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Clippers at Spurs - Game Preview and Open Thread

LA Clippers logo
Spurs logo
21-49 48-23
AT&T Center
Mar. 26, 2008 - 5:30 PM
TV: KTLA, Channel 5
Probable starters:
Smush Parker 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:

The Clippers are staggering to the finish line of this unforgettable (though we wish we could) season.  They have lost a season-high eight in a row, and really nothing short of a miracle is going to keep that from becoming 10 in a row by Friday in Salt Lake City.  Tonight, it's the defending champion Spurs.  The only bright spot I can imagine is that Chris Kaman will probably play tonight.  He's been ready for awhile, which begs the question why MDsr would use him here and not in Dallas.  The only answer I can imagine is that he doesn't want it to get too ugly.  If Joel Przybilla and Erick Dampier look like MVPs against the tiny Generic Clippers, then what would an actual MVP look like?

The Antagonist:

The Spurs always fly a little below the radar.  It's hard to imagine how they do it, given that they have won 4 titles in the last 9 years, but they somehow manage.  It's been a little easier this season - with the Suns, Lakers and Mavs making blockbuster trades, with the Blazers and Rockets going on long winning streaks, with the Hornets at the top of the Conference - well, there's been loads of reasons to talk about every team EXCEPT the Spurs.  And in the current standings, they are fifth in the conference.  FIFTH!  Of course, they're all of one game out of first, so fifth sounds a little more dire than it is.  The Spurs' formula for success (three superstars surrounded by salary cap bargains filling roles) is going to be put the test this season.  The superstars are better than ever - Ginobili and Duncan are 5th and 6th in the NBA in PER, Parker is 37th - but the role players are looking tired.  And why not?  Bruce Bowen (36), Brent Barry (36), Michael Finley (35), Robert Horry (37), Fabricio Oberto (33), Damon Stoudamire (34), Kurt Thomas (35) and Jacque Vaughan (33) are old.  If they can continue to make clutch threes in the playoffs, the Spurs can win.  But it's looking more and more like R.C. Buford needs to bring in some of that talent he has stashed in Europe.

The Subplots

  • The Return of Kaman.  I don't really know any more about this situation than you guys do, but even MDsr isn't cruel enough to make us watch the Clippers try to defend and rebound against Tim Duncan with Josh Powell and Tim Thomas and Nick Fazekas.  Is he?  It's basically an open secret that Kaman has been healthy enough to play at least some minutes.  Hell, he practiced at full speed for 20 minutes on Monday.  At some point, I think you have to think about getting him back to a high level, to re-build the confidence of the first half of this season.  Let's face facts - whether it can all be attributed to injuries and illness or not, the one previously indisputable accomplishment of this wasted season has been a major disappointment in the second half.  I think it would be a huge mistake to shelve him much longer, and have his successes this season called into question.  He's already dropped off the leader board for rebounding - he's not on pace to get enough total boards to qualify.  He needs 119 more rebounds with 12 games remaining, so it's still within reach if he actually plays.  Shouldn't the guy AT LEAST get to say he was third in the league in rebounding this season, without a friggin' asterisk?  (He's already qualified on blocked shots.)
  • Smush Parker, Starting Point Guard.  Well, it was inevitable I suppose.  With Brevin Knight's stress reaction acting up, and facing a big backcourt of Jason Kidd and Jerry Stackhouse, Smush Parker got the start last night in Dallas.  And I threw up in my mouth, just a little.  Matt at Hardwood Paroxysm made a good point today about MDsr's assertion that Smush, as a supposedly proven NBA starter, is a no-brainer over the likes of Andre Barrett and other relative unknowns in the D-League:  Smush himself is a refugee from the D-League!  I'm not sure how he does it, but almost everything Smush does on the basketball court just screams, "I have talent, but I just don't give a shit."  We have one of those thank you very much.  We don't need another one.
  • Stopping the Big Three.  The Clippers will have to contain the Spurs Big Three of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker.  Here's how they can do it.  They can't.  I'm guessing MDsr will start Ross and ask him to stay in front of Parker.  When Ginobili comes, Cat will give it a shot.  Kaman will try to handle Duncan.  But the truth is, the Spurs win all those matchups handily.  Which means double teams, breakdowns, blown rotations, and wide open threes for Finley, Bowen and Barry.
  • The Feel-Good Stories Aren't Feeling so Good.  In addition to Chris Kaman's lost second half, Al Thornton is really struggling lately, threatening to leave a little tarnish on both of the Clippers' diamonds in this rough season.  Al is 6 for 30 in the last three games - that's 20% folks.  He's really struggling with his jump shot.  Evidently his struggling with a sore hamstring, but he just looks tired to me.  Still, it's pretty clear we've got a real deal scorer on our hands, and if he's the fourth option on offense, it's a pretty good fourth option, even if he's struggling right now trying to be the first or second option down the stretch of his first 82 game season.