NBA Playoffs, Clippers-Spurs Game 2: The 5 Key Matchups

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Chris Paul vs Tony Parker

Apr 19, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) reacts to an injury during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the NBA’s top point guards facing off in the playoffs? It’s an obvious matchup, yet a very important one.

Even though Paul is the superior defender, Tony Parker still showed that he can get round him with the help of an occasional screen in order to get to the basket, as he so loves to do. And regardless of the fact that he may no longer be putting up 18 points per game, Parker’s ability to penetrate is a fundamental part of the Spurs’ offense.

It allows him to draw attention away from others so they can cut to the basket, as well as making the Clippers wary of a possible drive to the rim when he really intends to kick the ball outside to the three-point line, or to Duncan and Diaw as they wait above the elbow.

This season has only been the second of Parker’s career when the majority of his shots haven’t come from within three feet of the basket (now, he takes slightly more of his shots from between 16 feet and the three-point line). So even though he may have improved his range somewhat, he’s still at his best surrounded by the opponent’s frontcourt, where he made 60 percent of his shots within three feet this year.

With Jordan to back him up inside, though, Paul was able to force Parker to take more jump shots, which in turn limited him to only 4 made shots and 10 total points.

CP3, on the other hand, was on fire.

His 32 points perfectly illustrated his poise under pressure, and showcased his ability to blow past defenders or use his highly effective mid-range game. Paul’s 51.9 percent shooting from 10-16 feet out this season is the most efficient rate of his career, and his mark of 39.8 percent from behind the arc is the second best he’s ever had.

Simply put, he’s just too much for Parker when he’s playing at his best. And that should be one of the more consistent trends that continues throughout this series (even if he’s not dropping 30 every night).

If the Spurs are going to contain Paul, it’s not going to be with Parker, but through the smothering defense of Leonard instead.