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Clippers vs. San Antonio - Game Preview

2009/2010 NBA Regular Season
Staples Center
February 5th, 2010, 7:30 PM
Prime Ticket, 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Tony Parker
Eric Gordon SG George Hill
Rasual Butler
SF Richard Jefferson
Marcus Camby
PF Tim Duncan
Chris Kaman
C Antonio McDyess


The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Kim Hughes era begins with a very difficult task: the San Antonio Spurs.  In the history of this little blog, the Clippers have never beaten the Spurs.  Think about that for a minute.  Since the beginning of the 2006-2007 season, when I started writing previews and recaps of every single game, the Clippers have played the Spurs 13 times and lost every damn one of them.  So every damn recap I've written has been a tale of woe - and woeful they have been.  Of course, the Spurs dominance of LA has been going on for even longer than that.  They've won 14 straight overall, and they're 42-5 in the Tim Duncan era.  Maybe Hughes will have better luck than Mike Dunleavy against them.  MDsr beat the Spurs only twice in 22 games against San Antonio as the Clippers coach.  Then again, the Clippers did end a nine game losing streak against the Lakers earlier this season, so it could happen.  For Hughes, maybe it's a blessing - the Clippers never beat the Spurs, so if they lose this first game with him at the helm, that's just what everyone expects to happen.  If they somehow win, it's a new and glorious day in Clips Nation.  The real story is going to be watching for stylistic differences under the new head coach.  Will they run more, will they compete on every play (a theme for everyone at the Clippers practice yesterday), how will the substitution patterns change, who gets the ball on key possessions, etc?  Personnel-wise, everyone is relatively healthy (except of course Sebastian Telfair and Blake Griffin and Kareem Rush - the Clippers, where you say everyone is healthy if only three guys are out long term).  Kaman had a terrible game in Atlanta, and often struggles against the Spurs, so if he can have a good game it would be a big bonus.  Baron has been playing well.  Eric Gordon had his first good game in awhile in Chicago.  Basically, all those guys have to play well for the Clippers to have a chance against their nemesis.

The Antagonist:

The Clippers and the Lakers just got back from the Grammy trip, and the Spurs have just begun their Rodeo trip.  It started in Sacramento on the third of February, it lasts through the All Star break and beyond, and the Spurs play only two home games the entire month.  Traditionally, the Spurs begin to round into playoff shape on their Rodeo trip - they were 5-3 on it last season, 6-3 the season before that.  They've started 1-1 on this one with a win in Sacramento and a loss in Portland.  But this team feels different than many Spurs teams of the past.  Tony Parker doesn't seem unguardable.  Manu Ginobili is shooting the worst percentage of his career (unless he's playing the Clippers).  Tim Duncan on the other hand is as good as ever.  But the team, traditionally among the toughest visting teams in the league, actually has a losing record on the road, and they've played fewer road games than any other team in the NBA.  If this trip doesn't go well, it's not inconceivable that the Spurs could fall out of the top eight in the West by the end of it - they're only a game and a half ahead of ninth place Houston.  Richard Jefferson has not really provided the scoring and athleticism boost they were hoping for, although DeJuan Blair was a steal in the draft and has killed the Clippers in the first two meetings.  Parker missed three games last week with a sprained ankle, but played Thursday against Portland and should be 100% tonight.

The Subplots:

  • Please let Duncan play the fourth.  The first two meetings between the Clippers and the Spurs have been so lopsided that Tim Duncan did not play a minute in the fourth quarter of either one.  For that matter, neither did Tony Parker, and Ginobili didn't play in the fourth in the first meeting.  Even if the Clippers can't win, it would be nice to keep it competitive past my kids' bedtime. 
  • Matt Bonner slumping.  Bonner broke his hand in December and missed a bunch of games.  Since returning, his three point shot has not.  And if Matt Bonner isn't making threes, what exactly is he doing for you?  He's made only 2 out of 17 three point attempts since returning to action.  He'll no doubt make five threes tonight.
  • Michael Finley sighting.  Michael Finlay missed 28 games and most of two months with a sprained ankle.  He returned to the active roster three games ago, but has yet to score a point in 24 minutes of play.  He'll no doubt make five threes tonight.
  • Home Court Advantage?  It's been such a long time that it's easy to forget, but the Clippers were actually on quite a roll at home back before Beyonce and Taylor Swift took over the Staples Center.  They came within one point against the team with the best record in the NBA of winning their last nine games at home.  The last loss before that Cleveland game?  Dec. 13.  By 25.  Against the Spurs.
  • Bobby Brown homecoming.  He's been with the team for a long time already, but this will be the home town debut for former Westchester High and Cal State Fullerton star Bobby Brown.  Welcome home.
  • Manu and Tony.  Ginobili's PER has been 22 or higher for five consecutive season.  It's 19.9.  Parker's has been 20 or higher for four straight.  It's 17.1.  When the All Star teams were chosen last week, neither of those guys joined starter Tim Duncan - and nobody batted an eye.
  • Posting up Parker.  If MDsr were still the coach, I'd say that the Clippers would try to post up whichever guard Tony Parker is defending.  We'll see if Kim Hughes plays the "exploit-a-mathcup" game the same way.  The approach certainly has merit, but it can backfire.  Let's say you forcefeed Quinton Ross touches in the post against Steve Nash.  Should Ross theoretically be able to score on Nash?  Sure.  But it's not who he is, and it's not who your team is either, and the team can get completely out of sync.  Baron is terrific in the post, and is particularly good passing out of double-teams.  EJ in the post is not something I want to see a lot of - not yet.  Maybe in a couple more seasons he'll be there.
  • TV Quote: 

    Stan: All right, here everybody, Tweek, give everyone a rubber band. Hey, somebody's gotta help Timmy put his condom on.
    Timmy: TIMMAH!

    No Spurs quotes, no San Antonio quotes, so you get a Timmy quote from a South Park episode about proper condom use.  You're welcome.
  • Get the Spurs perspective at Pounding the Rock.