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Clippers @ San Antonio - Game Preview

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
AT&T Center
March 27th, 2009, 5:30 PM
KTLA Channel 5, No radio
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Tony Parker
Eric Gordon
SG Roger Mason, Jr.
Al Thornton
SF Michael Finley
Zach Randolph
PF Tim Duncan
Marcus Camby
C Matt Bonner

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
  • March 2, 2009 in LA - San Antonio 106 - Clippers 78   box score   recap

The Big Picture:

Winning Wednesday in New York was fun and all.  But those were the Knicks.  These are the Spurs.  Scoring 140 isn't an option - in fact, in three meetings so far, the Clippers haven't topped 84.  And whereas the Clippers have pretty much owned the Knicks in recent years, they have lost 11 straight against the Spurs, most of them in embarrassing fashion.  The Spurs spacing and discipline just tends to shred the Clippers defense.  The Clippers will have to get monster performances from multiple players to even have a chance in this game.  And although LA certainly has several players capable of having big nights on offense (Mike Taylor joining that list with 35 Wednesday night), it won't much matter without playing some defense, which the Clippers have not shown much interest in all season, and which has fallen by the wayside completely in the last month or so.  If you're looking for a reason that perhaps this game could be different than the other three meetings, it is true that the Clippers have been far from full strength against San Antonio this season.  In fact, this will be the first time that Zach Randolph will face the Spurs, and certainly the Clippers have had more success with the Clippers Zach than without him this season.  With 10 games left, the Clippers have 18 wins - they'd have to go 5-5 in those 10 games to equal last season's dismal win total of 23 and avoid 60 losses on the season.  Don't count on it.

The Antagonist:

Lucky Clippers.  The Spurs are expected to have their big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili together tonight for the first time in about 6 weeks.  Ginobili just recovered from an ankle injury and played his first game back Wednesday against the Hawks, but Tim Duncan rested in that one on the second night of back to backs for the team.  How good is the Spurs system?  With a rusty Ginobili going 1 for 7 and no Tim Duncan, they beat the playoff bound Hawks anyway.  I must say it every time I write a Spurs preview, because I'm still amazed every time I go through their lineup:  who are these other guys?  They start 36 year old Michael Finley, Matt Bonner and Roger Mason, even when every one is healthy.  But they just run their stuff, play tough defense, make a lot of threes, and win.  And obviously Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are good.  Really good.

The Subplots:

  • Here's an idea: start Mike Taylor.  Taylor obviously had a huge game against the Knicks.  He started the second half of that one as MDsr played the hot hand.  But Tony Parker is the engine that makes the Spurs go, and Taylor has the best chance of any Clipper of staying with him.  As it happens, Taylor did get the start the last time these teams met, when Eric Gordon was out with a bruised shoulder.  Unfortunately he got into early foul trouble and was a non-factor in the first half, although he played well in the second.  I doubt that MDsr will start Taylor in this one: he'll go with the usual backcourt, and give Gordon the impossible task of trying to keep Parker out of the lane.  But Taylor should (and likely will) get an early call and a lot of minutes.
  • Z-Bo.  Zach Randolph has not played against the Spurs this season.  Unfortunately for him, he'll likely have to go against Tim Duncan all night.  Zach's not going to be able to get to his left hand in the lane nearly as easily on Duncan as he did against David Lee (by the way, that was a surprisingly poor defensive performance from Lee - I expected better from him).  If his jumper is falling, and he can draw Duncan away from the basket, he could be OK.  If not, it's going to be a long night.
  • Matchup hell.  We've already talked about Parker.  Duncan is of course one of the great players in the game and a tough cover regardless.  Camby has been playing sparingly (and lethargically, it must be said) - but that may have to do with a sore hamstring.  Kaman has gotten the assignment many times in the past, and will likely spend a lot of time there tonight.  As for Ginobili - good luck.  Fred Jones, I guess.  But if Manu can shake off the cobwebs, he could have a huge game.
  • The Tirade Rematch.  It was after the Spurs destroyed the Clippers in LA that owner Donald Sterling lambasted them in the Staples Center locker room.  Of course, they were playing without Randolph and Kaman and Gordon, so it wasn't really a fair fight.  Will the Clippers feel compelled to give a little extra for their leader in this rematch?  Just kidding.
  • Al Thornton.  Al was singled out by Sterling in that encounter, and there's no denying that he's had a strong series of games since.  He suffered a shoulder injury in there, but other than games where he was slowed by that, he's scored between 19 and 25, shot a career high percentage, and increased his rebounding in the last 8 games.  It's a very good sign in his development.  And it just so happens that Thornton versus Finley is (theoretically) the Clippers best matchup tonight.
  • Superstar for one game.  Wilson Chandler.  He played well against the Clippers in LA scoring 27.  HOWEVER - If the trade of Chandler from the Knicks to the Spurs doesn't actually go through (and given that the trade deadline has passed, it seems unlikely) let's go with new Spur Drew Gooden.  Someone making the minimum who just got waived would be perfect to light up the Clippers.
  • Movie Quote: 

    Spoken like a true prodigy. How about you, Lash LaRue? You think you can keep your spurs from jinglin' and janglin'?

    The Wolf - Pulp Fiction (1994).  Tarantino.  You know, I have to say I've been more than a little disappointed in everything else by Tarantino.  Pulp Fiction was just so good.  Maybe I just didn't get the Kill Bill's - I mean, they were visual and interesting and enjoyable, but Pulp Fiction was just so great.
  • Get the Spurs at Pounding the Rock.