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Clippers at San Antonio - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season
AT&T Center
November 10th, 2010, 6:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, ESPN, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Eric Bledsoe
PG Tony Parker
 Rasual Butler SG Manu Ginobili
Ryan Gomes
SF Richard Jefferson
Blake Griffin
PF Tim Duncan
Chris Kaman C DeJuan Blair


The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are truly uncanny at getting injured.  Last week I pointed out that Oklahoma City got 82 games from four of their five starters last season.  The season is only two weeks old, and three Clippers starters have already suffered injuries.  Luckily, it's nothing serious thus far.  Baron Davis has a troublesome knee that has caused him to miss 4 games, Eric Gordon has a bone bruise on his left shoulder, Chris Kaman sprained an ankle.  Just little things really, these kinds of injuries happen all the time in the NBA.  At least they happen all the time to the Clippers.  Baron played 10 minutes last night in New Orleans, and may try to do something similar tonight in San Antonio.  Gordon has missed one game, and is doubtful for this one.  Kaman is out at least two weeks with the ankle, and could be out longer.  If Gordon can make it back before Baron, we could actually see a lot of the U23 team.  Al-Farouq Aminu had a mini-breakout game in New Orleans with 20 points and 8 rebounds and will likely be getting more and more minutes at the small forward, provided he keeps producing.  But where the Clippers are going to get points, without this year's leading scorer (Gordon) or last year's leading scorer (Kaman) or their primary ball handler (Davis) is anybody's guess; hopefully Blake Griffin can bounce back from a poor performance in New Orleans.  The Clippers record sits at 1-7, and they haven't won in San Antonio since 2002, and they've lost 17 straight to the Spurs overall, and they are likely down three starters tonight.  The only good news is that they're facing Detroit at home on Friday, where they could actually be favored to win a game for the first time this season.

The Antagonist:

The Spurs are off to a 5-1 start, but they're certainly not dominating opponents.  Their last three victories have been by 4 points in Charlotte, by 3 at home in overtime against Houston, and by 2 in Phoenix.  Of course, a win's a win, and the Spurs have the advantage of having a team that knows how to win from force of habit.  The Clippers would dearly love to develop that habit themselves some day.  The core of the San Antonio team is inevitably getting older, and you hear about the young athletes that they've added to help infuse the team with some youth.  But the facts so far illustrate a different story.  The top five Spurs in minutes played this season are the big three of Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan, followed by Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess - of that group, Parker is 28 and the others are all 30 or older.  Moreover, with Ginobili now in the starting lineup, he's averaging a career high in minutes per game so far, as is Parker.  So much for any youth movement.  DeJuan Blair, who looked like the steal of the 2009 draft last season, has been abysmal so far, making just 11 of 40 shots on the season.  Rookie Tiago Splitter is being brought along slowly.  Which leaves the Spurs still pretty dependent on the older guys.  Fortunately for them, they seem more than up to the task.  

The Subplots

  • Center.  Without Kaman, it will be interesting to see what Vinny Del Negro does at center.  When Kaman first went down Tuesday, VDN brought in DeAndre Jordan, which is what you might expect.  But Jordan only played 17 minutes, which is pretty close to his season average, despite Kaman's absence.  Jarron Collins soaked up 10 minutes.  And for 14 minutes, Blake Griffin was at the five, with Craig Smith at the four.  In fact, VDN started the second half with Griffin and Smith in the game. Oh, and it's important, because someone is going to have to defend Tim Duncan.
  • Gordon.  Eric Gordon had not one but two highlight reel dunks when these two teams met in Staples Center last week.  It would boost the Clippers chances a lot he is able to play in this one.  Actually, it's a massive long shot whether he plays or not, but it'd be more fun to watch if he were out there.
  • Raining threes.  The Spurs have been taking a lot of threes this season.  Ginobili is leading the league in three point attempts per game at over 8.  As a team, they take over 21 a game, which is top five in the league.  And they're making almost 40% of them.  The Clippers on the other hand are making 28% from deep.  In the first meeting, the Spurs made 9 threes to the Clippers' 4.  In fact, the vast majority of the Spurs' three balls have come from 4 players: Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Gary Neal and James Anderson.  In other words, stay close to those guys.
  • Jefferson.  Jefferson is having a resurrection year so far in San Antonio.  He scored at least 16 in the first five games of the season, including a 28 point outburst versus Phoenix.  His first season in San Antonio he scored just over 12 points a game, which was his lowest average since his rookie year.  He finally had an off night against Charlotte Monday, scoring only 6, but he looked great shooting the ball against the Clippers last week.
  • Griffin versus McDyess.  In the first meeting, Blake Griffin blew by Antonio McDyess like he was glued to the floor on a couple of occasions.  Blair's stuggles have resulted in easly calls for McDyess - let's hope we see that matchup, because I just don't think the 36 year old can keep up with the 21 year old.
  • The last time the Clippers won in San Antonio...  The starting backcourt was Jeff McInnis and Eric Piatkowski.
  • Superstar for one game: Gary Neal.  The Spurs always seem to have a knack for finding quality players in strange places.  Or maybe everyone is a quality player in their system.  Gary Neal is a 26 year old rookie whose been bouncing around European leagues, from Turkey to Spain to Italy to Spain again, for four years since his college days at Towson.  Yet Neal is getting 13 minutes per game, despite playing behind Parker and the formerly highly regarded George Hill.   
  • Famous Quotation: 

    They are a sort of post-house,where the Fates
    Change horses, making history change its tune,
    Then spur away o'er empires and o'er states,
    Leaving at last not much besides chronology,
    Excepting the post-obits of theology.

    Lord Byron, Don Juan
  • Get the Spurs perspective Pounding the Rock.