Three things to watch
Chris Paul. Paul hasn’t responded well to the Spurs’ aggressive pick-and-roll defense this series. He’s been tentative and his usually pinpoint passes have been decidedly off the mark. In the Memphis series Paul dominated every aspect of the game for the Clippers, averaging 20.4 points, 7.1 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals in 38.9 minutes per game. The Spurs have stifled Paul with their combination of Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker and their close proximity to Paul on every cut, every dribble, every potential foray to the rim.
In Game 2, specifically, Paul turned the ball over a season-high eight times, including three times on the pick-and-roll alone. The Clippers had the fourth most efficient pick-and-roll in the league, scoring 0.90 points per possession, due in large part to Paul’s 0.93 PPP. Paul commands 32.2% of Clipper pick-and-rolls and with their crutch hampered by the Spurs defense, their effectiveness has waned. The Clippers aren’t a team that moves the ball around particularly well. Instead they swing the ball with no general plan, aimlessly looking to help out Paul or find Griffin down low for a post-up. For the most part, this strategy has not worked. How will Paul respond?
Blake Griffin’s rebounding. In the regular season Griffin averaged a double-double (20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds) and he grabbed 17.8% of available rebounds. In an admittedly small sample size (ie: the playoffs), Griffin has seen his rebounding average to 6.1 and his total rebounding percentage has similarly dropped to a Tiago Splitter-level, 10.9%. DeAndre Jordan has experienced the same drop in rebounding proficiency. As a result, the Spurs have outrebounded the Clippers in each game which makes it pretty difficult to beat the Spurs when they are making shots, moving the ball and protecting the glass.
Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe followed his impressive Game 1 performance (23 points, five rebounds and four assists) with an unimpressive 4-2-2 line in 22:50 minutes. The Spurs eliminated his cutting opportunities where he creates so much havoc. Bledsoe logged so much playing time despite his offensive ineptitude because of his defensive tenacity. The Clippers allow 95.5 points per 100 possessions while Bledsoe is on the court compared to 104.2 when Bledsoe is on the bench.
Final verdict. Spurs by six. If the Clippers are going to take any game this series, it will be this one. I think this one will be relatively close before the Spurs execute well enough to hold off the Clippers in the final minutes.