San Antonio Spurs at L.A. Clippers
February 21, 2013
7:30 p.m. PST
After a full week off, the Clippers return with a tough one, hosting the Spurs in their first game of the second half. It won’t be easy, but the Clips have outscored the Spurs by 13.5 points per game in their two victories against San Antonio this season. Now onto 3-on-3:
1. The Spurs have the best record in the NBA, but where do they rank among the league’s best teams?
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell, (@drew_48moh): They’re up there with Oklahoma City and Miami. I’d say those three teams are the top tier in the league right now, and the Clippers are on the tier just below them. The Spurs are top five in the league in offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, and defensive rebounding percentage. They’re in a good spot right now.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): As difficult as it is to determine which teams rank where, I think the Spurs are the third-best team behind the Heat and Thunder, if only slightly. That’s no knock on San Antonio — Miami and OKC are just that good. That said, no one wants to face the Spurs in the postseason.
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): The Spurs are quite simply the best regular season team in the NBA. San Antonio’s mistake free brand of basketball is as much a testament to the technical quality of Pop’s system as it is to the willingness of his players to buy into the all-or-nothing approach. Ask Danny Green how it feels to get yanked from the game 15 seconds after the tip, only to be reinserted 90 seconds later. How this translates to the playoffs, however, is an open question.
2. Who’s more valuable: Tim Duncan or Tony Parker?
McNeill: This reminds me of a question that Tom Habertstroh (name drop alert) asked me in the fall. He asked me if the Spurs could only pick one back in 1997, would I rather have Tim Duncan or Gregg Popovich. It was such a frustrating question that I wanted to give him a punch in the face in the friendliest way possible. This is along those lines because of Duncan’s improvement defensively this year. But I’m going to give the edge to Parker just because of the level he’s playing at is so high and he’s done it even when Duncan has been out of the lineup.
Buha: Can I push? The Spurs are the rare team where it’s almost impossible to decipher which of their top-two players is more valuable. It’s been Duncan throughout the years, but Parker has become their best player the past couple seasons. If I had to choose I’d pick Duncan, because he’s enjoying a career renaissance that seems to correlate with the Spurs’ success.
Shagrin: If I could push I would, but for the sake of argument I’ll go with Parker. Even though Duncan is putting up close to career numbers, Popovich gave Parker the keys to the offense and he’s been driving one efficient machine. When Parker’s on the court, just about every lineup configurations yields a 3PT% superior to the team average.
3. Do the Clippers beat the Spurs for the third time in as many tries this season?
McNeill: I don’t think so. The Spurs have a full roster (depending on Stephen Jackson’s availability) for the first time in a while and the Clippers will be playing their first game since Valentine’s Day. San Antonio already worked off its rust in a win over the Kings on Tuesday night, so I’m going to give the Spurs a slight edge because of that.
Buha: Yes. I know the Spurs will be more than prepared to face the Clippers, but I feel this matchup tilts in L.A.’s favor. Couple that with the momentum the Clippers generated before the All-Star break, and I think they squeak out a close one. Someone has to finally beat the Spurs (they’ve won 15 of their last 16 games), right?
Shagrin: Yes. The Clippers went into the All-Star Break reenergized after their late January lull and Vinny Del Negro has always gotten the most out of his roster in marquee games at home. Even more, tip off is after Thursday’s 3 p.m. EST trade deadline, so any of the distractions surrounding the Clippers’ young assets should finally be out of the way.