This series has all the makings of a classic: San Antonio, a calculating sixth-seed, versus an athletic and opportune three-seed in Los Angeles. The Spurs fell to the sixth slot in the West after a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in the regular season’s final game. The Clippers, consistent despite injury vaulted into the third position late in the year. In the West this year there are no potential upsets (aside from a Pelicans series-win over the top seeded Warriors- but that isn’t going to happen). San Antonio, despite being the lower seed, is favored to win in the first round.
This is how close it it:
- The teams split the season series 2-2;
- LA has the number one ranked offense in the NBA, and the number 15 defense;
- San Antonio has the number three defense in the Association, and the number seven offense;
The stars will be out to play. Both squad have All-NBA caliber players. The Spurs have the greatest trio of players in history (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili), to combine with last year’s Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers carry a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in former Texas A&M Aggie, D’Andre Jordan, and of course Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
Tony Parker against Chris Paul is perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the series. Paul is in the middle of his prime years while Parker is on the back-half of his. These two aren’t going to play any defense, so the race to outscore the other is on. In fact, I doubt that San Antonio will choose to cover Paul with Parker. Look for Danny Green or even Leonard to use their size advantage against the point guard. Parker is likely to cover the slower off-guard, J.J. Redick.
One of the keys for San Antonio will be the battle between Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and Mr. Kia-Optima Blake Griffin. Griffin is much more athletic than Duncan, and the introduction of a mid-range jumper this season has added to the overall effectiveness of Griffin. Duncan is an all-time type of player- this we know. His spacing, and persistence on defense will be the cornerstone for this series. I wouldn’t expect Duncan to have a dominating offense impact against the Clippers, especially when you consider that the help defense for LA will be coming from Jordan.
The difference in this series, and likely a theme that will be carried out all Playoffs, is the depth of San Antonio. The Clippers have a scary starting five, and we can stretch that to six when you add Jamal Crawford off the bench. The Spurs, however, have three good point guards to run at LA in Parker, Patty Mills and Corey Joseph. They have four bigs that each have a different style that LA will have to counter: Duncan, Boris Diaw, Aron Baynes, and Matt Bonner. If Tiago Splitter can return from injury we can move that total to five. The fact that Kawhi Leonard can effectively cover four positions on defense gives the Spurs a wild-card that I’m not sure the Clippers can overcome. Would it surprise anyone if Leonard cancelled out Griffin in the series?
The series is going to be close. The depth and experience of San Antonio should prevail in six games. Despite all the hype about this Clippers team, one should expect them to be enjoying the next round from the comfort of their own homes.