Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 10:00 PM Pacific Time
How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Spurs: Dejounte Murray – Bryn Forbes – DeMar DeRozan – Trey Lyles – LaMarcus Aldridge
Clippers: Patrick Beverley – Landry Shamet – Kawhi Leonard – Patrick Patterson – Ivica Zubac
Clippers: Paul George Out (Shoulder), Rodney McGruder Out (Ankle), Amir Coffey Out (Ankle)
The Big Picture
The Clippers struggled in Utah last night without Kawhi Leonard, their hitherto NBA-leading offense slowing to a crawl whenever Lou Williams exited the game. While the fully-fledged Clippers will have plenty of shot creators, the current Clippers without Paul George are a bit thin, and were far more so without Kawhi. More worryingly, the Clippers defense continued to bleed points against a Jazz offense that had previously struggled mightily this season. The Clippers have the pieces to be good on defense, but have not put them together yet, and while it’s very early, that’s at least slightly worrying. Still, they are at a severe talent disadvantage without their two superstars against most good teams, much less the Jazz in Utah, so it’s hard to take too much away from last night.
The Spurs have defied normal NBA team lifecycles for almost two decades now, and are sitting at 3-0 with a huge Net Rating despite the throwback nature of play and aging of their two stars. Yes, they’ve only played bad teams so far, but the Spurs appear as competent as ever, and one of their greatest strengths over the years has been their ability to always beat teams they should beat. The Spurs rarely beat themselves, a truism that has held course even as their entire roster has shifted and the glory of the Tim Duncan era has receded. Dejounte Murray looks like a star at point guard, one of the best defensive players in the NBA and a dynamo offensively early this season. If he continues to breakout, the Spurs will have found yet another stud deep in the draft, demonstrating yet again their ability to either draft or develop players (or both) successfully outside the top of the lottery. The Spurs don’t have the top end talent to be a contender this year, but they look every bit a playoff team, which is incredible.
Kawhi Load Management: I wrote a couple days ago about the possibility of Kawhi sitting this one out… only for him to sit out the Jazz game last night instead. Still, most of what I wrote there applies – Kawhi resting one game in October doesn’t necessarily mean all too much, but it’s certainly a sign he will be resting in other games this season. The Clippers resting Kawhi for the more difficult game in Utah rather than the home contest against the Spurs is an interesting one, though it could just be as simple as Kawhi wanting to play his former team. Regardless, Kawhi should be nice and rested for this one, which is a good thing, because the rest of the Clips will presumably be pretty gassed.
Attacking the Spurs: The Spurs have two fantastic perimeter defenders in Murray and White, but neither possess the size to challenge Kawhi on the perimeter or bang with him in the post. Therefore, this could be a more Kawhi-centric offense than usual for the Clippers, whose guards might struggle to score against the peskiness of the Spurs’ defenders. Look for Kawhi to eat early and often against his former squad in this one.
Defending LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge has been destroying the Clippers for over a decade now, and showed no signs of stopping last season. He has the size to shoot over the top of most defenders, and the strength to get to his spots in the paint against many more. Simply, he remains an extremely dangerous offensive player, especially on nights when his midrange jumper is cooking (which it seemingly always is against the Clips). The Clippers have often sent soft double teams at Aldridge (or even full doubles) to prevent him from taking over, but that might not work against the balanced Spurs attack. The Clippers do have a few players with the size and length to challenge Aldridge, so Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, and Moe Harkless will probably all get a shot at the Spurs’ star.
Check back in for the game thread later tonight!