The Back Story:
- November 1, 2010 in Los Angeles - San Antonio 97, Clippers 88 - Box Score Recap
- November 10, 2010 in San Antonio - San Antonio 107, Clippers 95 - Box Score Recap
The Big Picture:
In case you hadn't noticed, the Clippers schedule has turned mean again. Not that they had any more success against the soft part of their schedule, but still, consecutive games against Utah, San Antonio, Denver and Portland is pretty nasty. The Clippers offense has been playing pretty well of late, but the defense continues to struggle. They won't win consistently until they figure out how to stop teams from scoring. Blake Griffin is on a tear in his last five games, during which he has averaged almost 30 points, over 14 rebounds, almost 5 assists all while shooting 59% from the field. Wow. He's had two 7 assist games in that span, and it seems clear that the first triple double of his career isn't too far into his future. Eric Gordon remains the Clippers leading scorer, and the fifth best scorer in the NBA at 24.3 points per game. He's even showing some signs of finding his three point range, which inexplicably has been missing all season. But the Clippers will need to get solid efforts from players beyond Griffin and Gordon in order to break their league-leading losing streak against the Spurs. Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe, Ryan Gomes and Craig Smith will all need to contribute.
The Spurs are now 15-2, the best record in the NBA, and whereas most people knew the Spurs would still be good, I don't think anyone had them expected them to come out of the gate like this. For one thing, the Spurs are notoriously slow starters - in year's past, they've paced themselves in November and December, and turned it on later in the season heading into the playoffs. So for the Spurs to have the best record in the NBA (two fewer losses than any other team, for that matter) is a major surprise. What's really interesting is that they're getting it done with the same guys that have been there. Tiago Splitter is being brought along slowly, DeJuan Blair has played poorly, George Hill is arguably a step down from his performance last season. So why are they 15-2? It boils down to three guys: Richard Jefferson is playing much better than he did last season, so in fact he's playing well for the first time since joining the Spurs; Tony Parker is playing well, signficantly better than he did last year, and is having one of the better years of his career; and Manu Ginobili is starting and playing career high minutes. Combine those performances with the still steady Tim Duncan (who had a triple double last night in Oakland) , and a system that gets the most out of their role players, and you see why San Antonio is 15-2.
- Best versus Worst. The Spurs have the best record in the NBA, the Clippers have the worst record in the NBA. So we know what the expected outcome is. Still, nine days ago the Clippers beat the Hornets in similar circumstances, so that's why they play the games.
- Young and old. The Clippers will start five players under 23. The Spurs will start three players over 30 and a 28 year old. But the Spurs experience is invaluable, and in fact the Clippers have had their worst games against such very experienced teams.
- Ginobili. For years the Spurs brought Ginobili off the bench, and everyone said what a genius Gregg Popovic was for doing it. I, on the other hand, said "Why doesn't he play Ginobili more, he's their best player." This season, Ginobili is starting and playing career high minutes and the Spurs are off to their best start in franchise history. It's really not rocket science to play your best players, is it?
- More Ginobili. How good is the guy? Well, he's posted a PER of 22 or better each of the last seven seasons. Only two other players in the NBA have matched that: Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James. I don't think most people put Ginobili into that first tier of NBA stars, but that's probably where he belongs. FYI, all of the other players with 22+ PERs log huge minutes for their team. Ginobili is the only player on the list to do so while averaging fewer than 30 minutes per game in six of those seven seasons. Who knows how many games the Spurs would have won in those earlier seasons if they'd had such an impact player on the floor a little more.
- Last meeting. In the loss to the Spurs in San Antonio three weeks ago, Eric Gordon sat out with a shoulder bruise, joining Chris Kaman and Baron Davis on the injured list. Gordon will be back for this one, but Kaman will not. Davis is a possibility tonight, but there's no official word on that. [Note by Steve Perrin, 12/01/10 1:39 AM PST ] According to Lisa Dillman, Vinny Del Negro says Baron will play tonight, depending on how he feels in the morning after his full speed practice Tuesday.
- Griffin in the last meeting. Blake had arguably his worst game of the season in San Antonio, scoring 11 points on 5 for 18 shooting. He only went to the free throw line once, despite some pretty physical defense from the Spurs. This was the game in which he came away from one incident with a massive scratch on his neck, and still there was no call. If the refs accord him a little more respect, especially playing on his home court, I think the outcome will be a little different.
- Griffin stat of the day. Blake Griffin is one of three NBA players averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game this season. The other two are Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.
- Raining threes. The Spurs take 21 threes per game and they make almost 9 of them. They killed the Clippers from beyond the arc in the first two meetings,making 9 and 11. Ginobili himself takes seven per game. His 119 three point attempts this season leads the NBA, and his 48 makes is second. In addition to Ginobili, Matt Bonner, Richard Jefferson and Gary Neal are all taking a making a lot of threes.
- Jefferson. Richard Jefferson continues to have a renaissance season, though he has shown some signs of cooling off after his red hot start. He scored 18 and 22 in the first two meetings with the Clippers, but has not scored 20 again in the 10 games since the Spurs last played the Clippers. He continues to be an efficient scorer, shooting a career high from the field and from three point range.
- The streak. The Spurs have now won 18 straight games versus the Clippers. The good news is that this is the last meeting of the season, so the Clippers probably won't lose to the Spurs again for at least 11 months. Of course, nine days ago the Hornets came into Staples Center with a long winning streak and the best record in the NBA, and the Clippers won that game, so it's not impossible.
- Back to back. The Spurs are on the second leg of a road back to back, and let's face it, this is not a young team. The Clippers won't get a much better chance to beat them (except maybe if they were playing at full strength).
- Superstar for one game: George Hill. Hill hasn't been as good this season as he was last year, and he's lost some minutes to sharpshooter Gary Neal. But Hill absolutely killed the Clippers at least once last season, so he's my pick for doing it again.
We only seem to learn from Life that Life doesn't matter so much as it seemed to do—it's not so burningly important, after all, what happens. We crawl, like blinking sea-creatures, out of the Ocean onto a spur of rock, we creep over the promontory bewildered and dazzled and hurting ourselves, then we drop in the ocean on the other side: and the little transit doesn't matter so much.
- Get the Spurs perspective at Pounding the Rock.