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Clippers Vs. Spurs - Western Conference Semis - Game 4 Preview

2011/2012 NBA Playoffs - WC Semis - Game 4

Spurs Lead Series 3-0
Game 1 - May 15th, 2012, in San Antonio, Spurs 108, Clippers 92
Game 2 - May 17th, 2012, in San Antonio, Spurs 105, Clippers 88
Game 3 - May 19th, 2012, in Los Angeles, Spurs 96, Clippers 86
Game 4 - May 20th, 2012, 7:30 PM, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 5 - May 22nd, 2012, TBD, San Antonio, AT&T Center *
Game 6 - May 25th, 2012, TBD, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center *
Game 7 - May 27th, 2012, TBD, San Antonio, AT&T Center *
* if necessary
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Tony Parker
Randy Foye SG Danny Green
Caron Butler
SF Kawhi Leonard
Blake Griffin
PF Boris Diaw
DeAndre Jordan
C Tim Duncan
Key reserves:
Eric Bledsoe
PG Gary Neal
Mo Williams SG Manu Ginobili
Nick Young
SF Stephen Jackson
Reggie Evans
PF Matt Bonner
DeJuan Blair
Kenyon Martin
C Tiago Splitter

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

After blowing a 24 point lead in Game 3, the Clippers stand on the brink of elimination in their Semifinal series with the Spurs. Can they take comfort in knowing that the largest lead of the series so far belongs to them? More likely they can take comfort in knowing that the Spurs are the best team in basketball right now, and that losing to them is no shame. Still, it's not a lot of fun. It's hard to know what went wrong Saturday. From 48-28 Clippers with three and a half minutes left in the first half, to 69-57 with two minutes left in the third, the Clippers were outscored 41-9 in less than 14 minutes of basketball. That's just nuts. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the NBA playoffs, primarily because the team taking a 3-0 lead is always the better team, and that's the case here for sure. The Clippers are playing for pride now, to avoid the sweep. Oklahoma City would appreciate a win as well, to force the Spurs to work just a bit harder before the Western Conference Finals. As always, be sure to check out the Series Preview, the Game 2 Preview and the Game 3 Preview for more information.

The Subplots

  • Key Spurs Metrics:
    Pace: 92.9 (7th of 30 NBA Teams)
    Off Rtg: 110.9 (1st of 30)
    Def Rtg: 103.2 (10th of 30)
  • Key Clippers Metrics:
    Pace: 89.2 (27th of 30)
    Off Rtg: 108.5 (4th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.7 (18th of 30)
  • Seventeen straight, seven straight. At least the Clippers made San Antonio sweat a little in their seventeenth consecutive win. Even so, the game was never closer than seven points in the fourth quarter. I keep wondering when they're going to have a bad game. They had a bad quarter, shooting 5-20 in the first. They shot better than 53% the rest of the way. Their effective field goal percentage for the game wound up being a more than respectable 52%.
  • Early leads. I believe it is the New Testament, in Ephesians if I'm not mistaken, where it says "Rejoice ye not in an early lead, for verily I say unto ye that the early lead shall melt away, even as the morning dew." Or something like that. At any rate, I'm sure you, like me, were happy but somehow still worried when the Clippers were up 40-16. With good reason as it happens.
  • Drought. The Clippers missed 12 consecutive shots in the third quarter of Game 3 as the Spurs were reeling off 24 straight. The San Antonio defense was good, and the offense was less than stellar, but there was just a lot of missing in there as well. Griffin missed shots that were falling in the first half, DeAndre Jordan missed a dunk, Mo Williams had a layup trickle off the rim and missed two open jumpers, Chris Paul missed a couple of floaters in the lane.
  • Chris Paul. After a 5-17 performance in Game 3, Paul is now 12-39, which is just over 30%, in the series. He's tending to get the same shots he has gotten all season -- he's just not making them. Worst of all, he's leaving everything a bit short, hitting the front of the rim on almost all of his misses Saturday. That says that he doesn't have his legs, either because of the hip flexor strain, or because of fatigue, or possibly both.
  • Griffin. If Paul continues to look hampered, at least Griffin seemed right on Saturday. In by far his best game of the series if not the playoffs, Griffin scored 28 points on 13-24 shooting, had 16 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. The Clippers will need a similar performance if they hope to stave off elimination.
  • Back-to-back. All season, coach Gregg Popovich has given his older stars the night off on the second game of back-to-backs. Obviously he won't do that in the playoffs, but now we get to see what Tim Duncan's 36 year old body can do on the second night of a back-to-back. Something tells me he'll be just fine. Duncan played 38 minutes Saturday, which is the most he's played since the Spurs' overtime win over the Clippers way back in February. Can the Clippers take pride in forcing Popovich to actually play his star big minutes? Griffin played 43 minutes on Saturday on a sore knee, so the back-to-back figures to be as hard on him as it is on Duncan, despite Griffin's relative youth.
  • Get the Spurs perspective at Pounding the Rock.