Western Conference Semifinals: San Antonio Spurs vs Los Angeles Clippers
The San Antonio Spurs made quick work of their first round opponent, the Utah Jazz. The Los Angeles Clippers failed twice to close out theirs, the Memphis Grizzlies, before winning a thrilling game seven. Now, top ranked San Antonio will host the fourth ranked Clippers on Tuesday night it what could be a thrilling, but short series.
San Antonio comes into this game on a fourteen game winning streak and, for the most part, very healthy. Los Angeles, on the other hand, comes in after a very physical series with the Grizzlies that has their two stars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, banged up. Griffin expects to play, but Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro is not sure if Griffin will make the trip for game 1.
The Spurs and Clippers have played three times this season. San Antonio won two of those three meetings, winning one at home and one on the road. San Antonio comes into this game as arguably the hottest team in the league. San Antonio is 2nd in the league averaging 103.7 points per game on 23.2 assits. Los Angeles, on the other hand, averages a league 16th best 97.5 points per game on 21 assists.
There are three keys that I think each team will have to focus on if they want to win this series. I’ll start with the Spurs.
3 Spurs Keys to Victory
- Shut Down Chris Paul - Blake Griffin is going to have his dunks if his knee is healthy. However, the Clippers offense runs through Paul. Tony Parker, or whoever is guarding him, must force Paul to give it up. Los Angeles is young and athletic, but they will struggle to score if Paul is not executing crisply on offense.
- Attack Blake Griffin - Blake hasn’t played a whole lot of defense at times this season. Sure, he’s had some big shots, but he is vulnerable and can get drawn into some silly fouls. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Parker should attack Griffin and force him to either foul or give up easy points.
- Pace of Play – Chris Paul likes to slow the game down a little bit, and let the plays develop. San Antonio can play either fast or slow, but if they get into a running fest with the Clippers, it could be to their advantage. The Spurs have a deeper bench that will be ready to play. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is tired after a long, grueling series. Speed up the pace and punish the Clippers.
3 Clippers Keys to Victory
- Limit Tony Parker in the Lane - Tony Parker is going to get his shots, whether it be closer to the basket or outside. If I were the Clippers, I’d make Parker take outside shots rather than let him get easy shots near the basket.
- Limit Spurs 3 Point Shots - The Spurs love to shoot the three. They shoot it at one of the best percentages in the league. If the Spurs get hot from deep, they will force the Clippers to extend the defense, which will then leave lanes to penetrate. Force the Spurs to take long two’s instead of threes.
- Get Griffin and Paul Involved - The Clippers offense runs through Paul and Griffin. Griffin has to play as if he wants to be there, but not force anything. The Spurs may double team him, and if that happens, Griffin has to find the open shooter. Paul must work on and off the dribble to get open and find open teammates.
With the Spurs getting quite a few days of rest after their sweep, and the Clippers coming in off a grueling series, this one could be over quick. I don’t think the Spurs will pull off the sweep, but I think they win this series 4-1 and advance to play the winner of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers series.
Check back tomorrow for an individual position by position, bench, and coaching breakdown of the Spurs/Clippers series.
Follow Paul Troupe on Twitter @gamin4HIM