Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs
February 18, 2014
7:30 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
1. True or false: The Spurs are more likely to win the West than the Clippers.
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): Hollinger’s odds currently give a slight edge to the Clippers, and this year marks L.A.’s best-ever chance, but are we really picking against the Spurs, here? I don’t care that San Antonio lacks so-called signature wins and looks more banged up than present-day Rust Cohle in True Detective’s interrogation scenes. Picking against the Spurs will drive you to madness — they’re basically the Yellow King.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell (@drew_48moh): I would say yes based on a number of factors. I think the Spurs have better defensive lineups that they can employ during the postseason than the Clippers do. I think San Antonio has shown in the past that it can make better adjustments over the course of a series than the Clips, though that could change with Doc Rivers taking over the team. And I think the Spurs simply know what it takes and have a talent level adequate enough to do so. Now, that being said, I don’t think the gap is all that great between the two teams. Rivers is an excellent coach and Chris Paul is one of the best point guards in the league. Blake Griffin has improved and Rivers is at least conditioning DeAndre Jordan to be a fourth quarter player this postseason.
Mathew Tynan, 48 Minutes of Hell, (@Matthew_Tynan): True, though I’m not as confident in this as I once was. The Clippers are playing great, and Blake Griffin has made arguably his biggest leap as a professional this season. Still, I remain unconvinced Los Angeles can beat the best in the West in a seven-game series when the pace slows and the game moves into the half-court more often. The Clippers allow opponents to convert too easily at the rim, and teams like the Spurs execute beautifully to create good looks from three and even mid-range despite L.A.’s stingy perimeter defense… but there’s always the health issue with the Spurs, which makes this very close.
2. Would you rather have Manu Ginobili or Jamal Crawford as your sixth man?
James: Ginobli. Look, with Crawford averaging a career-best 21.9 points per 36 minutes, he’s gone from potential trade bait to indispensable offensive anchor over the course of 55 games. That’s undeniably impressive at age 33 — but so too is Ginobli’s age-36 season, especially considering last year’s playoff struggles. And the long view tips the scale in favor of the Argentine.
McNeill: Well, this is a tough one. I think you have to lean towards Crawford if for nothing else because he’s more dependable. He’s a top-notch scorer and a joy to watch. If Ginobili could be leaned upon to be healthy, I would side with Manu. In my eyes he was a favorite for the sixth man of the year before he got injured a few weeks ago. Manu is one of the better playmakers we have in this league on offense and a solid defender, even though he’s typically outmatched athletically. But Crawford is too good to risk taking a gimpy Ginobili.
Tynan: Last year I would have said Jamal, hands down, but Manu has been very good. He’s a little more efficient as a scorer but he’s much more impactful as a facilitator, though that’s not really Crawford’s game. Ginobili’s 3-point percentages are back up and he’s been as efficient as he’s ever been when attacking the rim, shooting nearly 70 percent from inside the restricted area; as a passer he’s creating 21.4 points per 48 minutes, the most of any non-point guard (other than Kobe Bryant) in the league, per SportVU data. Health concerns make this discussion closer than the numbers do, but I’d still take Ginobili.
3. What will be the Clippers’ seed in the West come the end of the season?
James: Fourth, but who can say! Playing surprisingly well while stars/starters are injured isn’t a guarantee of playing commensurately better upon their return. As our own Andrew Han pointed out, we don’t have sufficient evidence to conclude that a healthy Clippers team is elite — at least not yet. That said, pending Redick’s return, these upcoming games against the Spurs, Griz, Thunder, and Rockets could help make that case.
McNeill: Honestly, I’m having trouble figuring out the West seeds 2-4. I think the Oklahoma City Thunder will cruise to the 1-seed and after that it’s a crap shoot. In a recent 5-on-5 at ESPN.com, I predicted that the Blazers would grab the 2-seed and the Spurs would be third. But let’s be honest, I have no idea.
Tynan: The West is such a crapshoot, but I believe the Clippers will have home-court advantage in the first round, which would be impressive considering the difficulty of their schedule down the stretch. But I’d like to watch what this team looks like if healthy in the coming months, especially in regard to Chris Paul. Blake’s beastiness without CP3 was awesome to watch, but those two together is a different story entirely. All these teams are going to try like hell to get a top-three seed, regardless, because they’ll want to put off having to play the top seed for as long as possible.