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Clippers-Spurs Preview: Another Night, Another Must-Win

It’s the Clippers’ umpteenth must-win game.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture

The Clippers are still in it. Somehow. Losses against the Blazers (twice), the Pacers (twice), and the Timberwolves all felt like killers, but they’re still in it. It’s just getting harder by the day. Doc Rivers’ team sits two games out — doesn’t it feel like they’ve been two games out for two months? — but they have just five games remaining and they still have to leapfrog the Nuggets. So it’s a must-win all over again.

The Antagonist

How often does the story in San Antonio revolve around a player who’s NOT there? The Spurs have long been the team about the guys on the floor, no matter their names or relative lack of pedigree. Next man up. But questions about Kawhi Leonard’s absence have lingered all season, with the drama flaring up again yesterday. Need a primer? Check out The Jump. Or Bill Simmons’ podcast. Or just Google Kawhi’s name and read any of the bajillion — estimated — pieces about a quiet man’s unstated intentions.

Kawhi will not be playing tonight. The Spurs will. LaMarcus Aldridge too. And they find themselves in a familiar position: underrated and overprepared. Gregg Popovich has his team on an 8-2 tear that’s propelled their return the top-half of the Western bracket. They just toasted the Rockets! They don’t care if people find them boring. When mid-April comes, they’re always there.

The Basics

The Subplots