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Clippers vs. Spurs - Game Preview and Open Thread

LA Clippers logo
Spurs logo
10-20 22-9
Staples Center
Jan. 6, 2008 - 12:30 PM
Probable starters:
Sam Cassell PG Tony Parker
Quinton Ross SG Michael Finley
Corey Maggette SF Bruce Bowen
Tim Thomas PF Tim Duncan
Chris Kaman C Fabricio Oberto
The Big Picture:

When these two teams met 15 days ago in San Antonio, the result was a surprisingly embarrassing 99-90 Spurs win.  That was the last game that Tim Thomas appeared in, and after Saturday's Clipper practice, it seems like Tim will get back on the court against the Spurs also.  In fact, Aaron Williams is expected to be available also, meaning that MDsr will have at his disposal a full complement of 12 players for the first time since... since... since a long damn time, that's for sure.  

The Antagonist:

The Spurs are 22-9, a half game ahead of the Suns for best record in the Western Conference.  They tend to seem not as spectacular, not as glamorous, as some other teams, but they're always there.  One of their big three will not be playing tonight - Manu Ginobili was injured two weeks ago in the last Clippers game and is close to returning, but is not expected to play in this game.  Still, Duncan and Parker will play, and that should be enough for the Spurs (even though I think Manu has been their MVP this season).  Parker's averaging 20 points per game and shooting 49% and is the greatest finisher at the rim for a point guard since Kevin Johnson.  And Duncan is just Duncan.  When the Clippers cut a 20 point lead down to 6 in San Antonio, Duncan just kind of said, 'That's enough' and scored 7 straight and that was that.  There are other players on the Spurs, but most people find them pretty boring.

The Subplots

  • The Kaman Rules.  It's pretty clear that somewhere in the second month of the season the advanced scouting caught up with Kaman 2.0 and it's been tough going ever since for Chris.  In the last Spurs game, he had a horrible first half where he went 1 for 9, but bounced back big time with a 7 for 8 second half, and a slew of blocked shots in the fourth quarter.  If he wants to be compared favorably with the likes of Tim Duncan, he needs to play well against the Spurs.  Having Tim Thomas back in the lineup may help - it may not be great basketball to have your power forward shooting threes, but it does create more space for Kaman in the middle, and it gives him another shooter to pass to when the doubles come.
  • A Brutal Schedule.  If you think the Clippers have played a tough schedule lately, you're right.  They're in the middle of a stretch in which they play 7 in 26 days games against the big three Spurs, Suns and Mavs.  That's basically two of those games per week for almost 4 weeks.  That's crazy.  Oh, and then there are the games against New Orleans and Orlando and Utah.  That's what they get for losing all those easy games.
  • Healthy Generic Clippers?  Ignoring the major surgery crowd (Brand, Livingston and now Davis), every other Clipper is apparently ready to play in this game.  By my calculation, and barring an in-game injury, it will be only the 5th game this season that Cassell, Mobley, Maggette and Thomas will all play together.  The Clippers won the previous 4 - but those games weren't against the Spurs.  After a Saturday practice featuring 12 healthy bodies and full court scrimmages, maybe the team can stop feeling sorry for itself and play some good basketball.  Of course, it's Thomas' first game back, so it remains to be seen if he is at full strength, or if indeed he plays at all.
  • Home Court Advantage?  Hardly.  The Clippers are 5-10 at home, 5-10 on the road.  Still, with everyone healthy including some decent scorers, this is the kind of game where the crowd could get pretty pumped if the Clippers can get off to a good start against the Champs.  And while the Spurs have always been one of the best road teams in basketball (27-14 last year), they're only 5-7 so far this season.
  • Thornton.  With everybody back, it will be interesting to see what happens to Al Thornton's minutes.  He had his best game as a pro the last time these teams met, scoring 25 points.  He's had some good games since then as well, including 7 for 11 Wednesday against the Hornets.  But does he keep playing at the four?  Or does he take the backup minutes at the three?  Of a little of both?