Earlier in this series, Tony Parker's health was looking like an Achilles heel for San Antonio, facing one of the league's top point guards. Now his Achilles has been added to the variety of maladies (ankle and hammy) facing the 32-year-old Frenchman, and his status is up in the air. Parker struggled through 30 minutes of play in Game 2, mustering only one point and five assists.
Enter Patrick Sammy Mills, who thrilled Spurs fans on Wednesday night with a gutsy performance, taking over the offense in the second half and tying his career-playoff high of 18 points. Cory Joseph, for all his virtues and the great season he's delivered, isn't the right man for this series. He had shot the ball better from deep this year than Mills, but teams aren't scared of him from outside and his improved ability to get in the late isn't that valuable with DeAndre Jordan's limbs swinging about.
Mills, along with (DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR!) Kawhi Leonard and the ageless wizard Tim Duncan, willed the Spurs to victory in Game 2. It'll be interesting to see how Duncan, particularly, looks after going 44 hard minutes. His legs were underneath every runner, fadeaway and whatever-else-you-wanna-call-it he took -- will they be true to him again just 48 hours later?
As of now it's sounding like Tony will give it a go tonight, so I've kept him in the (fluid) list of starters. He's officially listed as questionable. Even if Mills gets the majority of the minutes at the one, Joseph will have an important role to play. It's possible he starts in Parker's stead, allowing Mills to bolster the second unit.
Here are a few strategies I presume will stay the same in Game 3:
- Hack-a-Jordan: DeAndre went 6-17 from the line on Wednesday (and would've shot more had the refs not missed it on the play where J.J. Redick ended up knocking down a three) after hitting (I believe) three in a row relatively early. The defensive rebounding off free throws must obviously improve, but I don't see why Pop stops now.
- The Spurs have been switching early and often against Chris Paul, choosing to live with him pulling up from the elbow instead of driving to the basket. It's a pick-your-poison scenario, which is usually what happens against dominant players, although it's ended all too often with Boris switched onto CP3.
- Interior passing, specifically big to big, has been a great way to exploit two athletic defenders who still lack some of the nuances of playing opponents. More of this, please.
- Tiago Splitter played 19 minutes in Game 2 after just 10 the previous game. I think we'll see a similar minute total to Game 2. No one is going to stop Blake Griffin, but Tiago's San Antonio's best hope at limiting what he can do.
Some things that might change:
- Doc's bench stinks. We know it, he knows it, and now there's just a day of rest between each game, meaning his starters could really start feeling those heavy minutes soon. He's got two options in his frontcourt: Ekpe Udoh and Spencer Hawes, the latter being a guy the team bent over backwards to acquire. I think we'll see one or the other early tonight.
- Manu. One good game. One bad game. One good game?
The Clippers are coming into San Antonio believing they let Game 2 slip away (literally) from their hands. To boot, they'll be salty that Leonard won the DPOY over Jordan. who finished third. In other words, they'll be feeling like this:
There's no reason not to expect an even more driven opponent trying to regain control of this series in Game 3. We could be in for another tight one, but an off night for Griffin or Paul could sink LA.
Matchup to watch: Redick vs. Green. I think one of the two is due for a big game. Redick had his moments last game and shot with Phillip Seymour Hoffman-esque confidence throughout. With defenses still focused on their teammates, both players will have an opportunity to come up big.
|Game 3, Western Conference 1st Round, 2015 NBA Playoffs|
|April 24, 2015|
|AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX|
|8:30 pm CST|
|TV: TNT - Radio: 1200 WOAI|
|Tony Parker||PG||Chris Paul|
|Danny Green||SG||J.J. Redick|
|Kawhi Leonard||SF||Matt Barnes|
|Tiago Splitter||PF||Blake Griffin|
|Tim Duncan||C||DeAndre Jordan|
|93.8 (17th)||Pace||94.7 (10th)|
|108.5 (7th)||ORtg||112.4 (1st)|
|102.4 (2nd)||DRtg||105.5 (15th)|
The perspective of Clippers fans can be found here: 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:
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