NBA Playoff Preview: (3) L.A. Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan and Tony Parker might be without Manu Ginobli as they take on the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker might be without Manu Ginobli as they take on the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

(3) L.A. Clippers v. (6) San Antonio Spurs

Clippers odds to win 2015 Title: 18/1
Spurs odds to win 2015 Title: 7/2
Clippers odds to win West: 9/1
Spurs odds to win West: 2/1

Odds c/o Bovada

Series Prices: SAS -170; LAC +145
c/o Bookmaker

The reigning champion San Antonio Spurs made a late season push in the tight Western Conference, but proceeded to fall just as quickly with fractions of a game separating the top teams in the West. Even so, the Spurs will enter this series as favorites according to NBA oddsmakers at both Bovada and Bookmaker.

NBA daily odds favor San Antonio, while the No. 3 seeded Clippers will hold home court advantage in this series.  For those unfamiliar with how to bet the above odds, check out our NBA odds explained.

We’ve learned from the past that Gregg Popovich cannot be doubted, but the Clippers do have a wealth of talent and Doc Rivers is hardly a slouch of a coach for that matter, either. Both teams sport superb depth and can count on their respective benches for a lot of production.

While the player rotations tighten up in the postseason, the strength of the teams’ benches plays an interesting role in this series. If one had to pick, the Spurs may have the more productive bench, but it is the Clips with the more talented cast of reserves. Again, the Pop-coaching effect is primarily the cause here.

Tim Duncan has declined clearly as a player, but at some point it has to be remembered we are talking about a 38 year old All-Star still. Duncan typically saves his best heroic ball for the postseason, and it will test the Clippers immensely to control him. Blake Griffin is undersized to contest Duncan’s shots, and DeAndre Jordan will need to avoid foul trouble to stay in the game and protect the rim. Should Jordan be placed on Duncan, Pop will seek to go to No. 21 in the post and force the issue of foul trouble. Backing up Jordan is a much less inspiring option at center, be it Glen Davis or Spencer Hawes.

If the Spurs can get Davis or Hawes pressed into big minutes, it will open up colossal holes for Kawhi Leonard’s drives to the basket. Leonard won Finals MVP this year and will be in line for a max-contract that the Spurs won’t hesitate to reward him with. Leonard is a great young talent, and Spurs brass clearly calculated that when the emergent George Hill was dealt to the Pacers to acquire Leonard’s rights.

The Clippers do have one great thing going for it in this series: Chris Paul. Paul is capable of controlling the tempo, though both teams will seek to push the ball. Playoff basketball tends to slow down, though, and the edge may go to the team that plays the best half-court basketball. And that’s the Spurs. While it may not look pretty to see a chubby Boris Diaw trotting around the court, he’s instrumental in the Spurs heavy passing, with Tony Parker serving as the true point guard.

Diaw functions well from the high post, and he still has the court vision that once rendered him an actual point guard. The Spurs are known for four and five pass possessions, as the team favors getting the truly best shot possible; that is to say, Spurs players will pass on a good shot to look for a great shot. That, too, will play a prevalent role in San Antonio dismantling the Clips in this series.

The Clippers are holders of the top offensive rating in the league (112.4), but the defensive efforts of Doc Rivers’ club rank middle of the pack (15th, 105.5 rating). While the Clippers can put up mass points, and do (106.7), it is the Spurs who rank far superior on the defensive end of the court. San Antonio ranks behind only Golden State as the top defending team in the Association and the offense is hardly deficient obviously, too (7th, 108.5).

The Spurs, like the Clippers, have about a six point differential, but it seems more dramatic given that the Spurs are capable of putting the lid on teams quickly to come back from large deficits, or extend leads into safe cushions to win games.

This series will be lower scoring than most expect due to the “playoff effect,” but it is that same effect that makes the Spurs the time-tested favorites that they have been for the last 15 years, winning five titles over the course of Duncan and Parker’s careers. It would be surprising to see Pop and his veteran group bow out in the first round, but Paul and his teammates have motivation.

Paul has yet to have a big postseason, and there have been detractors insinuating that affects his status as an all-time great point. He chose to remain in L.A. in hopes of bringing the Clippers their first title, which would also be his first. It’s just a really tough draw that the defending champs are standing in the way right off the bat.

It’s hard to imagine the Spurs packing it up after one round, but some bettors are quick to jump on the Clips youth and expect it to prevail, or have fallen victim to the “excitement factor.”  Unfortunately for Clippers fans, having more lobs than the Spurs won’t result in a series victory.

Prediction:  Spurs in 6

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