Spurs at Clippers Give and Go Preview
After an up-and-down win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night, the San Antonio Spurs face their biggest test of the Rodeo Road Trip in playing the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. The Clippers haven’t played since Valentine’s Day thanks in part to the All-Star break and encounter a Spurs team without Kawhi Leonard, who will sit with a knee injury.
AM: Well, Los Angeles is playing its first game since the All-Star break. Do you expect the Clippers to be rusty to start against the Spurs?
JB: Yes and no. It’s always tough to tell how a team is going to respond coming out of a long break, and the Clippers have put up a few duds this season when they’ve had a few days off. That said, I think this game is personal for them. They still remember last season’s sweep, and I expect them to come out with a lot of energy in a national TV game (they’re kind of like Rajon Rondo).
AM: Do they have a full roster now? Everyone’s healthy?
JB: Yes, everyone is back and healthy. It’s weird typing that. Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill are all a little banged up, but are all expected to play tonight. Still, the Clippers have been protective with their injury reports this season, so it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the aforementioned players randomly sat and was listed as “day-to-day.”
AM: Well, Kawhi Leonard’s out tonight for the Spurs, so that bodes well for the Clips.
JB: That’s music to my ears. The Clippers don’t have a lot of size on the perimeter, and he’s the type of guy who can give Chris Paul fits with his length and athleticism.
AM: I think Danny Green would’ve defended Chris Paul anyway, but Leonard makes those plays defensively that you can’t really plan for.
Where is Chris Paul at right now? He was hurt for some time before the All-Star break, came back and they played well, and then was named MVP of the All-Star Game. Was the injury anything major?
JB: He’s healthy. As you saw in the All-Star game, he’s back to the old CP3 that the Clippers have grown to rely on. His injury was originally diagnosed as a bruised right kneecap, but if that was the case, he shouldn’t have been out as long as he was (about two weeks). I don’t know if it was anything serious, but it’s one of the disconcerting storylines to keep an eye on moving forward.
AM: We’re doing this preview right as we’re coming up on the trade deadline, and the Clippers have been in a lot of rumors. Have those rumors affected the team at all? Will they be playing with some weight off their shoulders tonight?
JB: To be honest, I don’t think the trade rumors have affected them that much. DeAndre Jordan has been upset for a majority of the season over his lack of playing time, and Eric Bledsoe secretly wants to be a starting point guard. I don’t think either player would have necessarily been upset with a trade. Of course, they’d rather play the season out and remain on a contender, and that’s what they’re going to do. L.A. isn’t making a move. They’ll explore their options over the offseason, but I think the rumors were just rumors and nothing more.
JB: I don’t think they figured them out so much as they figured out how to be successful against them. There’s a difference. No one’s figured out the Spurs yet, really. But you can come up with ways to stymie them. The Clippers looked like a more confident and agressive team in the first two games, and used their athleticism to leverage certain advantages. They dominated the glass and disrupted the Spurs’ offense with half-court traps and pressure (Spurs shot 41 percent or worse in both contests). Tonight, I’ll be interested to see what adjustments Pop makes, if any, as his Plans B, C and D are better than most coach’s Plan A.
AM: How have the Clippers been able to manage minutes now that they’ve got a full roster?
JB: Tonight is actually their first test. They’ve technically only had a full roster for their last five games, but each game has been a blowout one way or another (they’re 4-1 in that stretch). The only certainty is that Paul and Blake Griffin are going to get their 32-35 minutes a night. Billups and Hill are still limited a bit, and it seems as if Ronny Turiaf and Willie Green are out of the rotation. Otherwise, anything’s fair game. We can assume they’ll be going at least 10-deep every game. I’m interested to see how Vinny Del Negro disperses minutes, because we haven’t seen it yet.
AM: Last thing, can you give me one random prediction for tonight’s game? Something that has nothing to do with the final score…