LA Clippers (4-1) @ San Antonio Spurs (5-1)
5:30 p.m. PST
November 5, 2016
Prime Ticket/NBA TV
Over the past five seasons, only two teams have won at least 60 percent of their games each season: the LA Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs. While the Clippers have been in Playoff Purgatory, the Spurs have mixed a 2014 championship with losses in all four postseason rounds in the last five years. That includes a 1st round loss to the Clippers in 2014-2015.
The Clippers went 0-2 at AT&T Center last season. There’s really no shame in that – the Spurs won all but one home game last year during the regular season, tying an NBA record. The last time the Clippers were in San Antonio was in March, a game that saw LA get outscored 37-17 in the 4th quarter of a 108-87 loss. Spurs SF Kawhi Leonard had 20 points on 9-of-15 FGs to lead a Spurs team that shot 53.7 percent from the field.
The Spurs have already lost a home game this year, falling to the Jazz on Tuesday night 106-91. But the Spurs bounced back last night in Utah, beating the Jazz 100-86 behind Leonard’s 29 points (9-of-18 FGs), 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Leonard’s been a beast in his 6th NBA season, averaging career-highs in points (28.5), assists (3.8), steals (2.7), and made FTs (8.8). Leonard’s usage percentage has also climbed every season – his 33.1 percent usage percentage is not only a career-high, but also the highest of any player in the Gregg Popovich era and the highest of any Spurs player that averages at least 20 minutes per game since Hall of Famer George Gervin had a 35.0 usage percentage in 1981-1982.
What makes Leonard’s output so remarkable is that he’s averaging only 1.7 turnovers a game. While that’s still a career-high for Leonard, it is also the fewest turnovers per game by a player with a usage percentage over 30.0 since current Spurs PF LaMarcus Aldridge’s last season in Portland in 2014-2015.
As a team, San Antonio’s turnover ratio is 2nd-best in the league. But they’ll be challenged tonight, as the Clippers have the best defense in the NBA right now, a mark the Spurs held last year. Clippers opponents have the highest turnover ratio in the league right now, and PG Chris Paul has a league-leading 19 steals already, an average of 3.8 per game. The last player to have that many steals in their team’s first five games was Metta World Peace in 2006-2007. Paul had six steals in Memphis last night, and he’ll be trying to join Robert Covington as the only players since 2011-2012 with 6+ steals in three straight games.
Paul won’t be going against San Antonio PG Tony Parker (knee), so it will be Patty Mills that will be trying to keep control of the Spurs offense. The Spurs also haven’t had Danny Green (quad) all season, with Kyle Anderson starting 5 of 6 games and Jonathon Simmons getting a bump in playing time. And, of course, Tim Duncan has retired.
The Clippers got a strong game from the starters, but a key development has been how much better the Clippers have been with Austin Rivers in with the starters at SF instead of Jamal Crawford:
Obviously, a key to this game will be how the team defends Leonard, so we’ll see how Doc Rivers delegates that responsibility in San Antonio.
Clippers are in San Antonio tonight – Kawhi Leonard's usage% is higher than any Spurs player in 35 years. Who should guard him?
— ClipperBlog (@clipperblog) November 5, 2016