Spurs vs. Clippers Give and Go Preview, Round 2

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We’re 10 game into the regular season, and already the Spurs are presented a chance to get revenge on a team that beat them. That’s the reality in a season that, even though it’s a full 82-game slate, is actually a rather weird schedule. The Spurs take off for a six-game road trip after tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, play a stretch six out of seven games on the road in December, and then they face a nine game Rodeo Road Trip in February. Strange days.

With tonight’s Spurs-Clips tilt, I invited Charlie Widdoes of ClipperBlog back to talk about why the Clippers are really good now.

Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: Spurs-Clippers Part 2: This Time It’s Personal

Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: If it’s personal, then the Clippers have a lot of high-profile enemies these days.

AM: It’s getting that way. That’s what happens when you employ Chris Paul.

CW: Right. Which is what made the injuries to him and blake in last year’s playoffs so frustrating. The Clippers are a better team this year than they were. Internal improvement from DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe and the additions of guys like Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes have helped, but you wonder what they could have done to make the series more interesting had Blake Griffin and CP not been hobbled.

AM: Is the improvement from Jordan going to stick or is he going to regress back to what we’re accustomed to?

CW: I’m pretty confident it’s here to stay. The guy is 24 and has shown signs of improvement over time, if you looked closely. You would see glimpses, but then in games he’d regress.

AM: Safe to say I have not looked closely.

CW: But the effort is way more consistent, the footwork and right-handed jump hook are legitimately parts of his arsenal now, and he’s embraced the communication necessary to anchor a defense. Which, by the way, has them in the top 3 this year. I can’t imagine even the most optimistic fans had them in the top 3 in defensive efficiency.

AM: Did you hear Stephen Jackson’s comments about the Clips after Saturday night’s Spurs game?

CW: I missed them, but I probably agree. What’d he say?

AM: Someone asked him about tonight’s game, and he mentioned that the Clippers were pretty hyped to play the Spurs last time. They “still had the dustpan in the arena.” And apparently the Spurs owe them one now.

CW: Interesting.

AM: Never a dull moment when Stephen Jackson gets in front of the camera.

CW: Well, as you know, I’m a big supporter of the Spurs and the way they do things, but the way the Clippers have played against the best teams in the league supports the belief that their ceiling is really only limited by their own management.

AM: Which, to be honest, can be a significant limitation.

CW: It can. I’ve harped on Vinny Del Negro as much as anyone, but they are rolling in spite of him. Against teams like Miami, they overwhelm with size. Against teams that like to slow it down and execute, they have been causing turnovers and getting out in the open floor.

AM: That’s a signification strength for them, being able to adjust to the type of game.

CW: Right. The other thing, and this is what you’ll hear Chris Paul tell you, is that everyone knows their roles. Other than Eric Bledsoe, whose development is nowhere near complete, the team is filled with guys who stay within themselves.

Willie Green doesn’t get in the way and knocks down over 40% of his 3s. Matt Barnes causes havoc on defense and cuts like hell off the ball. Ryan Hollins runs and jumps and makes full use of his six fouls. These guys, while flawed, have come to embody the spirit of this incredibly deep team.

AM: I loathe Ryan Hollins.

CW: During that offseason time when we think of players by reputation and numbers and how they’d fit in theory, many of us did, too. But he’s been fine. Compared to Lamar Odom/Ronny Turiaf, Hollins has been great. And because of that latter point, he’s been essential to the best bench in the league.

AM: Gary Neal is expected to play, does that terrify you considering some of his previous big moments against the Clips?

CW: As I have said all along, Gary Neal is a poor man’s Eric Gordon. Problem for him and the Spurs and their devoted fans, is that he’ll be guarded by Eric Bledsoe in all likelihood. That doesn’t tend to end well, even for some of the better guards in the league.

AM: VDN wouldn’t put Bledsoe on Manu Ginobili?

CW: I mean, he could guard either. But if Neal is handling the ball, I’d imagine Bledsoe checks him.

AM: If Manu plays tonight like he did against the Nuggets on Saturday night (20 points, 5-7 from 3), how do the Clippers respond?

CW: Manu is obviously a problem. As you said, though, the Clippers have developed multiple ways to win. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are playing season-low minutes. If Manu heats up and Tony Parker is getting in the lane and Timmy Duncan is being Timmy, etc, Clipper fans can be comforted in knowing that they have ammo in reserve.

It’s weird, Andrew, I’m confident in the Clippers against teams like San Antonio and Miami, both of which I would have always given a healthy dose of benefit of the doubt. For the first time, the Clippers’ whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. In the past, it was often resoundingly the opposite.

AM: We’ve been talking about the Clippers around these parts for the past few days, in part due to the thumping LAC put on the Spurs already this season. I have a theory that I’m not as worried about the Clippers because they rely so heavily on Chris Paul. The Spurs are really good at taking options away from one player and/or game planning specifically for one player and forcing others to beat them. I’m pretty confident that the Spurs would beat Los Angeles pretty handily in a seven game series.

CW: That’s the thing, they no longer rely so heavily on CP3. That’s the biggest difference this year. Not only is CP’s backup a starting-quality point guard capable of disrupting the game in his own way, but the defense is MUCH better, the offense is more balanced, and the guys who matter — Griffin, Jordan, Bledsoe — are all markedly improved on offense.

Plus, they run this year and get easy looks that way. That said, I’d agree that in a series, the Clippers would be far from a strong favorite. Looking forward to this one!

AM: For sure. I need a random prediction before you go. Nothing to do with the final score.

CW: Hmmm. Jamal Crawford leads the game in scoring? Does that suffice?

AM: That’ll do.

CW: How about this: Between the two teams, 10 players will score in double figures, but no one will go over 25.

AM: That’s a helluva prediction.

CW: When I get a chance to appear on 48 Minutes of Hell, I know I need to step my game up.