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, and...), 4 games to none (and none of them were close).
The Big Picture:
Depending on the year, sometimes the NBA schedule starts in late October, and sometimes it starts in November. The last three seasons, it has started in October, and the Halloween time has been scary for the Clippers - they have zero wins and nine losses in October games over the last three years. In fact, the Clippers, as far as I know, have NEVER won a game in October. They are 0-17 in October games since 1986, the first season for which game data is available. Trick or Treat! So the Clippers are happy to see November on their calendars, but not happy to see the San Antonio Spurs on their schedule. They may have lost 17 straight October contests, but they've also lost 16 straight to the Spurs. If they can't find the basket a little more consistently than they have in their first three games, that Spurs streak is going to grow to 17 as well, and the Clippers will drop to 0-4 on the season.
The Spurs have opened the season 1-1, with a home win over the Pacers, and a home loss to the Hornets. The Spurs have been one of the top teams in the league since that fateful year in 1997 when the Clippers made the playoffs with a losing record, while the Spurs missed the playoffs, won the lottery, and drafted Tim Duncan. They haven't missed the playoffs since. Eventually time will catch up with them - Tim Duncan is 34 and Manu Ginobili is 33 - but it hasn't happened yet. They got an infusion of youth on their front line recently, with second round steal DeJuan Blair joining the team last season, and EuroLeague star Tiago Splitter coming in this year. Splitter has missed the first two games with a sore calf, but is expected to make his NBA debut against the Clippers tonight. The Spurs seem committed to their big three strategy, despite their advancing ages - Ginobili signed a three year extension in April, and Parker signed a four year extension a few days ago.
- 16 straight losses. The Clippers history of futility against the Spurs is mind-numbing. They've lost 16 straight. They've lost 24 of the last 25. Chris Kaman is 2-24 in his NBA career against them, winning his first ever game against San Antonio as a rookie, and winning only a single time since. It goes without saying that no other player on the current roster has ever beaten the Spurs as a Clipper. It doesn't get much better for guys on other teams either. Baron Davis is 4-20 against the Spurs in his career. Ryan Gomes has never beaten them.
- Spurs mystique. It seemingly doesn't matter who plays for the Spurs where the Clippers are involved. A couple years ago when a bunch of their starters were hurt, Roger Mason Jr. beat them with a buzzer beating three. In pre-season in Mexico City, the Clippers outplayed the Spurs starters, but lost on a last second three by Gary Neal, whoever that is. (Actually, Neal was on the Clippers' Summer League team in Las Vegas this summer.)
- First overall pick. The Clippers can only hope that Blake Griffin will be anything like Duncan has been for the Spurs. The Clippers made the playoffs with a losing record in 1997, while the Spurs, with David Robinson injured most of the season, had a terrible season and missed the playoffs. They were rewarded with a lottery win and a consensus number one pick in Duncan. Griffin was also a consensus first pick, and will hopefully have a similar impact on his team.
- Getting Kaman Going. It's amazing how futile Chris Kaman has been on offense, particularly when you consider how sharp he was in the pre-season. His midrange game was simply automatic before the season began - it's been essentially useless since. He made only 5 of 15 shots Sunday against the Mavs - and that actually helped his season percentage, which is now approaching 30%.
- Eric Gordon's Three Point Shooting. After earning a spot on Team USA as their three point specialist, Eric Gordon has started the NBA season ice cold from deep. He's taken 18 three pointers on the season, but made only 3 of them. Perhaps more disconcerting than the misses themselves is the way he's been missing - he's been short on most of his attmpts, sometimes significantly so, barely grazing the rim. The entire team has been terrible from deep - 14 for 57, which is under 25% - but it starts with Gordon. With Griffin and Kaman attracting attention in the post, the Clippers must be able to hit perimeter shots to be effective.
- Foye out. Randy Foye strained his hamstring on Saturday and will be out for a week or two. Sunday against the Mavs, Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu got their first taste of meaningful NBA minutes, and you can expect that they'll both play again tonight. Craig Smith played against the Mavs, but we'll see how his back is feeling for a back to back.
- And now for the good news. Actually, there is no good news. The Clippers showed some encouraging signs in the first game against Portland, but they really haven't done much of anything well this season. They aren't playing particularly good defense, they're shooting atrociously, they're not rebounding very well, and they're not shooting free throws well (though they were a little better against Dallas). Other than that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
- Superstar for one game: Tiago Splitter. I guarantee you that Splitter will have an NBA career high in this game.
Now spurs the lated traveller apace
To gain the timely inn.
- Get the Spurs perspective at Pounding the Rock.