The Los Angeles Clippers may have just wrapped up an exciting 7-game series with the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, but they’ll be in for a tough turnaround just two days later as they get set to take on the San Antonio Spurs tonight at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, with tip-off set for 9:30 PM ET. With the Spurs feeling good and rested after getting 8 days rest thanks to their first-round sweep of the Utah Jazz, and the Clippers playing their 6th game in just 11 days, the health of these two clubs coming into tonight’s Game 1 match-up may be the biggest storyline to follow.
The Clippers certainly aren’t being helped in their quest to compete against the number one team in the Western Conference, as mounting injuries have taken their toll on Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Mo Williams and Caron Butler so far. Blake Griffin is perhaps the biggest concern for the long-haul, as his sprained left knee kept him from finishing out Game 7 against the Memphis Grizzlies, and has had doctors speculating that he would otherwise be missing up to two weeks for recovery time, if this were the regular season. With Chris Paul nursing a lingering hip flexor strain as well, Caron Butler playing through a break in his non-shooting hand, and Mo Williams suffering what appears to be a pair of jammed fingers (which kept him to 11 minutes in Game 6, but fortunately didn’t seem to faze him in Game 7 much), there are plenty of causes for concern as to whether or not Los Angeles can even field a healthy starting line-up that is capable of competing on such a quick turnaround. After playing one of the most physical series seen in recent NBA playoff series, it’s evident that the price Los Angeles paid to get past the first round against Memphis may have be too steep of one, as they find themselves without much time for rest, and facing the single hottest team in the NBA, with the Spurs running off 14 straight wins coming into the Western Conference Semifinals.
Typically towards this portion of the season, it’s the San Antonio Spurs that struggle with injury due to the age of their veteran lineup, however heading into this match-up at home tonight the term ‘no significant injuries’ for their roster is most certainly a welcome sight for Spurs fans to see. Perhaps the only pressing concern for San Antonio heading into tonight’s game is the fact that they’ve had simply too much time off, without knowing who they’ll be facing in the next round. Just finding out on Sunday that the Clippers would be their second round opponents, the Spurs have had just one full day to make preparations for Los Angeles’ arrival. However, that shouldn’t deter the Greg Popovich-coached Spurs in their pursuit of a strong start to another series, much like they weren’t hung up whatsoever in completely dismantling the Utah Jazz in the first two games played in San Antonio, winning by 15 and 31 points in Games 1 and 2 respectively. The Spurs pursuit of shutdown defense, limiting the opposition to mainly mid-range shots and oppressing attempts around the 3-point line and in near the basket, will most certainly be a key factor in this series with the Clippers as well, as despite Los Angeles’ mounting injuries, they are a young, explosive team that loves to get in towards the hoop, and can also drain the three-ball.
For the Los Angeles Clippers to have success against a better, more rested Spurs team that has home court advantage, their own defense must continue to play at the same level they were at against Memphis in Game 7, where they held the Grizzlies to just 72 points on offense, 16 points in the 4th quarter, and just 32.5 percent shooting from the floor. Especially important has been the Clippers outstanding defense against the 3-point shot. Los Angeles twice held Memphis to 0-for nights from beyond the arc, with the Griz missing all 13 of their deep shots in Game 7 alone. With San Antonio having no issues draining 3′s in the first series of the NBA playoffs against Utah, where they converted an impressive 40.7 percent of their 3-point shots (averaging 24.9 points from beyond the arc per game), Los Angeles can ill afford to allow the Spurs to control the game via the perimeter and must play tough contain defense on top shooters like Manu Ginobli (due for a bounce-back after shooting just %21.5 from 3-point range, averaged %41.3 during the regular season), and Stephen Jackson (%53.3). While there is no question that job number one for the Clippers is to contain Tony Parker (21 points, 6.5 assists/game in the playoffs), preventing the perimeter game from opening up for the Spurs will be just as important, as it’s one of the few areas the Clippers will have a possible advantage in this series.
Inside the paint is another huge point of contention for this series, with Blake Griffin’s status in doubt for the long-haul, and the San Antonio Spurs showing lots of strength in the interior behind veteran big man Tim Duncan. The Spurs managed 41.8 rebounds per game through the first series, completely dominating the undersized Jazz, while the Clippers had a tougher time with a bigger Memphis frontcourt, generating just 37.7 rebounds/game through 7 contests. Again, an area where the Clippers could be productive against the Spurs is on the offensive glass, where they averaged nearly 10 rebounds per game. Los Angeles will have to make sure that they keep fresh in the paint, with Reggie Evans, DeAndre Jordan and veteran Kenyon Martin all needing to have big step-up performances in this series to take some of the pressure and weight off the shoulders of the injured Blake Griffin. Without a major boost from the Clippers bench to help spread the load, the deeper rotation of the Spurs, via Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw and DeJuan Blair, will simply be too overwhelming for the Clippers starters to contend with for 48 minutes.
Betting Lines for Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs at TopBet Sportsbook.
The San Antonio Spurs, despite perhaps being a little rusty from their extending time without playing, carry the heavy favorite into Game 1 tonight via -1000 odds to win straight up. That massive line is most certainly due to injury concerns around Los Angeles’ top players Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, which has held the Clippers down to +750 underdogs. With the Spurs winning 14 in a row coming into tonight’s match-up, look for very little chance that the banged up Clippers can take Game 1.
Against the spread could be a more appealing choice for underdog pickers, as there is a possibility that the Spurs will come out a little rusty after so much time off, and the Clippers will be likely to count more on some of their bench scorers, including Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams, and Kenyon Martin, to help shoulder the load. With the Spurs not able to prepare very long for match-ups with the bench players, that could actually work in the Clips’ favor, at least when considering their +11 point disadvantage against the spread. San Antonio will definitely have to fight for covering the -11 points ATS, as its certain that with missing offensive assets, the Clippers will turn to a strong defensive effort to keep them competitive tonight.
For the over/under on the total points line for Game 1, 191 points is the mark set for the two teams. With both sides looking to play solid defense however, and a high likelihood that the Clippers could see at least one of their top scorers in limited action (most likely Blake Griffin, whose stamina will be in doubt tonight), this could be a good opportunity to side with the under wager, especially if the Spurs come out a little flat to start the game and scoring is subdued from the onset.
Any which way you slice it, the Spurs most certainly have the upper hand heading into this series with the Clippers, but we should expect an interesting match-up with a lot of variables at play for Game 1. Enjoy all the wagering options at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed at TopBet today, and get set for an exciting first match-up between two of the Western Conference’s top squads.