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NBA Playoffs Clippers-Spurs Preview Round 1 Game 5: Fighting to the Finish

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For the third time in a row, the Clippers are playing what could be argued is the biggest game in franchise history. Can they take that next step and push the defending champion Spurs to the brink in what is now a best of 3 series?

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
2015 NBA Playoffs
First Round
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vs

spurs logo

56-26

55-27
Game 5 - Tuesday April 28th, 2015, 7:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, TNT, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Series Schedule
Series tied 2-2
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. in Los Angeles, Spurs 111-Clippers 107 (OT)
Game 3 - Fri April 24, 6:30 p.m. in San Antonio, Spurs 100-Clippers 73
Game 4 - Sun April 26, 12:30 p.m. in San Antonio, Clippers 114-Spurs 105
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
Matt Barnes (rotator cuff) probable
Tiago Splitter (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: It doesn't get much bigger than this one, folks. While some may argue that last season's game 5 and 6 against the Thunder were bigger games, I beg to differ. We are four years into the Chris Paul era and have yet to sniff the Western Conference finals. A first round exit is unacceptable, no matter who the opponent is. Losing this series would be devastating to the Clippers franchise and fanbase. To paraphrase JJ Redick after the game 4 win, going back to San Antonio down 3-2 is a death wish. While it isn't technically a must-win game, it's a must-win game.

The Antagonist: I'm really not sure what to make of the Spurs at this point. Obviously, you can never count them out, but they seem to be more vulnerable than they have been in awhile. Tim Duncan already had his turn back the clock game, we've already experienced the Patty Mills-induced loss and the game where Kawhi goes off. The Clippers have seen the best the Spurs have to offer and have weathered the storm. Tony Parker seems to have lost a step, at this point Mills is a greater threat on the court. Matt Bonner has the worst shooting percentage of his career this season. Boris Diaw is notoriously streaky coming off two solid games so one could assume he is due for a few stinkers. Marco Belinelli and Manu Ginobli are both averaging fewer points per game than Austin Rivers in this series. As grim as things may have seemed after Friday's game, there is no reason to think this Spurs team can't be defeated.

The Subplots

  • Series preview. Be sure to check out the series preview for much more on the series.
  • Comparison of key metrics. Both teams are shooting far below their regular season average from behind the arc. The Clippers are shooting .341 this series, as opposed to their regular season percentage of .376. The Spurs are shooting .318 instead of the .367 they shot before the playoffs began. If either team can bring their 3-point shooting just back to their regular levels, they will have a significant advantage in this game.
  • Who will break out next? In game one it was Jamal Crawford, two it was Patty Mills, three Kawhi and four Austin Rivers. While other players might've had bigger games, it was the extra contribution from the aforementioned players that turned the tide. So who will shine in game 5? I would say Matt Barnes because he is due for a night where he hits 3 or 4 from beyond the arc. But due to his shoulder injury, I expect him to continue his putrid shooting performance. Could this be the game Spencer Hawes finally earns that contract? Nope! More likely, it will be a double-digit scoring effort from Big Baby or Hedo Turkoglu. One thing is for certain, in both of the Clippers wins, someone from the bench got hot and it is reasonable to expect that a similar non-star contribution will be needed for a W tonight.
  • JJ. So far this playoffs, JJ Redick is tied for the 117th best shooting percentage, a dreadful .364 percent from the floor. One could say that his decision to actually show up for game 4 was a bigger boon than the breakout of Austin Rivers. This is because, while Rivers performance was probably an aberration, Redick finally seeing the ball go down could be a harbinger of things to come. Luckily, we won't have to wait long to find out. Look for JJ to fire at least 4 first quarter 3-pointers. If he hits 3/4 in the first quarter, the Clippers just may be on their way to a 3-2 series lead.
  • 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.