The Los Angeles Clippers were finally able to finish off the Memphis Grizzlies in seven games. Their reward for coming out of that slug fest? They get to play the well-rested San Antonio Spurs.
The fact that it took the Clippers three chances to finish off the Grizzlies is going to be huge for the Spurs. Games 5-7 were grueling, not to mention the fact that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both got hurt. With such a quick turnaround, there’s no way the Clippers will be at full strength, which is going to make this a tough series for them.
Let’s look at the matchups.
This point guard battle is going to be great to watch. Chris Paul plays on the bigger stage and got to show off his skills in this past series against the Grizzlies, so I think a lot of people are going to be expecting him to do well and carry the team against the Spurs, but I think we’re going to see an inspired effort from Tony Parker. I think TP is the better point guard, and he’s going to be out to prove it in this series. He’s going to show why he’s had an MVP-type season. Even before Paul’s groin injury, I still would have given the edge to Parker, but now, it’s a much easier choice.
The other interesting matchup is going to be who the Spurs throw at Blake Griffin. In San Antonio’s overtime win against the Clippers back in February, Griffin had 22 points and 20 rebounds. You can bet Coach Pop will have a plan to keep Griffin in check but are any of the Spurs big men athletic enough for the job? This may be the one area where the Clippers have the advantage.
I think the Spurs lucked out playing the Clippers because aside from Griffin, their post players aren’t that talented. At center, Tim Duncan’s matchup with DeAndre Jordan should be no problem. Jordan is very athletic, but has been playing poorly recently and lost a lot of his playing time to Reggie Evans. Evans is also athletic but lacks any real skill and is mostly just a pesky hustle player in there to disrupt things down low. Tim Duncan should do very well in this series.
The two and three positions will be kind of a toss up. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green will have tougher tests in this series and we’ll see how they respond to the pressure. For the Clippers, you still never know what you’re going to get from Caron Butler since he broke his hand, but he’s been doing a good job of playing through the pain so far. Randy Foye has shown he’s a great shooter, but also can be off at times. The shooting guard/small forward matchup could go either way.
The Clippers have a very solid bench and some of the bench players get more minutes than the starters, depending on who’s playing well. You may see more of Reggie Evans than DeAndre Jordan and you might see more of Mo Williams than you see of Randy Foye. The Clippers have 10 guys all capable of giving you more than 20 minutes in a game, so there’s no real distinction between starters and bench. With that being said, they still don’t go as deep as the Spurs. I think after their long series with Memphis, they’re going to be exhausted because everyone had to put in their share of minutes and they’re not going to have any real fresh legs.
The Spurs have had so much rest, and they’re deep. Coach Gregg Popovich has the ability to throw wave after wave of energized players at the Clippers and I don’t think they’ll know how to respond. The Clippers bench may be a little more stacked with talent at the top, but the Spurs bench has more talent spread out over more players, which I think will be a big key in this series.
I’ll make this part short because there’s not a coach left in the playoffs that I think is on par with Coach Pop. The closest would probably be the Celtics’ Doc Rivers, but it’s definitely not Vinny Del Negro. Vinny is a smart guy and he understands the game of basketball, but he’s still relatively new at this. He’s been criticized as one of the weak points of the Clippers organization and if he hadn’t gotten past Memphis, his job may have even been in jeopardy. He hasn’t quite figured out how to use his team’s talent and I think Coach Pop is going to know how to exploit this. I would expect to see some real coaching discrepancies in this series.
I just can’t see the Clippers coming out sharp after a 7-game series where (especially in Game 7) they got beat up and thrown around. It’s going to be tough for them to win any games in San Antonio and I can even see them dropping one at home. The Clippers biggest asset is Chris Paul and there’s a good chance he’ll be neutralized by Tony Parker. If you shut down Paul then the whole Clippers offense stalls because their big men can’t create their own shots and the guards thrive on spotting up when the attention is on their point guard. I don’t see the Clippers being able to give the Spurs much competition at all.
Spurs in 5 games.
What do you have to say Spurs fans? How do you see this series going?