The Back Story:
- November 17, 2008 in LA - San Antonio 86 - Clippers 83 box score recap
- January 8, 2009 in San Antonio - San Antonio 106 - Clippers 84 box score recap
The Big Picture:
The Clippers crazy season continues, whether we like it or not. I'm glad the month of February is over - I don't think I could take much more of that (so let's hope March isn't repeat). February started with two embarrassing losses in Florida, followed by two blowout wins on the road, followed by an emabarrassing loss, followed by an overtime win before the All Star break. Coming out of the break, it was back to back nights allowing 140+ points to the Suns before it got REALLY ugly in Portland, those three losses themselves followed by back to back wins, the second being over the defending Champion Celtics. So how do you follow up a signature win? With a signature loss to the team with the worst record in the NBA, the Sacramento Kings. They closed the month Saturday night at home with a loss to the Bobcats. March will likely not begin auspicely, given the Clippers traditional futility against the Spurs. And with Eric Gordon expected to miss this game (not to mention Fred Jones and Mardy Collins), it's going to be a difficult task indeed. I'm hoping that MDsr will start Mike Taylor next to Baron Davis in the backcourt. Ricky Davis is pointless, and not only is Taylor young and promising and in need of more playing time to help him develop, he also happens to be the one guy on the Clippers roster who has some hope of being able to keep up with Tony Parker.
The Clippers and Spurs have at least one thing in common - they were both completely blown out of the building in Portland the last two Sundays. The Blazers beat the Clippers 116-87 8 days ago, and they beat the Spurs 102-84 last night. So thanks for that, Blazers. No real chance the Spurs are going to come out flat against LA after what happened up north (they were down 64-37 at halftime - ouch). Tim Duncan returned to the Spurs lineup last night after missing three games with a quad injury, but they'll still be without Manu Ginobili, out with an ongoing ankle injury. With Ginobili out and Duncan hurting, the key to stop the Spurs is containing Tony Parker. Don't believe me? In the last 4 games, Parker has had 37 and 39 in Spurs wins (without Duncan) and 11 and 15 in Spurs losses. But the formula in San Antonio remains more or less the same as always. Play defense; put shooters on the floor; let Parker penetrate and either finish or kick; and when all else fails, just fall back on Duncan, the most fundamentally sound player in the league.
- Zach Randolph. Zach flew to Indiana to be with his critically ill father after the Charlotte game. Even if he returns in time (and it's unclear if he will), he could have a tough night going up against Tim Duncan. The best case scenario is he'll have taken two cross country flights in two days and will be physically and emotionally drained - or he might not make it back at all. And if Zach has a tough night, the Clippers are pretty certain to have a tough night.
- Taylor versus Parker. He has a very, very long way to go, but the correct NBA role model for Mike Taylor will be in the building tonight. Tony Parker is incredibly quick and has an uncanny knack for finishing at the rim in traffic, despite the fact that he's only 6'2". Taylor is more or less the same size as Parker, and likewise relies on his speed and quickness. He also has the ability to finish at the rim. Mike Taylor is not Tony Parker - not by a long shot. But it's something to strive for.
- 50% shooting - in a loss. The Clippers shot 50% from the field against the Bobcats on Saturday night - and lost. That's the first time this season they've shot over 50% and not come away with the victory. Offensive rebounds for the Bobcats and turnovers by the Clippers resulted in significantly more shots for Charlotte. The Clippers can absolutely not afford for that to happen against the Spurs. They must take care of the ball, and they must take care of their defensive glass. It's going to be tough enough as it is.
- Three point shooting. The Spurs start Roger Mason, who was out of the league for several years, Michael Finley, who probably should be out of the league via retiremen by now, and Matt Bonner, who never should have been in the league in the first place. What do these three have in common besides starting for the Spurs? They can all shoot the three. If you double Duncan in the post, or help on a Parker drive, your rotations have got to be perfect to get to these guys before they burn you.
- No Excuses. The Clippers have gotten quite adept the last two seasons at making excuses for their poor showings, the overriding theme being injuries. And certainly the Clippers have had many, many injuries, and injuries do matter. Perhaps the one team in the league that puts the lie to that is the Spurs. Ginobili has missed 20 games and counting, Parker has missed 10, Duncan has missed 5 - but they still have the second best record in the Western Conference. The player days lost to injury is a whole different order of magnitude for the Clippers, but the Spurs prove nonetheless that you can go out there, even without you stars, and still compete.
- Matchups. The matchups don't look overly favorable for the Clippers in this game. One that might be advantageous is Al Thornton. If he's aggressive and hitting his jumper reasonably well, Finley could have trouble defending him. Other than that, I think Baron has got to be aggressive in this game. Whether it's Parker or Mason defending against him, it's one of the better matchups on the floor for the Clippers. I hate to say it, but I think Baron needs to look for his own shot tonight - preferably going to the hole.
- Back to back for the Spurs. The Spurs on the second game of a back to back, and the flight down from Portland is one of the longest ones the league's schedule makers will give a team on a back to back. So they could be tired - but not really. The game in Portland was over by halftime, and Popovich gave most of his players a lot of time off. I expect the Spurs to be fine, and extra motivated after being smoked by the Blazers.
- Superstar for one game. Roger Mason. Mason won the first game of the season between these two teams when he sank a three on the Spurs final possession.
How all occasions do inform against me and spur my dull revenge. O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody or nothing worth. If I must strike you dead, I will.
- Get the Spurs perspective at Pounding the Rock.