The San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers have both had plenty of injury problems recently, but for the first time in quite a while, the two teams meet with both rosters completely healthy.
The Clippers have already beaten the Spurs twice this season, home & away, but that was still in the first month of the season, and some things have changed since. One thing that hasn’t is the complete reliance on Chris Paul and his ability to not only score for the team, but make things easy quickly so that the bench unit can get into action.
The first time the two teams met was in the Staples center, and the Clippers ran the Spurs off the floor (winning 106-84). It was one of those games in which Chris Paul didn’t even have to play 30 minutes, forcing the Spurs to 20 turnovers and 41.1% from the field, while Blake Griffin scored 22 points and DeAndre Jordan added 20.
Two weeks later the Clippers won 92-87 with more terrific defense, keeping the Spurs at a terrible 35.4% from the field while Chris Paul led the team with 19 points and 8 assists.
However, things are a little bit different now. The Spurs, rested, have the best record in the NBA, winning 15 of their last 16 games, despite the injury that kept Tim Duncan out of most of these games. As always, Tony Parker emerged as the key man for the team, averaging 26.7 points in his last nine games, while the Spurs did well without him in their 103-89 win in Chicago, with Kawhi Leonard showing there’s a bright future to look forward to.
One of the keys for the Spurs will be to try and limit Blake Griffin but also find a way to take the Clippers defense out of its regular form and put up better numbers than in the previous two meeting. Griffin has averaged 24.8 points and 12.8 rebounds in the past five meetings in Los Angeles, including last postseason.
Prediction – The Clippers are extremely hard to beat at home, even for the team with the best record in the NBA. There are no neutral grounds in the NBA, and unless the Spurs get an early lead and hang on to it, it’s hard to see them coming out of the Staples with a win.