3-on-3 Gameday Preview: Spurs vs. Clippers Game 1

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"Look like I'm telling you something important, Chris will be back in a second to draw up a play." (Photo credit: Matthew D. Britt on Flickr)

After far too long of a wait, we’re finally back to basketball. The Spurs come off their longest stretch of rest all season and face off against a team that went the distance and round one and last played on Sunday afternoon. We’re not sure yet who that helps or hurts.

Charlie Widdoes of ClipperBlog joined Graydon and me to answer three questions about tonight’s Game 1.

1. Where can the Clippers hurt the Spurs the most in this series?

Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Can’t believe I’m saying this, but how about on defense?  The Clippers showed against Memphis that they are capable of gritting and grinding when engaged, and Vinny Del Negro saw what his second unit could do when pressed into action. I could see a lineup led by Eric Bledsoe and Kenyon Martin causing some trouble for the Spurs if given the opportunity.

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: At the rim and at the 3-point line. The Spurs defense is designed to prevent two kinds of shots: Shots at the rim and shots at the 3-point line. The Clippers are rather adept at getting both. Smart rotations and disciplined positioning are critical if the Spurs are going to force the Clippers into the long 2s that the Spurs defense thrives on encouraging.

Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: The 3-point line for one. Los Angeles is a good 3-point shooting team and they’ve got gunners galore, much like the Spurs. They’ve also got two physical bigs off the bench in Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin, don’t be surprised if they pick up some flagrant fouls in this series taking shots at Spurs attacking the basket.


2. Does the fact that the Clippers last played two days ago give them an advantage in Game 1?

Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: If it weren’t for injuries to their two best players, I’d say yes. But Blake Griffin’s knee is sprained and Chris Paul’s hip flexor is clearly…flexed. Both gutted out impressive efforts in Game 7, but Blake neither is as explosive as they’d be if healthy, and if they don’t heal quickly, that takes away the Clippers’ biggest advantages.

Graydon Gordian, 48MoH: Originally I would have said yes but, given the injuries the Clippers suffered over the last couple games of their first round series, I’d say any advantage Los Angeles may have had is largely negated. Either way, I’ve always been confident that, despite the long break, Popovich would have the team ready to play.

Andrew McNeill, 48MoH: I’m going to say yes. I think the Spurs are going to start out slow and out of sync in the first half of Game 1. How quickly they can recover and get their games correct will determine how they do in Game 1. Who knows, the Clippers might be able to steal Game 1 in San Antonio. The rest will help San Antonio the longer this series goes, however.


3. On paper, is Tony Parker-Chris Paul the best matchup in this series?

Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: On paper, yeah.  But I’m actually looking forward to watching Paul’s backup, Bledsoe, get his turn on Parker. His series against the Grizz was a revelation to those who weren’t already on his bandwagon, and as the Clippers’ best perimeter defender, he’s the only one with the quickness to hang with TP. What can I say — as someone who makes Matt Bonner look like Usain Bolt, I am a sucker for speed.

Graydon Gordian, 48MoH: Well, it depends on what you mean by “best.” Their matchup is arguably the most critical, as they are the centerpieces of their respective offenses. However, if by “best” you mean most exciting or intriguing, I’ll take Tim Duncan vs. Blake Griffin. Despite Griffin’s injuries, I’m intrigued to see how Duncan’s intelligence clashes with Griffin’s athleticism.

Andrew McNeill, 48MoH: Yes. I’m very excited about this matchup. You’ve got two of the top 5 point guards in the league going head to head. They’re both great players with contrasting styles. Then you’ve got the fact that Chris Paul hates the Spurs for the same reason as the Phoenix Suns. Paul feels like his 2008 Hornets team was the better of the two some years ago and should’ve beat the Spurs in that second round series, but it didn’t happen. He’ll play with some extra fire in this series.

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  • idahospur

    Spurs will take Game 1. My concern is that they get off to a strong lead and get lazy, which allows the Clippers back into the game. Of course, this recently happened in Game 4 against the Jazz and these very experienced Spurs are too smart to let that happen again. Griffin is obviously talented, but if he gets roughed up a bit, he’s going to be more protective of himself. Allow our bigs to pick up fouls on him and get Parker and Manu driving on him all night.

  • ZeusVizzle

    Hilarious caption to the photo, might I say.

    The game will have Chris Paul getting his, but we need to prevent the others from catching fire; Williams, Foye and Young are strictly jump-shooters and can will their team from the abyss (see: Memphis game 1 & game 3 of our season series vs. them).

    The peripheral parts don’t really strike fear to the Spurs, IMO, as Evans, Jordan and Martin won’t exactly set the world on fire on offense. But the one rule of thumb vs. Clips: Box OUT! They will be dirty, testy (literally http://youtu.be/HOw_ogBVmdo) but if we can withstand their foul play the Spurs will win in 5.

  • Daniel T

    The strong lead in game 4 of the series came due to the bench, not the starters, and the lead was mainly given up when Pop began to worry about losing a few points off the lead and putting the starters back in. If the starters get a lead in this game, no need to worry about them getting lazy as the bench will go in and extend the lead. It’s unlikely that anyone on the bench will get all that lazy,as they might then have their spots swapped with the 11th or 12th players.

  • Brandon

    @Daniel – not the game I watched. The lead was mainly lost due to a press that Utah threw onto Gary Neal, who was playing point at the time and proceeded to turn the ball over on multiple possessions. Parker got back in the game at point and the press disappeared along with Utah’s chance for a comeback.

    I am as quick as anyone to credit our bench for aggressive play and lead-extensions, but I didn’t see it this time. The big take-away for me is that Gary Neal should be playing very limited minutes at the point, especially in crunchtime.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we lose the first game after a long layoff. It’s always that way. I don’t want them to look out of sync but history says when the core3 much less the entire team is off more than 3 days they look horrible. Hope they buck the trend tonight.

    GSG!

  • Titletown99030507d

    Game 4 is a back to back? Is that a first in Spurs playoff history?

  • Matt Britt

    Thanks for featuring my photo. Go Spurs Go!