What is it about the Los Angeles Clippers? After being unfortunate enough to be named the worst professional sports team in America back in the day, to revelations of a in-house scandal with former owner Donald Sterling, and now this. Is their side of the Staple Center built over an Indian Burial Ground or what?
The San Antonio Spurs have cruised underwater, lurking in the outer tier of the Western Conference playoff picture for much of the year, but there was certainly some concern as to whether the San Antonio Spurs could earn a playoff birth back in January. But the San Antonio Spurs are indeed a slumbering giant. They are one of the hottest teams in the league. The Spurs upcoming matchup versus the Los Angeles Clippers is shaping up to be impressive. Both teams have been obliterating the competition since the All Star Break. The upcoming match up has several intriguing scenarios within.
The first is the gut-wrenching and torn manner in which a brother is looking at this upcoming series. The defending champion San Antonio Spurs represent a seemingly insurmountable obstacle for the Los Angeles Clippers, a franchise whose bad karma continues long after the stain of Donald Sterling’s reign. Even with a high-flying would-be star in Blake Griffin, an incredible athlete at center in DeAndre Jordan, an NBA Championship-winning head coach in Doc Rivers, and a top-flight point guard in Chris Paul. They’ve gone 17-5 since February and finished second to the Golden State Warriors in the Pacific Division with a record of 56-26 overall.
Though I am a San Antonio Spurs fan, I had always secretly wished success upon the luck-struck Clippers for decades. But I especially hoped that they could advance deep into the playoffs when people start pointing the finger at Chris Paul, which has happened a great deal over the course of the past three years, two of which ended with the Clippers being sent home in the Western Conference Semifinals.
For the record, I like Chris Paul. His point guard skills represent the purest modern incarnation of the art form and he is indeed a maestro, a master orchestrator when manifesting at the very pinnacle of his abilities. He might be one of the greatest NBA point guards ever, but he’s still a relative Lilliputian at 6’0 tall roaming in the land of the giants. He is the operator, not the mechanism, by which the Los Angeles Clippers can cleave a path to victory.
In this equation, the automatons upon which the fortunes of the Clipper Nation’s lie are All-Star Power Forward Blake Griffin, human pogo stick antics of DeAndre Jordan, the razzle dazzle one-on-one show that is Jamal Crawford, and the funky white boy that is J.J. Reddick tickling the twine from deep at 44 percent a game. However, every positive argument has a built in antithesis and it would appear that the San Antonio Spurs are that counter argument.
Though the San Antonio Spurs have squandered the opportunity to grasp a home court advantage after losing to the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night, they’re 19-4 since February 28 after having loss 8 of their previous 15 games dating back to January 13-including a span in which they loss four straight. Like a slow moving locomotive, the Spurs’ march toward postseason glory seemed doomed before it even began. But, just seemingly right on cue, the legendary Power Forward Tim Duncan erupted with energy like a once-dormant comet as it nears the sun. Tim Duncan, aka Big Fundamental, aka Death and Taxes (that’s a new one for me too) has scored in double figures in 15 of the final 21 games in the regular season-six of those games were double-doubles.
The jewel among them being a 29-point, 10 rebound offering against the Houston Rockets. Even in the loss to Power Forward heir apparent Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, the soon-to-be 39 years old Tim Duncan had 15-points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Point guard Tony Parker was averaging a near career low in points before going on something of a tear in March. That streak of 20-point scoring games sputtered a bit as the season concluded. His season ending average is the second lowest he’s averaged since his rookie year in 2001.
However, the output over the past month is enough to offer some solace that San Antonio can squeeze 15-plus points out of the oft-hobbled Parker for the duration of the postseason.
Speaking of production decline, the one-time whirling dervish that is Manu Ginobili is averaging a near career low 10 points per game while dishing out a respectable 4 assists per game in 23 minutes a game. But it would seem the frequency at which Manu performs his in-game shenanigans with the ball, and with head coach Gregg Popovich’s blood pressure, have diminished significantly. Popovich’s cardiologist would probably like to thank him for that.
But coach Pop has a not-so-secret weapon in Kawhi Leonard, or the man I like to call the 60-Second-Assassin. Leonard scored in double-digits in 35 of the last 40 games in which he has played, averaging a team-high 2.3 steals and a respectable 7 rebounds on the season. He is a proven catalyst for offensive and defensive success for the Spurs. You can match him up against any perimeter or wing-oriented player and he completely remove his opponent from the equation.
Additionally, from a coaching perspective, Gregg Popovich is just a better coach than Doc Rivers, who isn’t exactly chopped liver. The San Antonio Spurs are among the best defensive units in the league thanks to Duncan and Tiago Splitter and the Spurs have the luxury of bringing Patty Mills, Marco Bellinelli and the more defensive-capable point guard Corey Joseph off their bench. That’s not even to mention the possibility that SG Danny Green might catch fire, as he has been known to do.
For their part, the Los Angeles Clippers’ second unit is sorely outmatched with Jamal Crawford, Hedo Turkoglu, Big Baby Davis, and Austin Rivers being the elite guard in that regard. Yes, Austin Rivers is among the Clippers’ bench elite! Let that marinate for like steak. That doesn’t bode well for the Los Angeles Clippers and their preseason aspirations.
With that said, the San Antonio Spurs are just too talented, too well-coached and too experienced for the Los Angeles Clippers. Regrettably, the ongoing criticism of Chris Paul’s inability to transcend his circumstances will continue. However, a first round loss will reflect far more on Blake Griffin’s inability to become a certifiable superstar, and DeAndre Jordan’s free throw shooting follies than on anything else.
The San Antonio Spurs will take this series in six games.