San Antonio Spurs (4-0) at Los Angeles Clippers (2-2)
Staples Center, Los Angeles CA
7:30p PT ESPN, Fox Sports Prime Ticket
Coming off two unexpected home losses, the Clippers seek revenge on the team that ended their previous season. The Spurs are the only remaining undefeated team in the Western Conference and murmurs of their demise continue to be vastly overrated. Will the Clippers bounce back or fall under .500 five games into the season? Three questions for Jovan Buha, Fred Katz and, from 48 Minutes of Hell, Andrew McNeill.
(Update: I took part in a chat with Andrew over at 48 Minutes of Hell, which you should feel free to check out if you are looking for some more pregame reading)
1) Admit it– you were surprised to find out that this is the first 4-0 start in San Antonio’s franchise history. Look into your crystal ball: When all is said and done, where will this rank among other great Spurs teams?
Jovan Buha: The Spurs — as well as the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls — judge themselves on championships. If they don’t win one this season, they won’t be remembered. Plus, I don’t even think this is the best Spurs team of the last three years. The silver lining may come from Kawhi Leonard, who’s developing into the fourth piece they’ve been missing.
Fred Katz: I was shocked, but I don’t think an all-time best start necessarily means an all-time best team. I still think this Spurs team is not as good as the Thunder, who beat them down in the final four games of last year’s Western Conference Finals. That puts them behind each the ’99, ’03, ’05, and ’07 title teams to start.
Andrew McNeill: It’ll be lost in the abyss if the Spurs don’t win the title. As much fun as many of these Spurs teams have been, they’re not memorable if they don’t bring back a Larry O trophy. It’ll be a shame when last season’s team is gone and forgotten.
2) Before last year’s playoff sweep, what about the Clippers scared Spurs fans the most (relatively speaking)? Still a concern?
Buha: Chris Paul. For whatever reason, Blake Griffin tends to struggle against the Spurs — he can’t score against Tim Duncan’s length or DeJuan Blair’s girth. Paul, on the other hand, has done reasonably well (besides the playoffs), and is the best floor general in the league. If any player can outsmart the smartest team in the NBA, it’s CP3… and the Spurs know it.
Katz: Anytime Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are on the same team, that has to be the biggest concern, but the Spurs should be nervous about the potential of an offensively competent DeAndre Jordan. That is especially true since they are still searching for a feature big to consistently stay on the floor with Tim Duncan.
McNeill: Chris Paul. Paul is the best point guard in the league, and when you have the best guy at that position, anything can happen. I’m surprised he didn’t hurt the Spurs like I was expecting last season.
3) After the playoff sweep, what was the Clippers’ most obvious weakness? Are the Spurs still licking their chops?
Buha: Defensive rotations. I went to Game 3 — the game the Clippers blew 24-point lead — and had a feeling throughout the entire second half that the Spurs were just waiting for the perfect time to strike. Well, they did. They picked apart the Clippers’ D possession-by-possession. For the Clippers to stand any chance against the silver and black, their rotations need to be near perfect.
Katz: Last year’s team was not going to win if Chris Paul and Blake Griffin didn’t play well. This year’s roster has more scorers to back its two stars up, but the defensive rotations are still something on which the Clippers seriously need to get to work.
McNeill: Probably defensive discipline. Not just staying down on pump fakes, but generally playing defense “the right way.” The Spurs feast on teams that can’t be disciplined in their rotations and communicate on defense, both of which the Clippers seem to have some trouble with.