Clippers-Spurs, The First 6: A Look Back and a Preview


The NBA Playoffs have given us the two extremes of what can happen in a 7-game series. In cases like the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards,and even the Memphis Grizzlies, the first round seemingly went off without much contest from the opposition. Then there have been the tighter playoff match ups such as the Hawks vs Nets.

The crown jewel of this playoff first round though has been the back and forth matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers. The teams have traded victories to reach the most exciting day in postseason basketball: Game 7. It’s a win or go home scenario, and the stakes have never been higher for either team this season.

In one corner sits the Western Conference’s third seed. The Los Angeles Clippers have been dominant throughout the season. Lob City came away from the season with the highest rated offense in the league and with good reason: the three headed monster of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin has been as lethal as ever. Aside from their nightly highlight reel, the trio has amassed big time success. The biggest short coming of the Clippers this season has been their bench play. Their only consistent contributions from the bench comes in the form of perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Jamal Crawford. Outside of his play the Clippers didn’t really get any help from a non-starter on nightly basis.

In the first six games we’ve seen the Clippers play some of their best basketball of the season. However, we’ve also witnessed some major lapses and disappointing outings. To this point it appears as though the team has run solely on the shoulders of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The Hack-A-DeAndre strategy that the Spurs have now turned into a daily game plan limits the number of field goal attempts that Paul and Griffin are able to heave up because they’re being beaten to the punch by fouls on Jordan. When they’re able to shoot efficiently and move the ball effectively in their fleeting opportunities, they have the potential to blow the Spurs’ defense out of the water.

On the other bench for this Game 7 matchup are the San Antonio Spurs. A perennial title contender, this Spurs core has already risen to the promised land on 5 separate occasions. This year’s edition of the Greg Popovich-run franchise had a late season run that led them to the Western Conference’s sixth seed. Their strength lies in their depth, with an upwards of eight players who can give you a big game on any given night. In addition they have the rising superstar in the two-way wing, Kawhi Leonard. In terms of weakness in this series, the biggest gap has been the one left by the disappearance of Tony Parker.

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Through six contests the Spurs have also had their fair share of highs and lows. The biggest question mark of course has been the play of Tony Parker as he continues to play through nagging injuries he’s accumulated. Tim Duncan, as always, has been the model of consistency in this series. The incredible bench play highlighted by the performances of Boris Diaw and Patty Mills is giving San Antonio consistently fresh legs on both sides of the ball.

As we hit the climax of excitement tonight inside the Staples Center, there are a couple of keys to the game that we should be watching out for. For the Clippers, DeAndre Jordan has to make at least 75% of his attempts from the charity stripe; make Popovich pay for sending him there so often. Also, the Clippers need to limit the production of Tim Duncan; locking down the Big Fundamental is no easy feat but if they can force him out of the post and make him settle for long-twos they have a great chance of pulling this one out.

For the visiting Spurs, the key will be to push the pace as often as possible; we’re now seven games into the playoffs so Los Angeles’ six-man rotation has already seen a lot of playing time, if you try and speed the game up you force their tired legs to catch up to them. Also for the Spurs, Boris Diaw needs to effectively space the floor when he’s on the court by knocking down his open attempts from 15+ feet from the basket; if he’s connecting that’ll force defenders into closing out on him thus leaving Duncan in man-to-man coverage down low.

Even though this series has been back-and-forward the whole way through, the one thing we have learned for certain is that home court advantage doesn’t matter. Tonight, the series effectively starts again, and we’ll see whether the Clippers can progress into their best postseason in franchise history.

Next: Did Jamal Crawford Get Away With A Travel?