(Editor’s update: Consider my excitement over the Parker-Paul matchup essentially mute. Parker was ruled out of tonight’s game because of strained right quadricep. Kenyon Martin is also out tonight with a rib injury.)
What the Clippers do well: Offensive efficiency
The Los Angeles Clippers are strong in this regard, ranking fifth in offensive efficiency. Unlike faster pace teams like the Denver Nuggets, the Clippers score their points by maximizing every possession. They’re third in turnover rate (13.1) and do a nice job by grabbing extra possessions through offensive rebounds. The mere presence of Chris Paul (26.0 PER) has played a big role in their precipitous rise (they were 23rd in offensive efficiency last year). Their abundance of capable scorers — Caron Butler, Randy Foye, Blake Griffin and Mo Williams — makes it really difficult for opposing defenses to completely shut them down.
What the Clippers do badly: Defense without fouling
Feb 22, 2012, Los Angeles, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Jordan Hamilton (1) shoots as he is defended by Los Angeles Clippers forward Reggie Evans (30) at the Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Nuggets, 103-95. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
While the Spurs are below average in sheer volume of attempts at the rim, that changes when you look at the percentage of shots from the rim. 28.3% of the Spurs shots (10th) are shots from the rim. That stems from coach Gregg Popovich stressing to get back on defense rather than crashing the offensive boards.
So, why do I bring up our attempts of the rim? If there was any game where the Spurs should be abnormally aggressive, it should be tonight. The Clippers aren’t a good defensive team by any stretch of the imagination. They compound their obvious deficiency — only Jordan strikes fear into slashers and scorers — by mindless fouling. They are 28th in opponent free throw rate. The majority of these fouls come from Reggie Evans (6.1 personal fouls per 40 minutes), Jordan (4.6 PF per 40 minutes) and Kenyon Martin (5.4 PF per 40 minutes). If Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker play with reckless abandon, 10+ free throw attempts between them isn’t a preposterous outcome. In their last game against the Clippers, Parker got to the line 11 times.
Matchup of the game: Chris Paul vs. Tony Parker
Mar 5, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) leaps as he passes the ball in the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Timberwolves won 95-94. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
Ahhhh, here’s a nice matchup. As of right now, Paul and Parker are two elite point guards that dominate the game in different ways. Paul dominates by managing a game like no other point guard, deferring to his talented teammates early and taking control of the game in the fourth quarter. Paul is a prototypical point guard in the truest sense. He averages 8.4 assists per game — which is actually a little dissapointing considering the impeccable standards he’s played at. While he shares an elite assist rate with his fellow point guards, his adherence to ball security puts him (2.2 turnovers per game), if not No. 1, really close on the short list of creators in the NBA.
Remarkably, CP3 knocks down shots from 16-23 feet (.440 FG%) with the same proficiency as more efficient shots — like from 3-9 feet — which is a testament to his underrated shooting ability. With athletes like Griffin and Jordan as potential pick-and-roll partners for Paul, what should the Spurs do? Go under the screen and give Paul open midrange looks? Or go over the screen and hope the help defense is quick enough to prevent Griffin from getting to the rim?
I’m just hoping he over compensates trying to make up for his fatal blunder against the Spurs in their painful (for Clippers fans) overtime loss on Feb. 18. But that’s probably just wishful thinking.
Final verdict: Spurs win by five
Currently, the Spurs don’t really have a dense schedule to worry about. They took down the Tyson Chandler-less New York Knicks on Wednesday by 13 points. The Clippers have lost three out of their last five games, including two consecutive one-point losses at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Jersey Nets. Suffice to say, I like the Spurs tonight. Spurs by five.