Quick take: Spurs (4-0) vs. Clippers (2-2)
October 25, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe (12) drives to the basket against Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson (3) during the first half at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE
Offense: Make no mistake, both these teams are offensively inclined. The Spurs (first in offensive rating last season) subject their opposition to a flurry of pinpoint passes on the perimeter — and they can also make the difficult interior passes with skilled passers in Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan — which generally lead to efficient 3-point attempts. Getting to the foul line and crashing the offensive glass isn’t a priority; preventing turnovers, which allows the opposition to dictate pace, is a priority.
The Clippers (fourth-ranked offensively) shoot well in their own right, albeit not quite at that same level as San Antonio. Rather than taking care of the ball, the Clippers hand the offensive reigns to point guard Chris Paul. The offense isn’t very creative but in the hands of the most potent shot creator in the game, it doesn’t really matter. Pick-and-rolls dominate their offense as do offensive rebounds.
Defense: Unlike the Clippers — and it has only been four games or, in other words, 4.9 percent of the regular season — San Antonio has seemingly made strides on this end. Injecting uncertainty (which is a good thing) into the defensive unit, second year forward Kawhi Leonard has been at the head, along with Duncan, of the league’s fifth stingiest defense. The big difference from this year’s unit is that is has enough stability to allow for Leonard and Manu Ginobili to create turnovers for the offense.
Defensively, Los Angels hasn’t allowed an egregious field goal percentage. Their main issues reside in their obscenely high foul rate — of which their starting frontcourt of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin averages eight personal fouls per game — and poor defensive rebounding rate. Both, naturally, lead to efficient attempts for the opposition.
X-Factor: The third-year combo guard Eric Bledose has sacrificed minutes to veteran Jamal Crawford. Crawford has been an effective scorer and not much else.
Bledsoe provides the Clippers with a unique blend of athleticism, shot creating and, surprisingly, rebounding. Even though he is undersized, Bledsoe and Paul are a potent backcourt tandem that can hold their own against the Spurs backcourt rotation, namely Gary Neal. The Spurs were much, much more effective with Bledsoe on the bench in their four-game sweep last season — statistically speaking, about 19.8 points per 100 possessions better according to NBA.com/Stats