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NBA Playoffs Clippers-Spurs Preview Round 1 Game 7: You Can Go Home Again

After pulling out a gutsy victory in San Antonio on Thursday, the Los Angeles Clippers have earned the right to play a Game 7 at home against the pesky Spurs. The Clippers have responded well in "must win" situations, but they have been shaky at Staples Center during this series.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
2015 NBA Playoffs
First Round

spurs logo


Game 7 - Saturday, May 2nd, 2015, 5:00 PM
Prime Ticket, TNT, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Series Schedule
Series tied 3-3
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, 7:30 p.m. in Los Angeles, Spurs 111-Clippers 107
Game 6 Thu April 30, 6:30 p.m. in San Antonio, Clippers 102-Spurs 96
Game 7 Sun May 2, 5:00 p.m., Prime Ticket, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
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 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)

Glen Davis (ankle) questionable

Jordan Hamilton (concussion) questionable

The Back Story (The teams split the regular 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:

This series has had more twists and turns than a ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain.  Due to some frustrating mental lapses, the Clippers blew two games at home that were very winnable.  However, they responded by seizing two victories in San Antonio and reclaiming home-court advantage for one last stand against the defending champions.  Their Game 6 victory was particularly impressive, as they clearly stunned the Spurs with their resilience.  The Clippers have yet to win consecutive games in this series, but let's hope that game 7 "bucks" this trend (obligatory horse analogy).

Outside of Game 3, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have been absolutely sensational.  Forgetting his unfortunate Game 2 turnover, Griffin has been electric on both ends of the court.  After a somewhat lackadaisical regular season, Griffin has poured his heart and soul into this battle against the Spurs.  Rivers has been playing his All-star forward a boatload of minutes.  Rivers tweaked the rotation in game 6, allowing Griffin to get some much needed rest before the fourth period.  Griffin responded with a huge quarter, going 3 of 3 from the field (in the previous five games he was 4 of 21 in fourth quarters).  Paul overcame a slow first half in Game 6 to finish the game with 19 points and 15 assists.  These two superstars have carried this team through this round and have a chance to put them over the edge in Game 7.

The Antagonist:

Like the Clippers, the Spurs have refused to go away to start gathering their fishing supplies.  The ageless Tim Duncan has been great.  Kawhi Leonard has been a revelation.  The Spurs have won two of three games at Staples Center, so it is a miracle that the Clippers still managed to force a Game 7.  Fortunately, the Spurs failed to close out this series on their home court on Thursday.  After the game, Coach Popovich called his team "soft" and was clearly frustrated that his team did not seize the moment.  Leonard had a rare rough night on both ends of the court, and Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker looked like shells of themselves.   Although the roster is almost identical to last year's Championship squad, this team looks vulnerable, beaten up, and somewhat unmotivated.  The opportunity is there for the Clippers to seize this victory.  They just cannot beat themselves.

The Subplots:

  • Game 7 experience. Much ink has been spilled over how experienced the Spurs are (which is true) and how well-equipped they are to handle a Game 7.  What seems to be ignored is that the Clippers have been excellent in Game 7s in the Paul/Griffin era.  Let's not forget that the 2011-2012 Clippers won Game 7 against the Grizzlies on the road in Memphis.  Also, just last season, the Clippers won an impressive Game 7 victory at Staples Center against the Golden State Warriors.  This is also the perfect time for Paul to finally exorcise the demons of his 2008 Game 7 loss in New Orleans at the hands of the Spurs.  If anyone can will his team to victory, it is Paul.  Also, in case anyone is wondering, Doc Rivers has won half of his ten Game 7s as a coach (5-2 at home).  Popovich has won 3-2 Game 7s (1-1 on the road). 
  • Home-Court Disadvantage.  In this doozy of a series, the road team has won 4 of 6 games.  However, a Game 7 is a completely different beast, and having the support of the crowd is a tremendous asset for the Clippers.  It is hard to imagine that the Clippers could lose three games in a row in front of their fans, but they have to execute down the stretch much better than they did in Games 2 and 5.   Given their success at Staples Center, the Spurs probably feel good about their chances to win this game.
  • Fatigue.  This has been a grueling and surprisingly ugly series.  Both teams are likely exhausted, but the starting unit for the Clippers has had the burden of carrying around that albatross of a bench.  The Clippers are top-heavy, but their key players are relatively young.  The Spurs have a much deeper team, and a lot of their damage comes from bench players like Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli.  As a result, the older stars on the Spurs have had more rest, but they have still played plenty of minutes over the course of the past six games.  Can both teams shake off their exhaustion for Game 7?  Execution is so important in this game, and fatigue contributes to sloppy play and mental lapses.
  • Big Baby's Busted Ankle.  Glen "Big Baby" Davis has quietly been one of the most effective players off of the Clippers' notorious bench.  He landed awkwardly in Game 6 and is questionable with a sprained ankle.  Speaking to the media, Chris Paul referred to him as "an emotional leader" for the team and talked up Davis's significance to the second unit.  If he cannot play, Doc Rivers said he will use some combination of Spencer Hawes and Hedo Turkoglu (the thought of which certainly has the Spurs shaking in their cowboy boots), or he will elect to go small.  Either way, nothing can replicate the heart and hustle that Big Baby brings to the table.
  • Three-point Shooting. For the most part, the Clippers have been putrid from long range this series.  The Spurs have had their own shooting woes , but some of their players (looking at you Mills and Belinelli) have torched the Clippers from deep.  If the Clippers can recapture their stroke from behind the arc, they have an excellent chance to win on Saturday.  However, if they continue to struggle, they need to generate offense by playing good defense.  The Clippers also need to keep their fingers crossed that Danny Green continues to struggle.  If he gets hot, the Clippers are in big trouble.
  • J.J. Redick.  Redick came alive in Game 6, particularly in the first half.  His play was a major reason that the score was tied at halftime, considering Griffin and Paul had virtually nothing going in the first 24 minutes of the game.  Redick was just wonderful, scoring 19 points (7 of 12 from the field), but he has not been hitting three-pointers (just 1 of 4 in Game 6).  If he can start making some shots from deep, the Clippers will have even more room to breathe on offense.  When he plays well, the team tends to play well. 
  • Hack-a-Jordan.  This strategy seemed to backfire on the Spurs in Game 6, but it is a safe bet that Popovich will send DeAndre Jordan to the free throw line intentionally in Game 7.  This approach has yielded mixed results for the Spurs, and it allows the starters for the Clippers to get a breather.
  • Will to win. The Spurs have never won back-to-back championships, and the Clippers have never made it out of the second round of the playoffs.  Which team wants this series more?  These squads are evenly matched, and the hungrier team has a great chance of finding a way to win this game.
  • Get the Spurs side of things at Pounding the Rock.