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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Clippers

The Spurs head out West for their first road trip of the season. First up is former Spur Kawhi Leonard and this season’s championship darlings, the Los Angeles Clippers.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs haven’t exactly raced out to their 3-0 start. There’s been the occasional glimpse into just how good they can be and also just how deep a hole they can get into when most of their game plan isn’t coming together. After needing comebacks to get their first two wins against teams that are expected to be mediocre, they needed to pull themselves out of an early hole against the Portland Trail Blazers, before having to fend them off to avoid a collapse and earn their third narrow victory.

Now, they’re hitting the road for the first time this season, and they won’t have to go far to find the first true basketball theater that they’ll partake in this season: a showdown with the hottest team in Los Angeles, the step-brother Clippers, who are now led by a familiar corn-rowed star in Kawhi Leonard. “The Quiet One,” as I’m sure you know, signed with the Clippers in the offseason, while also (depending on who you choose to listen to) orchestrating a trade that essentially sealed the deal on an Oklahoma City Thunder rebuild, altering the landscape of the NBA in the process.

The Clippers have been pegged as championship favorites by various pundits in the media and, based on early viewing, would be my pick for the most complete and ferocious roster in the NBA this season. Should they pull this one out, it would be the most impressive win of this early season for the Spurs and would be the 2nd check mark of a tough 4-game stretch against teams expected to make the play-offs in the West this year.

San Antonio Spurs (3-0) at Los Angeles Clippers (3-2)

October 31, 2019 | 9:30 PM CT

Watch: Kens 5 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: None

Clippers Injuries: Paul George (shoulder — OUT), Amir Coffey (ankle — OUT), Rodney McGruder (ankle — game-time decision)

What to watch for

  • Can the Spurs avoid a slow start? — San Antonio is coming into this game on 3 days rest, while the Clippers are playing a SEGABABA and likely flew in back in LA early this morning. Fresh legs should go a long way in helping them prevent another big start like Portland was able to muster on Monday night, in large part because the Spurs failed to make shots. With Dejounte Murray looking dominant for the most part in transition to this point, the Spurs could look to push the ball early on, even after made shots. It collapses the defense, opens up opportunities, and has the potential to inspire confidence in a group. More aggressive play from back-up guard Derrick White like he displayed in his 21-point performance against the Trail Blazers Monday night should also help the Spurs do their thing offensively.
  • The real Spurs are in there — Somewhere in the 4th quarter of that Portland game, split rather evenly near the 6:00 mark, were the real Spurs that we can expect to see once a few things come together for them. Building 19-point lead against a team like Portland is no small task, and is probably an example of what they’ll look like when everything is clicking on all cylinders. Meanwhile, the loss of that lead will be pretty close to what they look like at their absolute worst and are lost out there. There is most certainly a happy medium we will come to see as the season goes on and this team becomes a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine. Hopefully we see another step in that direction tonight.
  • The Clippers are on a SEGABABA, but beware their depth — This Clippers team has potential to be one of the most balanced teams ever, with their hallmark likely being their bench. That bench includes the NBA’s all-time leading scorer off the bench in Lou Williams, as well as last year’s breakout energetic forward Montrezl Harrell. With Leonard back at the helm tonight after missing the first game of their own back-to-back, the Spurs will need to be ready for both units.

Does Dejounte Murray sit tonight or tomorrow night?

It was recently reported by Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News that Murray would be out for one half of back-to-backs for the foreseeable future. With this being the first game of the first back-to-back set of the season, it remains to be seen if Pop will give Dejounte tonight or tomorrow night off against the Golden State Warriors.

What they’re saying

Dan Devine of The Ringer recently wrote about how Leonard’s final weakness has become a strength:

“Leonard’s debut with the Clippers has coincided with the unveiling of what looks like the final piece of his all-around package: an ability to consistently serve as the primary facilitator for an elite offense.”

Leonard is averaging 7.5 assists per game during the early-goings of this year’s season. If he kept that pace up the rest of the season, it would shatter his career-high from last season of 3.3 helpers per game. Leonard has improved by leaps and bounds as an offensive player since being drafted by San Antonio in 2011. Now that he is surrounded by play-makers and shooters, the Spurs will have their hands full in trying to contain him.

Vegas Line: Clippers -5, O/U 225

Prediction: Clippers by 4

For the Clippers’ perspective, please visit Clips Nation.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed if you don’t have a radio around.