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NBA Playoffs Clippers-Spurs Preview Round 1 Game 2

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The Clippers' put forth their best effort in Sunday's big win over the Spurs. Can they keep up the energy in Game 2?

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
2015 NBA Playoffs
First Round
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vs

spurs logo

56-26

55-27
Game 2 - Wednesday April 22nd, 2015, 7:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, TNT, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Series Schedule
Clippers lead series 1-0
Game 1 - Sun April 19, 7:30 p.m. in Los Angeles, Clippers 107-Spurs 92
Game 2 - Wed April 22, 7:30 p.m., TNT/Prime Ticket, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 3 - Fri April 24, 6:30 p.m., ESPN/Prime Ticket, San Antonio, AT&T Center
Game 4 - Sun April 26, 12:30 p.m., ABC, San Antonio, AT&T Center
Game 5*  Tue April 28, Time TBD, Prime Ticket, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 6*  Thu April 30, Time TBD, Prime Ticket, San Antonio, AT&T Center
Game 7* Sun May 2, Time TBD, Prime Ticket, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
* if necessary
Win-Loss Breakdown
19-11 East 23-7
37-15 West 32-20
30-11 Home 33-8
26-15 Road 22-19
19-22 .500+ 23-19
37-4 .500- 32-8
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Tony Parker
J.J. Redick SG Danny Green
Matt Barnes SF Kawhi Leonard
Blake Griffin PF Tim Duncan
DeAndre Jordan C Tiago Splitter
Key Reserves
Austin Rivers PG Cory Joseph, Patty Mills
Jamal Crawford SG Marco Belinelli
Hedo Turkoglu SF Manu Ginobili
Glen Davis PF Boris Diaw
Spencer Hawes C Aron Baynes
Advanced Stats 2014-2015 Regular Season
96.96 (11th of 30) Pace 95.93 (17th of 30)
109.8 (1st of 30) ORtg 106.2 (7th of 30)
103.0 (15th of 30) DRtg 99.6 (3rd of 30)
Injuries/Other
None
Tiago Splitter (calf) probable


Matt Bonner (calf) probable

The Back Story (The teams split the season series 2-2):

Date Venue Final

11/10/14 Los Angeles Spurs 89, Clippers 85 Recap Box
12/22/14 San Antonio Spurs 125, Clippers 119 Recap Box
01/21/15 San Antonio Clippers 105, Spurs 85 Recap Box
02/19/15 Los Angeles Clippers 119, Spurs 115 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

Let's take one more moment to savor it. (Deep breath.) Ahh, much better. It was kind of the NBA to give the Clippers two full days off after Sunday night's largely unforeseen thrashing of the defending champs, giving all of us extra reveling time. Whether they were motivated by the heartbreak of playoffs past, or simply by the plethora — note the accurate use of "plethora", meaning "too many" — of more recent naysayers , the Clippers clearly were motivated. If the big three, no longer a misnomer, have ever submitted a better simultaneous performance, it escapes my memory. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan were all marvelous in the truest sense of the word, and a strong argument can be made that they were the three best players on the floor, no small accomplishment. J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford, and Glen Davis all had their own moments, some more than others, which gives the Clippers something approaching a real rotation. In 48 minutes, this team loudly announced its intention to contend for the conference crown, if not more. The question will be asked of them again tonight. Will they answer once more?

The Antagonist:

The murmuring crowd says that San Antonio won't struggle again. Check your Twitter feed and read about how the Spurs turned the ball over and missed open shots, 140 characters times a thousand entries. It's fair to ask whether the Spurs will regress positively, but the key question for the remainder of this series is by how much? Starting point guard Tony Parker looks hobbled, as does San Antonio's best Griffin-counter, Tiago Splitter. The Spurs coughed up the ball an uncharacteristic number of times, but credit must go to the frenzied Clipper defense. San Antonio missed open some open shots, but the actual openness of those shots is in question, and, ohbytheway, Blake missed a bunch too. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the NBA, and pun intended, he's been to this rodeo before, so we know that adjustments are coming. But, with an aging roster that looked physically overwhelmed in Game 1, will they really matter?

The Subplots

  • Series preview. Be sure to check out the series preview for much more on the series.
  • Comparison of key metrics. Nothing too advanced here. It's points in the paint, and the Clippers had 46, exactly matching their season average, which was 6th in the league. But, unless Blake continues to miss bunnies, that number should go up. The Clippers earned 29 field goal attempts inside 5 feet. They averaged fewer than 25 per game during the regular season. The Spurs do not excel at preventing shots this close — they allowed the 11th most this year.

