The Back Story:
First meeting of the season. San Antonio swept the season series last year (and the year before that, and the year before that).
The Big Picture:
I can barely remember the last time the Clippers played. I seem to recall that they played well for long stretches against Orlando, but an all too familiar fourth quarter meltdown spelled their demise. San Antonio may not have Orlando's record right now, but they're still an elite team, and the Clippers will have to play well all the way to the end of the game to win it. The long layoff has been tough on fans eager to see some basketball, but it's been good for Eric Gordon's hamstring. Hopefully he's fully recovered and ready to go tonight. He'll need some help from his teammates - the Spurs aren't the kind of team you beat based on one player's spectacular performance. It will take an overall team effort. History is not on our side. The Clippers have lost 12 straight to San Antonio, and 20 out of 21. But maybe it's OK - LA broke a 13 game losing streak to the Pistons earlier this year, so maybe this is the year to end long losing streaks. Or maybe not.
What's wrong with the Spurs? They're a mere 11-9. Much more of a concern is that they've compiled that record with a very home heavy schedule so far. They've played only 6 road games all year, and they've only won one of those. No team in the NBA - no New Jersey, not Minnesota, nobody - has fewer road wins than the Spurs this season. So again I ask, what's wrong? It would not seem to be Tim Duncan. He's scoring and rebounding about the same as ever, and his shooting percentage is through the roof, better than it's been in 11 seasons. However, almost everyone else on the team is down. Tony Parker's scoring is off (though that would seem to be simply a matter of him taking fewer shots). Manu Ginobili is shooting below 40%, a career low. Meanwhile, Richard Jefferson, acquired this summer to give them a boost of athleticism, is scoring fewer point than in any season since he was a rookie. Of course, any of those guys could turn it on at any moment, and I certainly wouldn't be surprised if they all suddenly get all better against the Clippers. 12 game winning streaks don't be just happen.
- Matchups. The Clippers don't have a clear advantage anywhere on the floor other than Eric Gordon against Keith Bogans, and that won't last as they'll bring Ginobili before long. Baron Davis has to hold his own with Tony Parker, despite the fact that Parker is a difficult cover for BD. Al Thornton has to break even with Richard Jefferson. Maybe Marcus Camby can win the hustle categories against Antonio McDyess. And then Kaman just can't get beaten too badly by Duncan. There. That's all that has to happen. It's a simple as that.
- Finley hurt. Michael Finley twisted his ankle a couple of games ago and will miss this game.
- Roger Mason Jr. Early last season, when the Clippers were consistently being destroyed by little known players, Roger Mason made a three pointer in the final seconds to give San Antonio the win. That was a tough one.
- Road wins versus home losses. One of the measures sometimes used to even out the discrepancy between home games and road games when comparing two teams early in the season is to compare road wins to home losses. If you have more road wins, you're an above .500 team. If you have more home losses, you're a below .500 team. The Spurs have only the one road win, against four road losses. That's not good, and indicates a poor team. Of course, by the same metric the Clippers are 3-7 - also not a good record. But the Clippers are home for this one, and the good news is that the Spurs have been terrible on the road this season.
- Long layoff. After four days off, don't be surprised if the Clippers come out flat in the first quarter. I asked MDsr what he thought of the long layoff and he said he hated it. Obviously he's much rather have a day or two between every game, rather than this craziness with four full days off followed by back to back games. But what can you do?
There are two kinds of spurs, my friend. Those that come in by the door; those that come in by the window.
- Get the Spurs perspective at Pounding the Rock.