L.A. Clippers at San Antonio Spurs
Time: 7:30 PM (CT), NBA TV
Spread: SAS -4.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers are both off to hot starts. The Spurs sit at 5-1 and are a perfect 4-0 on the road, but 1-1 at home where it will host Blake Griffin and the Clips Saturday night on NBA TV. NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes set the odds 4.5 points in favor of the hosting Spurs, as the 4-1 Clippers look to improve to 3-0 on the road this season.
It is not really any surprise to see these two teams clicking: they both returned most of last year’s core intact, and though the Spurs lost legend Tim Duncan, the addition of Pau Gasol mostly compensates for that, at least offensively. The Spurs do and will continue to miss the defensive leadership of the future Hall of Famer, but Gregg Popovich has a way of making just about every player matter. The Spurs added some role players whose early-season success only further attests to this fact.
Among those newcomers is former Orlando Magic big man Dewayne Dedmon. Dedmon has been sensational in his 16 minutes off the bench, and gives the Spurs one more talented big to throw into their rotation. The undrafted center is averaging 5.8 points and seven boards per game, while coming up with 1.83 blocks in his limited playing time. Putting that defensive presence on the court with the more offensively-minded Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge gives the Spurs exactly what they need. Adding to this is the development of Johnathon Simmons, who has to this point looked absoutely incredible.
Simmons has had some Lebron-esque blocks already this season and is averaging 7.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.83 blocks/steals in 24 minutes a night. Those numbers do not begin to tell the story of how well he has played, nevermind his very misleading 8.8 PER. Simmons has been a gift to Pop, and is just one more guy that the legendary coach seems to be on the verge of crafting into a very viable NBA starter. The Spurs also have been able to bring Patty Mills further along, with he and the legendary Tony Parker more or less splitting the minutes at the 1-spot. Mills is averaging 12.8 points and 2.7 assists per game while Parker tallies 5.5 points and four assists per. Both are humble lines, but adding the two together gives the picture of the effective play at the point for the Spurs. The question remains the defensive efforts of both, but Simmons has moonlighted at the point guard spot defensively to overcome this.
The Spurs find a way.
Of course, not to be lost in all of this is the fact that Kawhi Leonard is making the “proverbial leap” as an NBA talent. The 2014 Finals MVP has drawn superstar double teams on the offensive end, and the Spurs are playing brilliantly off that. Leonard is arguably one of the top-five players in the NBA, and the numbers seem to be starting to support that. While Duncan may go down as one of the best ever and is dearly departed, Leonard’s journey may only just be beginning.
As for the Clips, they began the season 3-0 with wins over Portland, Phoenix and Utah, but they fell 85-83 to the OKC Thunder behind the overly dominant play of Russell Westbrook. The Clips rebounded with a win over Memphis most recently to improve to 4-1 on the season. But this regular season dominance is a familiar theme with this team. Can Doc Rivers get the Clips to compete more heavily in the postseason?
All the talent and signs are there, but winning 50 games in the regular season is hardly the ultimate goal of an NBA team. Things are pretty much status quo in L.A., with the only real addition to the team being Marreesse Speights. The former Golden State Warrior is averaging almost as many points as minutes (10 points per game in just 14 minutes a night), and his shooting and gunning is a nice addition for the Clips. Speights is not one to change a team’s fortunes, but the Clippers needed some scoring off the bench, particularly from the backup bigs, and he fulfills that flawlessly.
Chris Paul has been his usual brilliant self, and Griffin is playing good ball (despite an early-season decrease in scoring at just 18.8 points per game), but L.A. needs a win if that can be said about a 4-1 team this early in the regular season. The Spurs are arguably the second-best team in the West, and before the Clippers concern themselves with beating the vaunted Warriors club, it should likely look to establish dominance over this Spurs team, too. San Antonio put together an incredible season last year, that went mostly ignored due to the Warriors’ 73 wins, and due to the Spurs postseason collapse. Even with an aging core and the loss of Duncan, the Spurs are still one of the teams to beat in the West an this is a look at the best two clubs outside the Bay Area.