, but really you need a 3 game winning streak. It's tough to beat good teams three times in a row.

For the Spurs to win the Finals, they're gonna have to go like 11-1 at home.

I wonder if Pop will cut the B.S. and just start Green/Leonard on Paul right away and hide Tony on Barnes or if he'll start the boring way.

For whatever reason the Clips are the one team the Spurs haven't consistently solved defensively. They've shut down the Heat with LeBron before, shut down the Warriors at times, you name it, but that Paul pick-and-roll...

J.R. Wilco
And the one team they haven't solved just happens to have one of the league's worst free-throw shooters.

Jesus Gomez
So I think every matchup will matter (we haven't talked about the shooters yet!) but I do agree that it will come down to Tony and Manu. I believe Tony could have a good series, which would mean the Spurs could easily win it. Do you see any scenario in which San Antonio wins it in five?

Michael Erler
In five? I mean if LA is down 3-1 they could be pretty lifeless, knowing they're toast in a game 6.

J.R. Wilco
If Tony plays the way he did against New Orleans, I could believe Spurs in just about anything.

Jesus Gomez
Alright before going with our predictions, let's all give our three keys to the series.

Michael Erler
1. Tony and Manu averaging over 30 points and under six turnovers. 2. Green and/or Belinelli need to make some threes on the road.  3. Kawhi dominates at both ends.

4. Keep the fast break points under 15 and the off rebs under 10.

J.R. Wilco
The team has to keep the live turnovers down. Splitter must be healthy. And Kawhi needs to play the way he has since late February.

If all that happens, the rest will take care of itself.

Jesus Gomez
1 - Parker's pull up mid-range jumper has to fall. That changes the entire offense. 2 - Manu needs to hit three-pointers or get some whistles. Either option is fine by me. 3 - Diaw needs to do a good job on Griffin because Splitter might be out of shape.

Michael Erler
I just want the Spurs, if they're gonna win, to win on merit. Everybody hates the Clippers. Don't make them sympathetic figures with three-hour games and 30 free throw attempts by Jordan every night. Don't make the entire planet actively hate you like some wrestling heels. Also, if they're gonna lose, please don't lose tragically.

Jesus Gomez
You ask for too much.

J.R. Wilco
It's the first round, they can win however they want. It will be forgotten by the end of the playoffs.

Jesus Gomez
Prediction time!

Michael Erler
Spurs in six.

J.R. Wilco
SA in six.

Jesus Gomez
Spurs in five.

Michael Erler
This could be a lot like Spurs-Suns in 2008, where it was this really fun first round series between two great teams and ultimately didn't mean much.

J.R. Wilco
The double-overtime game 1. I remember it well. That was my first playoff series as a commenter on PtR.

Michael Erler
Manu with the game-winner against Raja Bell!

J.R. Wilco
On a bum ankle, no less.

Jesus Gomez
To be fair, Manu always used to be on a bum ankle.

Michael Erler
You know, '08 was the only time the Big Three ever won a road Game 7. Beat some guy named Paul who played like a spaz.