Spurs at Clippers Give and Go Preview

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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.

To preview the night’s game, we did a short back-and-forth with Jovan Buha of TrueHoop Network site Clipperblog.

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.

AM: Now, with the Spurs and Clippers, do you feel like the Clippers “figured out” San Antonio in the first two games this season?

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…

JB: Here’s an easy one: Tony Parker will score more points than he has in the first two regular season meetings combined (just 15 points).
But for randomness: I’m expecting a big game from Danny Green. Not sure why, but I think his performance will swing tonight’s game either way. I’m going to go out on a limb and says he, like Parker, also scores over 15 points.
  • T Boone

    Let’s hope icyHOT is feelin’ it tonight. I don’t want this hot streak to end!

  • Sir Timothy

    Love my Spurs but everything says that tonight will be a tough one. For some reason the Spurs do not play well on national TV this year. They are on the road. No Kawhi. Clippers are mad about last year. Spurs have won too many and Pop does not like for us to be too far ahead of OKC.

    Plus a tough and winnable game tomorrow night. I think if we are winning this one Pop goes for it and sits some people tomorrow…if this one gets away he may sit some folks early. Hope it is a good one since it is on TV!

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    FYI guys, I don’t have any Twitter duty for ESPN tonight, so I’m gonna hangout in the comments here and chat about the game as it happens if anyone would like to join me. I’ll buy the first round.

  • George

    SPURS WILL LOSE TONIGHT!!!!!

  • Graham

    Depends. Tonight’s a good night to send a message to the Clips. Out here in LA the prevalent attitude is the Clips have ‘figured out’ the Spurs and only have to figure out the Thunder to make it to the Finals. Either we play it close to the vest and hold out the big guns till Playoff time, or lay the hammer down and try and let self doubt creep back into the Clips’ psyche.

  • Graham

    We’ll find out in the first 24 if the Spurs are interested in trying to win, that’s for sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1726952002 Christopher Joseph

    Mr. McNeill, For those of us that crave SPURS talk all the time can you please petition ticket 760 in San Antonio to fire Mike Taylor and hire you for the morning drive time?! I know you live up north like me (Bastrop Co. here) but if you run down to the studio for the morning you could be back home by lunch time! Just a thought, I hate that guy, all he talks is Cowboys football all the time. I work on the road in Phoenix and Portland and they have knowledgable DJ’s who actually talk about their basketball teams and we’ve got the greatest one in San Antonio and never hear any intereting insight about them. C’mon
    Andy whattaya say?! I think the SPURS deserve better than 760′s coverage of them. Tired of Dallas Cowboys talk all the time. GO SPURS GO!

  • samhl

    the way i see it we either face okc or clippers in the playoffs, we won’t face both of them if we keep the first spot in the west. we have a disciplined team and if pop keeps managing minutes and avoiding injuries, we have a big shot on holding to first spot. i have to say we are playing better than last year especially the role players ( kawai, splitter, green esp.) and better def. too which cost us last year vs okc because we couldn’t defend.

    on the other side , clippers are better team than last year’s team. they have more depth of the bench and are bigger on parameter (bigger wing players, butler, grant hill, barnes) and they have played together for 2 years now. i hate to face those 2 teams in a raw (okc , then clippers) because it will take too much energy to beat both then go to finals to play fast running team like miami.

  • lvmainman

    The Clippers are the best team in the West, to me. The Spurs casual fan will be surprised at the outcome of tonight’s game. The last time the Spurs lost by 24 with the big 3 on the bench in the 4th qtr. Knowing Pop, the big 3 will be on the bench in the 4th qtr again, in anticipation of tomorrow’s game against the Warriors.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Well, Spurs are shooting well early but Clippers are just two back. Not sure what kind of Danny Green we’ve got tonight. He’s 1-of-2 from 3 but looks like he might get carried away and try to do too much.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    If Blake Griffin beats you on turnaround jumpers off the wrong foot, you sleep just fine at night.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jared.joy Jared Joy

    Andrew or anyone else that wants to comment: This is a little off topic but with all the talk about DeJuan Blair and him leaving the Spurs I feel part of the problem when I have watched him is I think he needs to start to be effective. I feel like he needs to play lots of minutes to really do any good. Some guys can come off the bench and get right in and play great, for instance Steve Kerr. I just don’t feel like Blair is wired like that. Also I think even though Duncan is considered a center, his natural position is Power Forward and so is Blairs, so I just dont think they matcup well. I think Blair could thrive as a starter somewhere playing next to a true center. What do you think?

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Sure, he’s good enough to play somewhere. Problem is, the Spurs bigs today are better than they were when Blair was a rookie. And Blair hasn’t developed enough to over come that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jared.joy Jared Joy

    To me it just seems like when he has started he has put up some great numbers, but I think the Spurs want him as more of a bench guy and I don’t see him as one. You are right he hasn’t developed enough. I wonder if he has kind of reached his potential or if he doesn’t work hard enough in the offseason?

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Definitely, but the Spurs aren’t in a position to give Blair 25+ minutes just because he plays better that way, when they can give 15-20 to Splitter and Diaw and get better production. I think Blair works plenty hard in the offseason, just take a look at the weight he lost this summer and the strides he made on his jumper, he just has severe physical limitation. Namely: height.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Honestly, I don’t listen to sports radio, so I can’t comment (I’m a podcast guy, myself). I have met Mike Taylor at a few Spurs games and he seems like a nice enough dude. I think the problem is that San Antonio as a whole cares about Cowboys football too much and he’s just giving them what they want.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jared.joy Jared Joy

    No that makes sense to me why they don’t play him. Splitter and Diaw are definitely more effective. Height was a problem pre draft with him. Amazing how someone undersized like Charles Barkley became a HOFer. Maybe Blair should watch some tapes on Barkley. Too bad we couldn’t get something for Blair today.

  • Graham

    This game has been QUITE satisfying to watch so far……..especially listening in on the Clippers broadcast in LA, lol.

  • Spurs fan in Australia

    Im following the game on yahoo and Parker seems to be killing Paul. Is that accurate or is it just the Spurs are totally outplaying the Clippers?

  • Graham

    Both

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Yeah, both. It’s obscene.

  • Spurs fan in Australia

    You have to wonder if Parker is playing with a point to prove for all the media over looking him constantly as one of the top point guards.
    Also, with Spurs not making a trade today, do you think thats a vote of confidence for Nando as the back-up point guard?

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Both Patty and Nando are good, backup-quality point guards, it’s just that neither has stepped up and taken the spot for themselves. The Spurs can get by seeing who will step up from game-to-game, it’s just not ideal.

  • Graham

    WELP

  • Spurs fan in Australia

    Do you think Nando wil be a better back up next season? I kinda see him improving in the same way Splitter has improved, plus an extra off season to work on his shot which will open up passing lanes even more.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Definitely. His jumpshot has come a long way just since preseason. The bigger question to me is how good will Cory Joseph be next year? The Spurs will have to decide by the end of October whether or not they’re going to extend him. He’s going to need a good preseason.

  • andy

    NAILED IT

  • Spurs fan in Australia

    I forgot about Joseph. What would his ceiling be? All we need his someone that can play a similar role to what TJ Ford was playing before he got injured and who keeps the ball handling out of Neal’s hands.
    Hows the Baynes and Blair frontcourt going?

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