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Tomorrow night the San Antonio Spurs finally get back to action as they’ll face the LA Clippers, coming off a seven game series against the Memphis Grizzlies, in the Western Conference Semifinals. There are few that doubt that the Spurs will win this series and advance to the Western Conference Finals to play against the winner of the Lakers-Thunder series. We’ll cover both sides of the argument here though as we’ve already seen in this year’s playoffs that rarely will a series come as easy as it looks.
Why the Spurs Will Lose
1. The Clippers are tougher in the paint.
All Reggie Evans and DeAndre Jordan do are defend and rebound. While the Spurs have more big guys that get more playing time, they’re not the dedicated defenders and rebounders that the Clippers have. Jordan and Evans are offensive liabilities (Just watch when either of these two gets the ball on offense. The defense backs off and the two don’t even look at the basket.), but they’re going to make it really tough for anybody to score in the paint as they showed against both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
The Clippers destroy teams by getting out on fast breaks and the best way to get that started is by grabbing defensive rebounds. The Clippers out-rebounded the Grizzlies in their series in only two of the seven games, but the Spurs don’t rebound as well as the Grizzlies. Memphis had one of the highest rebound differentials per game in the playoffs while San Antonio has one of the lowest. So the LA transition opportunities should come more often against the Spurs.
3. The Clippers have shown they can win ugly.
LA was in the middle of the pack as far as points per game in the playoffs and Memphis was right there with them. The Clippers didn’t win their four games with finesse. In two of their wins, they didn’t eclipse 90 points. LA scored 101 points in their overtime win, but they only scored 87 in regulation. The Clippers are capable of digging in, making it an ugly game, and gritting out wins both at home and on the road.
4. LA gets to play back-to-back games at home.
Because the playoffs are taking place during a strike-shortened season, any long series is going to be followed with a grueling schedule in the ensuing matchup. Because the Clippers and Grizzlies went to seven games, Games 3 and 4 in this series are being played back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday. Luckily for the Clippers they get to play those games at home in the Staples Center, where they’ve only lost twice since the start of April. They lost consecutive home games just once all season.
5. No lead is safe and the Clippers have already won as underdogs.
For the rest of the playoffs, no matter who the Clippers play, no matter how big their deficit is… no lead is safe.
Why the Spurs Will Win
1. The Spurs are deeper.
The San Antonio Spurs are legitimately 10 deep. Ten different guys get significant minutes and have a chance to have an impact in any given game. Not only that, everyone knows their role. No one is going to try to take over the game. And many of them can create their own shots, unlike the Clippers. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Gary Neal can work off the dribble. Even Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard can do so on occasion.
2. The Spurs are as healthy in the playoffs as they’ve been in five years.
The only guy battling injury right now is Tiago Splitter, who suffered a left wrist injury in Game 1 of their opening round series against the Utah Jazz. He was held out of Game 2, but came back to have an impact in Games 3 and 4 and that wrist should be feeling pretty good after all that rest. Manu Ginobili spent most of the season injured, but his Game 4 performance in Utah was a sign that he’s close to being the impact player San Antonio needs to win a championship. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker’s minutes have been managed beautifully and both look great as the playoffs continue.
3. The San Antonio defense is built perfectly to stop LA.
San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green will have the responsibility of keeping the Clippers spot-up shooters from going off and it will actually one of the easier defensive assignments compared to a lot of the role players they’re used to guarding because these guys can’t work off the dribble. It’ll also be tough for Blake Griffin to take over any game because they’ve got Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair, and Matt Bonner to defend him. Chris Paul’s job will be to create havoc and try to create opportunities for all of those guys.
Photo courtesy Russ Isabella/US Presswire
4. Tony Parker owns Chris Paul.
Speaking of Chris Paul, Tony Parker is actually the one who’s having one of the best seasons of his career and he’s doing it as a leader and scorer. Chris Paul has played well against the Spurs this season in three games: 22.3 ppg, 8.7 apg, 43% shooter. But Tony Parker was better in two games against the Clippers: 22 ppg, 9.5 apg, with 55% shooting. It’s going to be fun watching these two match up in each game, and maybe people will realize just how good Parker really is when playing against the supposed best point guard in the league.
5. The Spurs not only have leaders, they have closers.
I’ve heard some ridiculous things said about this Spurs team. Presented with the fact that they somehow won 50 games during a strike-shortened season, some will say “Yeah, but it’s a whole different ballgame in the playoffs” as if the Spurs players and coaching staff haven’t made championship run before. They’ve been there and they’ve performed well. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Gary Neal have come up clutch in big moments and they can all create their own shot if needed as well.
No other team in the playoffs has that kind of deadly combination so deep. That’s why defending the Spurs late in a close game is such a crap shoot. They have so many options. And it could ultimately win them a championship.