The Clippers are finally on their first win streak in over a month, and their reward is a two-game date against the San Antonio Spurs, who beat the Clippers in their lone trip to Los Angeles earlier this season.
In fairness, Paul George was a late scratch that day and Kawhi Leonard was still donning the “leatherface” mask thanks to his facial injury, so the Clippers were at less than full strength, but doubt the Spurs at your own peril.
The first time around, San Antonio buried the Clippers with a flurry of threes, many of them courtesy of Patty Mills. That type of output isn’t typical of this iteration of the Spurs, though. They do their best work in the midrange and slow the pace down, not unlike the Clippers, and they have good enough shooters to make it work. San Antonio doesn’t turn the ball over, so that prevents opponents from getting out in transition, not that LA does much of that anyway.
After a couple of wayward seasons, the Spurs have regained their defensive mojo. This is the sixth-best defense in the league, per Cleaning the Glass, and they limit the volume of threes and paint shots opposing teams take. The Clippers don’t frequent the rim, but the battle of the 3-point line will be worth keeping an eye on. San Antonio also has an outstanding rim protector in Jakob Poeltl, which enables the Spurs to defend without fouling, yet another advantage the Clippers are somewhat willing to cede.
In theory, these teams have much in common, with heaps of rangy wings who cause mismatches yet don’t exactly fly up and down the court. The Clippers have to hope that their talent allows them to execute their plan better.
When: Wednesday, Mar. 24 at 5:30 p.m. PT
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
How to watch/listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Opposing perspective: Pounding the Rock
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers (28-16): Reggie Jackson, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris Sr.
Spurs (22-18): DeMar DeRozan, Keldon Johnson, Jakob Poeltl, Derrick White, Dejounte Murray
Clippers: Serge Ibaka (back tightness), Patrick Beverley (right knee soreness) — OUT
Spurs: Rudy Gay (left foot) — QUESTIONABLE; LaMarcus Aldridge (not with team), Keita Bates-Diop (right hamstring), Lonnie Walker IV (right wrist) — OUT
This is also an interesting game because it is the final contest that both teams will be playing before the trade deadline. The Spurs have already teased their big move, as LaMarcus Aldridge remains away from the team while the front office works out a trade or a buyout. The Clippers have made one small move, but that one suggests that another is to follow, and it could be a bigger shakeup. Might this be the last game for certain members of LA’s roster? Two of them — Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley — didn’t even make the trip to San Antonio, and being sent away now would be an ignominious end to their Clippers tenure.
On that subject, Ty Lue hopes that this current group gets a chance to see out the season. “It’d be good for us, you know, we get a chance to figure out what we like, what we don’t like, what we need to get better at,” Lue said prior to Monday’s game. “And, you know, having the same crew, it would be important because we have 72 games under our belt together, the do’s and the don’ts and what we’re good at, and what we need to keep improving on, and I think this team has taken great strides with that.”
For now, this is the group the Clippers are riding with, and they’re hoping to regain the consistency that had them at the top of the NBA a couple months ago against the team and franchise that has become synonymous with steadiness. Enjoy the game!
More news for Wednesday:
- Jerry West on what made Elgin Baylor special.
- Doc Rivers, Ralph Lawler, and other former Clippers shared some more Baylor stories.
- From the Washington Post, why Baylor was the first NBA superstar.
- From The Ringer, how Baylor was the progenitor of the modern game in more ways than one.
- Marc Stein has the latest dirt on the trade deadline, including LA’s primary and secondary targets.