Spurs vs. Clippers Series Preview: 10 Reasons Not To Underestimate The Clips

May 15, 2012

The San Antonio Spurs face the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals tonight. The overwhelming opinion among the sports media is that the Spurs will crush the Clippers in 4 or 5 games.  Of course, on the surface there are many reasons to believe the Spurs will win this series decisively. 

The most obvious being the following advantages they have over the Clippers:

1. Championship Experience
No one can dispute the resume of veterans like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. Almost as importantly, Greg Popovich is a coaching legend who is universally respected and deserves all of the accolades he has received, including this year’s NBA Coach of the Year honors.

No Clipper players have been important pieces in a playoff run to the NBA title, and many had no playoff experience before this year. The veteran with such experience, Chauncey Billups, who helped steady the ship early in the season, has been out with an injury since February.

2. Consistency
The Spurs were 50-16 and the #1 seed in the Western Conference this season. Their best players have been playing in San Antonio for many years.

The Clippers are almost an entirely different team from last year – and a team that really could have used a preseason. Chris Paul, Caron Butler, Reggie Evans, Nick Young, and Kenyon Martin all became Clippers right before or during this season. 

3. Rest
The one “concern” about the Spurs, seemingly for the last three years, is the possibility that their veterans will finally be just too old to play at the highest level. But the Spurs come into this series having had 8 days off. Further, Pop wisely limited the minutes of his older players throughout the season for the very purpose of keeping them fresh for the Playoff run.

The Clippers just finished a grueling 7-game series with Memphis on Sunday.

4. Health
Currently, the Spurs are as healthy as they have ever been.
The Clippers? Blake Griffin's sprained knee is the most serious concern right now, but ongoing injuries to Chris Paul, Caron Butler, and Mo Williams could be a factor as well.

5. Timing
The Spurs won their last 10 regular season games before sweeping Utah in 4. That makes 14 straight victories. No team is hotter.

Armed with such truths, a typical analysis of the series on ESPN, TNT, or ABC begins with some version of the question: “Will the Clippers win a game in the series?” Earlier today, Jemele Hill of ESPN made the astonishing statement that she believed that the Spurs second unit would defeat the Clippers first unit.


A look below the surface suggests this series won’t be a walk in the park for the Spurs. Here are the top 10 reasons the Clippers will make this a close series:

10. Heat Check

Come on, are the Spurs really going to win 18 games in row?

9. Schedule

The playoff series schedule has the teams playing Games 3 and 4 in LA back-to-back days. While the Spurs veteran legs might be rested now, they might actually be tested playing Game 4 in LA on Sunday right after playing Game 3 on Saturday.

8. Veteran Bench

Lost in much of the discussion about the Clippers “youth” is the fact that Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, and Mo Williams are the core of the Clippers bench. All are experienced veterans who will not shy away from the pressure, as they proved in Game 7 at Memphis.

7. Fresh Start

While the Clippers roster is full of players who are either young or new to the organization – that is a good thing. The odious “Clippers History” has very little impact on the current team and because many of the players have not played together for long, there is a very real belief that anything is possible when the team reaches its potential.

6. Lessons Learned

If the Clippers were lacking in playoff experience, either individually or as a collective unit, the physical 7-game series with Memphis was a huge education. By winning Game 7 in Memphis, the Clippers showed they were mentally tough and ready to step it up to the next level.

5. 3-Point Shot

The Spurs are the best 3-Point shooting team in the NBA at 39.3%. The Spurs typically beat teams with a potent offense that features textbook ball movement and great perimeter shooting. However, any team that relies so heavily on perimeter shooting can get cold. Furthermore, the long rebounds could trigger the Clipper fast break allowing “Lob City” to be in full effect.

4. Spurs Defense

Apparently the old rule that “defense wins championships” is not supposed to apply, or so the Spurs sycophants would have you believe. San Antonio ranked 17th in defense this year in the NBA.   The Clippers will have much more freedom and success on offense in this series than against the Grizzlies.  A faster pace game helps the Clippers.

3. Regular Season

Based upon the prior games this season, there is no reason to believe the Spurs will “dominate” the Clippers.  Although San Antonio won 2 out of the 3 games the teams played this season, the results are misleading. The first game took place at San Antonio and was in December, when the Clippers were basically still trying to remember the names of their own teammates.

The second game in Los Angeles, a 103-100 overtime victory for the Spurs, was a close, high- level contest. The Clippers, more specifically (and surprisingly) Chris Paul, basically threw the game away in the last two seconds when they had the ball up by three points.

The most recent game was a dominant 120-108 win by the Clippers at San Antonio in a game Parker did not play. Paul made up for his mistake in the prior contest with 36 points and 11 assists.

2. Blake Griffin

Unless his injury is more severe than reported, expect Blake Griffin to have a big series. Unlike the “grit and grind” style of the Grizzlies, the Spurs are not exactly a “physical” ball club. Griffin struggles most with defenders who constantly bang him around and try and intimidate him, which isn’t San Antonio’s style. Whatever the Spurs throw at Griffin, it is unlikely it will be as effective as what the Grizzlies were able to do.

1. Chris Paul

Arguably the game’s best closer, Paul was 3rd in the MVP voting this season for a reason. His will and mental toughness in the 4th quarter have repeatedly saved the Clippers down the stretch in games and led them to comeback victories. If you have seen him play regularly this season, you wouldn’t hesitate to label him as the best individual player in this series.  That's a nice luxury to have.

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for The Daily Sports Herald

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