NBA Playoffs: Clippers-Spurs Regular Season Series Review


There was only one scenario that would put the Clippers and Spurs together in the first round of this year’s NBA playoffs; and it happened. But before looking into the specifics, here’s a look back at how they performed against each other during the regular season.

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Even though the Spurs have been hitting their stride at the perfect time recently, they aren’t the only hot team heading into the playoffs. In fact, the Clippers have won seven straight games and 14 of their last 15. Which means that judging by the last two weeks of the regular season, these two teams are the hottest in the NBA. In addition to the similar form of the Spurs and Clippers right now, the regular season series between them was fairly matched as well, with both teams winning two games.

Yet the margin of victory is where these two teams can be separated. Surprisingly, the Clippers come out on top. And their total win margin of 24 points from both victories is noticeably higher than the Spurs’ 11.

It’s not like the Spurs were lacking any key players, either. They had Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili in both losses to the Clippers.

So before people start arguing that this series is a blowout before it’s even begun — because everyone loves Popovich and Timmy to pieces (which, don’t get me wrong, is fair enough) — let’s take a look into how this season has actually played out.

Apr 8, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gestures from the sidelines during the first half against the Houston Rockets at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

November 10th: Spurs win (in Los Angeles) 89-95.

Chris Paul needed just one more assist to record a triple-double, but missing a shot late in the fourth quarter proved too costly as the Spurs prevailed.

The Clippers’ defense, on the other hand, rose to the occasion and held the Spurs to a mere 39.8 percent shooting night, including going 2 of 19 from three-point range. Meanwhile, the issue for L.A. was turnovers (17 to be exact) and a lack of poised ball control, which left Paul commenting “They [Spurs] basically gave us a clinic down the stretch on how to close out a game”.

December 22nd: Spurs win (in San Antonio) 125-118.

The Spurs began the game as they meant to go on, by shooting 75 percent from the field in the first half and finishing the game at a 63.6 percent. The Clippers had a hot hand, too, shooting 41.7 percent from three point range. But despite a uncharacteristic bench performance from the Clippers (who produced 37 points) it still wasn’t enough to stop the Spurs’ immense efficiency.

January 31st: Clippers win (in San Antonio) 105-85.

Again, the Clippers’ bench managed to take their game to another level in a strong win on the road. Austin Rivers and Spencer Hawes both scored 11 each as L.A. limited the Spurs’ bench (who were averaging just over 40 points per game at the time) to just 28. This has by no means been the trend for the Clippers all year, but somehow their bench has faired reasonably well against the Spurs.

Most importantly, though, it was the 31 points of Blake Griffin and dominance of DeAndre Jordan on the boards (who grabbed 19 rebounds) that led L.A. to victory.

February 19th: Clippers win (in L.A.) 119-115.

Other than shooting a poor 10-28 from the charity stripe (Hack-a-Jordan could be an issue in the playoffs) DeAndre Jordan dominated; recording a career-high 26 points to go along with 18 rebounds. He scored 12 points in the third as the Clippers were able to out-pace the Spurs and take the lead. And if the Spurs hadn’t already been bullied enough by Jordan, Paul added 22 points and 16 assists, with Jamal Crawford pouring in 26 off the bench.

Despite a 30 point night from Duncan, the Clippers were able to keep their composure in the fourth quarter to secure the win. But what’s most impressive about this win?

The fact that the Clippers didn’t have Blake Griffin.

Apr 14, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers (center) talks to guard J.J. Redick (4) and guard Chris Paul (3) in the second half against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Clippers beat the Suns 112-101. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Clippers haven’t played the Spurs since February (and the Spurs have only been hitting the top of their form over the last month or so) the fact they have won the last two contests is extremely promising as their round 1 tip-off is rapidly approaching.

The Clippers’ bench has been weak this year, yet somehow they’ve managed to just about hold their own at times against the Spurs this season. Will it continue in a seven game playoff series? The chances aren’t great to say the least. Especially now that San Antonio are starting to look like their Championship selves again. And with Popovich leading their starting five — who have more experience of how to advance to the Finals than anyone — combined with their immense depth, the Spurs need to be treated as more than just contenders; but as the defending champions that they are.

However, the Clippers’ win margin of 24 points in their two victories must be noted. Not to mention that the dominance of DeAndre Jordan in the paint will be fundamental in controlling not just rebounding and rim protection, but the impact that one of the Spurs’ top two players, Tim Duncan, can have as well.

Paul is certainly capable of guarding Parker, but how much will Leonard disrupt the Clippers’ offense on the perimeter in return?

We’ll be looking into all of these aspects in full detail here at Fully Clips over the next couple of days. But what their regular season performances have told us already, is that this series may be a little closer than some of you might think.

Next: By The Numbers: DeAndre Jordan's Year In Rebounding