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Clippers-Spurs Preview: Deadline Day

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Just a few hours after the trade deadline passes, the Clippers will return from the All-Star break to take on Western Conference power San Antonio.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
2015-16 NBA Regular Season
spurs logo
@
San Antonio Spurs (45-8)

Los Angeles Clippers (35-18)
February 18, 2016 — 7:30 PM PDT
STAPLES Center (Los Angeles, CA)
TNT, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
45-8 Record 35-18
20-4 East 18-6
25-4 West 17-12
8-2 Division 5-4
28-0 Home 17-8
17-8 Road 18-10
19-5 .500+ 14-13
26-3 .500– 21-5
0-0 OT 4-1
8-2 L10 7-3
Projected Starters
Tony Parker PG Chris Paul
Danny Green SG J.J. Redick
Kawhi Leonard SF Luc Mbah a Moute
LaMarcus Aldridge PF Paul Pierce
Tim Duncan C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)
96.3 (T-22nd) Pace 98.2 (T-13th)
109.3 (3rd) OffRtg 106.2 (5th)
95.2 (1st) DefRtg 101.1 (T-7th)
14.1 (1st) NetRtg 5.2 (5th)
Injury Report
Manu Ginobili (groin) out

Blake Griffin (quad/hand) out
Matt Bonner (calf) out

Lance Stephenson (hip) out


Austin Rivers (hand) out
'15-16 Season Series (Spurs lead Clippers, 1-0)
Date
Venue
Final
Clips Nation Recap
NBA Box Score
12/18/2015
San Antonio
Spurs 115, Clippers 107
Recap
Box Score
2/18/2016
Los Angeles
Tonight


3/15/2016
San Antonio



The Big Picture:

It's changing by the day, maybe even by the hour, and could be completely unrecognizable by noon today. It's that silly time of year when a third of the league changes rosters in rumors, and the Clippers are rumor incarnate. They have some moderately priced trade chips -- Lance Stephenson and Jamal Crawford come to mind -- but it's the big catch, the swollen star, that's getting the most attention. Superstar players aren't available very often, so even the remotest hint that Doc and company are entertaining offers for Blake Griffin has kicked the blogosphere into full chat. There's still a game to play, though, and it's a big one. And even if Blake is still on the roster at 12:01, it's not like he'd be playing tonight anyway, not with that mangled hand and still recovering quad. The timing of today's events, the trade deadline and the primetime matchup with capital-C Contender San Antonio, is probably not to Doc's liking. I'm sure he'd like to play the game before he has to pull the trigger on dealing Blake, just to know how much he might miss him.

The Antagonist:

What's new? Almost nothing, actually. 45-8, ho hum. Second in the Western Conference and clear title contender. The names change, but Popovich keeps the Spurs janglin' along. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are finally starting to look their respective ages, which I'm pretty sure are something like 67, 52, and 90. Not that the former Big Three are playing badly, mind you, but they have definitely settled into supporting roles. (Ginobili is hopefully settling into a comfy chair -- there's no real timetable for his return from wince-inducing testicular surgery.) It's all fine, because Kawhi Leonard has figured out how to impose his 94-feet-of-terror game upon the regular season, and LaMarcus Aldridge gives them a new 7-foot fulcrum in the offensive middle. They've also dug up another contributor in previously unknown Jonathon Simmons, like they do. Sure, they were pasted on the road in Oakland a couple weeks ago, but no one in San Antonio seems to be panicking. It's rodeo time, which is when the Spurs really get serious. It's a scary thought: how could this team still get better?

The Subplots:

  • Comparison of Key Metrics. The Clippers are fifth in the NBA in net rating, compiling a solid +5.2 mark. The Spurs are an astronomical +14.1. If they maintain that through the end of the season, they'll be only the second team since '96-'97 to even crack the 12.0 mark, and that one team was a 69-win Bulls squad that finished exactly +12.0. (Of course, the Warriors would also blow away that mark on their current pace.)
  • Schedule. Spurs tonight. Warriors Saturday night. Does any other team have to play these two monsters in a row?
  • Deadline intrigue. The prevailing rumor has the Clippers acquiring Channing Frye from the Magic, most likely for Lance Stephenson and parts. Yesterday, it was reported that Cleveland tried to pry Frye away with Anderson Varejao as bait, but Orlando is holding for the Clippers' deal. The Clippers have also been attached to New Orleans' Ryan Anderson.
  • Jonathon Simmons. The 26-year-old wingman went undrafted out of college, earned a spot with San Antonio's D-League squad in Austin through an open tryout, spent two years there, and finally signed with the big club last summer for just one guaranteed season. All he's done since is become another contributor as an increasingly important 3-and-D role player for a team that finds them in between couch cushions. The Clippers can't even buy these guys, but the Spurs just keep growing them.
  • Slowing down. Just as the casual basketball fan is rejecting San Antonio's old reputation as plodding and accepting the reality of the go-go Spurs, Popovich is slowing them down. After four years of ranking in the league's top half in pace, they finished 17th last year, and are down to 22nd this year. With the emergence of Kawhi and the acquisition of LaMarcus, the Spurs are throwing into the post more than they have in half a decade. Pounding the rock indeed.
  • For the Spurs' point of view, head over to Pounding The Rock.
  • Clips Nation roundup. Be sure to read the ongoing midseason report card series. Wes Johnson was last up... Get ready for deadline day with Larson's primer and the always hilarious Matt Heller's take on front office machinations... Check back at the home page all day for all the latest in Clipper deals and non-deals.