The Back Story (The Spurs lead the season series 2-1):
|Spurs 89, Clippers 85
|Spurs 125, Clippers 118
|Clippers 105, Spurs 85
The Big Picture: The Clippers enter post-All-Star play coming off a successful Texas two-step, notching solid road wins against short-handed Houston and Dallas squads. Taking out the third Texas team in a row would be a major win for the Griffinless LA team. Even though the game is in STAPLES, the Clippers will be facing a fully healthy Spurs team that should be highly motivated after a humbling loss to the Clips last time around. Much of the Clippers success without Griffin has been due to the emergence of DeAndre Jordan. The last two wins saw huge numbers for DJ but those games also saw the starting centers sidelined. How will DJ do when facing a healthy frontline?
The Antagonist: The Spurs are in the middle of their annual Rodeo trip, stop 4 of 9, to be exact. Their trip was eased by the All-Star break, so while the Clippers catch them during a league-wide long road trip, the Spurs will actually be a very rested team. After a down December, the Spurs have been on a tear in 2015, compiling a 14-5 record. As always, the Spurs started the season having everyone think they finally got old, but things are coming together as usual and the Spurs look to be a live threat in the postseason. This is a good chance for the Clippers to notch a statement win.
- Comparison of key metrics. Tonight is battle of offense against defense, as the Clipper lead the league in offensive rating (110.5) while the Spurs are near the top in defensive rating (99.60). The Clippers own a middling pace (96.36) while the Spurs' pace (95.33) has them in the lower third of the league.
- The All-Star break. Both teams had a player in the All-Star game. Chris Paul had 12 points, 15 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals in 26:46 of play. Tim Duncan had 2 points and 9 rebounds in just over 15 minutes. JJ Redick set the record for most long 2s in a Three-Point contest, finishing with 17 points. Defending Three-Point Champ, Marco Bellini, scored 18 points but failed to make it out of the first round. Neither team had a participant in the Skills Challenge and no one cares about Shooting Stars.
- The standings. The Clippers and Spurs are neck and neck going into this game, something many expected at this point in the season. What people didn't expect, they are battling it out in 6th and 7th place respectively. Those standing could quickly change as the separation from second and seventh in the Western Conference is only 2 games. Both teams are a comfortable distance from 8th place but they are by no means a lock for the post season. The Clippers are second in the Pacific Division and the Spurs are fourth in the Southwest Division, yet the Spurs are only 5 games out of first while the Clips are 8.5.
- Last year. The Clippers enter post-All-Star play with a 33-15 record. A fun fact, the Clippers were also 33-15 last year, albeit on January 29th. The Clippers lost their next game against the Warriors so, from a certain point of view, a win tonight would mean the Clippers are improved from last year. The mirror of this time last year is also interesting from the standpoint of a major star going down to make way for another. Last year it was CP3 going down and Blake stepping up. This year, Blake is on the sidelines and DJ as taken a step forward.
- Leonard. Since Leonard returned from injury on January 16th, the Spurs are 10-3. The Spurs are truly a different team when the young small forward is on the floor. A healthy Leonard will surely cause the Spurs to rise in the playoff picture. The bright side: one of those 3 losses came against the Clippers.
- The trade deadline. Be sure to stay up on all the activity at the trade deadline. Will any reinforcements be coming the Clippers way? Hopefully some help at the 3.
- Connections. Doc Rivers played for the Spurs towards the end of his career and as a coach is considered a protege of Gregg Popovich, who was an assistant coach when Doc was there. Hedo Turkoglu was a Spur for one season between longer stints in Sacramento and Orlando early in his career.
- Get the Spurs perspective at Pounding the Rock.
- Wikipedia entry: A spur is a metal tool designed to be worn in pairs on the heels of riding boots for the purpose of directing a horse to move forward or laterally while riding. It is usually used to refine the riding aids (commands) and to back up the natural aids (the leg, seat, hands and voice). The spur is used in many equestrian disciplines. There are rules in most equestrian organizations about spur design, use and penalties for using spurs in any manner that constitutes animal abuse.