  • Blake's resurgence. Of all of Game 1's harbingers of success, perhaps none was more obvious than Blake's heightened level of offensive aggressiveness. After season-long accusations of settling from fans and pundits, both foreign and domestic, Blake entered the postseason in attack mode. He took 14 of his 20 attempts within 5 feet, making 7 of them. For comparison, he averaged just 7 per game from that distance during the regular season, but finished at a healthy 64% rate, something akin to his career percentage. This matchup certainly helps. Splitter, his primary San Antonio foil, is clearly short of 100% health, and Aron Baynes and Boris Diaw are clearly short of physical capability. Griffin's reemergence could decide this series.

  • The defensive chess game. In their previous playoff matchup, the Clippers lack of wing options allowed the Spurs to swarm Chris Paul with long-armed defenders like Danny Green. In Game 1 of this series, Popovich checked the Clippers' star with Tony Parker and was burned for it, finally relenting and sending his ace defender, Kawhi Leonard, Paul's way. However, Popovich seemed reluctant to hide the diminished Parker on Barnes, instead opting to keep one of his bigger wings there and forcing his point guard to chase Redick around the floor, as if Parker doesn't run enough on his own end. Popovich has a number of options at his disposal (he rotated through 11 players on Sunday night), but must choose how to deploy them carefully, especially with both Paul and Griffin looking like major problems. Will he stick with Kawhi on Paul, or try him on Blake? Can Parker hold up while shadowing Redick for 40 minutes, or will Pop risk pitting him against the larger Barnes? Redick and Barnes' ascension means that there are few good places to hide.

  • Foul trouble vs. the bench. Citizens of Clips Nation felt a disturbance in the force in the late first quarter, when Doc Rivers floored a 5-man all-bench lineup. This line only lasted a few minutes, but managed to inflict real damage in its short time, perhaps keeping San Antonio in the game a full quarter longer than a competent bench would have. I don't think this was a deliberate choice by Doc, but rather a forced reaction to two of his starters each picking up two fouls in the opening frame. The bench, or lack thereof, is the Clippers' clearest and greatest weakness, one that will be exposed if the starters find themselves in foul trouble.

  • Keeping it up. Sunday night's game required a Herculean, or perhaps Miami Heatian effort by the starting lineup. A quick glance at their minutes isn't cause for alarm, especially when considering the protracted pace of playoff contests to allow for more television commercials. However, the nature of the starters' minutes might be cause for alarm. The Clippers' defense reached frenetic levels of activity, and will likely require a similar effort for anywhere between three to six more games in order to ensure victory in this series, especially against the slick San Antonio ball-movement machine. That doesn't even account for what cold be three more heavily-fought playoff rounds. Seven men, eight if you count Austin Rivers, Doc's most obvious third bench choice, can do this for a short time. How short will that time be?

  • Clipper brains and brawn. During TNT's halftime show, Kenny Smith said that the Heat bested the Spurs two seasons ago because their big three was clearly more talented than the Spurs' core, overcoming the Spurs' advantage in smarts. Smith continued to say that he was unsure the Clippers' three was more talented than the Spurs, and unquestionably not as smart. Game 1 tape shows as evidence against perhaps both claims. That the Spurs have no physical answer to any of the Clippers stars is a mild surprise, but in the true shocker, the Clippers are matching wits with the league's smartest team. The Clippers' communication on defense was near flawless, a 180-degree turnaround from their matchup three postseasons ago. It will be a tall order for the Clippers to maintain that level of concentration, but if they even remain close, it will empower their advantage in athleticism to carry them through and even beyond this opening series.

  • Some extra thoughts. Offensive rebounding has not historically been a primary focus of Doc's, but surely he would like more than the paltry six his charges grabbed on Sunday. The Spurs aren't a major fast break threat (22nd in total fast break points), and a few extra chances could lessen the impact of the Clippers' likely shooting regression... Pop played three different point guards in Game 1 (Parker, Cory Joseph, and Patty Mills). Parker is the obvious play, but Pop will have to choose between offense and defense for his backup choice. Mills is the offensive sparkplug. Joseph is the full court pest... Game 1 accelerated to a fast, loose pace for stretches, and it didn't seem to help either team — they looked equally careless at full speed. If the Clippers' superiority continues, they would be well suited to playing at a fast, but manageable pace, which would help them grow a lead, as opposed to just maintaining it... Kudos to the home crowd for showing up in sensational fashion. The noise bled through the television broadcast — sadly, I wasn't personally in attendance. In fact, the crowd may have played its part in the Clippers' success. The TNT broadcast played a clip of the mic'd up Spurs chalking up an early defensive miscue to an inability to hear one another. Keep it up, STAPLES.

  • 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.