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Clippers-Spurs Preview: Mid-Marchness

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Can the Clippers begin to build rhythm for a playoff run by handing the Spurs their first home loss?

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
2015-16 NBA Regular Season
spurs logo
vs
San Antonio Spurs (56-10)

Los Angeles Clippers (42-23)
March 15, 2016 — 5:30 PM PDT
AT&T Center (San Antonio, TX)
NBATV, Prime Ticket, 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
56-10 Record 42-23
22-5 East 20-8
34-5 West 22-15
10-2 Division 7-5
32-0 Home 22-12
24-10 Road 20-11
23-8 .500+ 17-18
33-2 .500– 25-5
0-0 OT 4-1
9-1 L10 6-4
Projected Starters
Tony Parker PG Chris Paul
Danny Green SG J.J. Redick
Kawhi Leonard SF Jeff Green
LaMarcus Aldridge PF Luc Mbah a Moute
Tim Duncan C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)
96.4 (24th) Pace 98.4 (13th)
108.8 (3rd) OffRtg 106.1 (6th)
95.5 (1st) DefRtg 100.8 (7th)
13.3 (1st) NetRtg 5.3 (5th)
Injury Report


Blake Griffin (quad/hand) out


Paul Pierce (toe) doubtful
'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
Clippers 105, Spurs 86
Recap
Box Score
3/15/2016
San Antonio
Tonight


The Big Picture:

When these two teams last met, they were both missing a transcendent young star. Unfortunately for the Clippers, they remain without Blake Griffin, while Kawhi Leonard is back and rampaging for the San Antonio Spurs. And if you're a believer in momentum, it's tough to argue the Clippers have it right now. The team looks alternately fierce and listless, often for stretches in the same game. They've spent a sloggy March alternating wins and losses. By that pseudoscientific formula, the Clippers are due to win tonight after a midday Sunday home pasting by the Cavaliers. If they do win, it will take an all-hands effort. Chris Paul has been world-class in Blake's absence, but as great as he is, he'll find it tough to do it alone against a San Antonio squad that has yet to lose at home. Beware the Ides of March, indeed.

The Antagonist:

Who will win the race to 41-0? The Spurs and Warriors are vying to become the first NBA team(s) to complete a season undefeated at home, and now with the end of the season just a few weeks worth of wins away, both have a legitimate chance of pulling it off. As Steve so rightly pointed out in his column yesterday, the fact that the Spurs have performed as historically as they have while still finding rest for their core players is preposterous. It's one thing to roll up wins with ease. It's another thing to do it after you've tied your own arm behind your back.

The Subplots:

  • Comparison of Key Metrics. Is there anything the Spurs don't do well? Not really, but there is something they don't do often: shoot free throws. San Antonio is tied for third-last in free throw attempt rate. The Clippers, by comparison, are fourth-best. Of course, the Spurs don't allow many free throw attempts, so something will have to give.
  • Schedule. This is game one of a five-game road trip. After this, it's on to Houston Thursday Wednesday, followed by back-to-back games in Memphis and New Orleans over the weekend, and finishing with a chance to ruin the Warriors' perfect home mark next Wednesday. I gotta tell you, I'd be pretty OK with whatever happens the rest of this season if the Clippers can put the and-1 in both the Spurs and Warriors' home records.
  • The appetizer. I don't recall a time under Gregg Popovich's watch that one could accuse the Spurs of being caught looking past an opponent. But, if there was ever a week for it, it's this one. The Spurs host the Warriors Saturday night in what should be the regular season's most-anticipated matchup so far.
  • Old cowboys. The Spurs signed Andre Miller on Leap Day, which gives them a collection of three players (with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili) at least 38 years old. One in three NBA players 38 years of age or older now plays in San Antonio.
  • Old dogs with cool tricks. In Boris Diaw and former Chris Paul compatriot David West, the Spurs possess two of the craftiest and most unique big men in the game. They're even getting playing time together in some of the Spurs' unorthodox bench units. If you love basketball, pay some extra attention to these two and observe how two aging players with middling physical attributes continue to thrive in the increasingly pace-and-spacey NBA.
  • For the Spurs' point of view, head over to Pounding The Rock.