Five Factors: Clippers-Spurs Playoff Preview

It was just a couple months ago that the “Save Vinny’s Job” homestand began for the Los Angeles Clippers. They returned home reeling from a seven-point road loss against New Orleans, the worst team in the West, and had lost eight of 12. What has happened since has been the second renaissance of the former laughingstocks of Los Angeles, and Del Negro coached his kiester off in Game 7 of the first round against the Memphis Grizzlies, riding the players who were hot — whether it was Eric Bledsoe instead of Chris Paul, or Reggie Evans/Kenyon Martin instead of Blake Griffin, in the fourth quarter of a Game 7 road win at Memphis that put the Clippers into the second round for just the third time in the franchise’s 41-year history.

Did Del Negro acquit himself well enough to have the option year on his contract for next season picked up? No word on that yet from mercurial owner Donald J. Sterling, but you’d have to believe it is coming. In the meantime, Del Negro has to take his tired, banged-up Clips into San Antonio to face a team that hasn’t lost a game since April 11 — well more than a month ago. The Spurs made short work of the Utah Jazz in the first round and then waited and watched as the Grizzlies won Games 5 and 6 to send the series to a deciding seventh game. They’ll finally be back in action Tuesday night  for their first game in eight days. What will decide this series? Who will win? Here are five key factors, plus predictions from the staff of SheridanHoops.com.

  1. THE DEPTH FACTOR — Yes, it was quite a sight to see with Griffin wearing his warmups as Evans and Martin did the dirty work in the wrestling match that was Game 7 against Memphis. And it showed that one of the common criticisms of the Clippers was invalid. But was Del Negro’s sudden bench love an aberration or a sign of things to come? On that we’ll have to wait and see. With the Spurs, it’s something we’ve seen night-in and night-out since the end of December. San Antonio’s bench produced 40 or more points in each of their four victories over the Jazz. In Game 4, Manu Ginobili came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points, and no San Antonio starter had more than 11. It was the first time in the NBA’s last 591 playoff games in which no starter on the winning team scored 12 points.
  2. THE EXPERIENCE FACTOR: When the ball goes up Tuesday night for the opening tip, Tim Duncan will be playing in his 181st career playoff game, Tony Parker, all of 29 years old, will be playing in his 143rd. Between them they have four NBA Finals MVP awards. And then there is coach Gregg Popovich, who will be guiding his team in a postseason game for the 185th time (he has a career winning percentage of 60 percent). Del Negro will be in the second round for the first time in his coaching career after failing to get the Chicago Bulls out of the first round twice during his two-year stint with the Bulls. If he wants to lean on a player for whom this playoff stuff is old hat, it will be Martin, who will reach 100 career playoff games during this series.
  3. THE POINT GUARD FACTOR: This is going to be the best battle-within-a-battle during this series. Both Tony Parker and Chris Paul are lightning quick, both were such keys to their teams’ success that they garnered a few of the first-place MVP votes that did not go to LeBron James or Kevin Durant, and both are active defenders with quick hands — Paul led the NBA with 2.53 steals per game. It will be imperative for Paul to continue to create turnovers and transition opportunities that will allow the Clippers to get out in the open court and let Griffin do his Lob City thing. If this becomes a battle of half-court sets, Los Angeles stands no chance against a Spurs team that has become an offensive efficiency machine (they were 2nd in the NBA in  scoring at 103.7 points per game.)
  4. THE BOO-HOO GRIFFIN FACTOR:  The NBA leader in commercial endorsements and gravity-defying dunks has been getting clobbered when he leaves his feet, and he hasn’t been all that happy about it. Guess what, Blake? It isn’t going to get any easier as your career goes on, and staring down the referees and pouting isn’t going to make the situation better. The Spurs will burn fouls to put Griffin on the line, where he is a notoriously poor free throw shooter — 52 percent during the regular season, 59 percent for his career. And if necessary, the Spurs will also burn fouls to send DeAndre Jordan (44 percent) and Reggie Evans (52 percent) to the line. “Hack-a-Clip” may enter the basketball lexicon in this series if the Spurs somehow find themselves playing from behind.
  5. THE TRUTH FACTOR: We hold these truths to be self-evident: The Spurs are just better. They open this series on a 14-game winning streak, and they had two 11-game winning streaks during the regular season. Statistically, the Spurs have advantages everywhere: Points per game, 103.7 to 97.5. Field-goal percentage: .478 to .455. Rebounds per game: 43.0 to 41.6. Assists per game: 23.2 to 21.0. Free-throw percentage: .748 to .680. Three-point field goal percentage: .393 to .357.

PREDICTIONS: 

 SHERIDAN: Spurs in 4.

HUBBARD: Spurs in 5.

HEISLER: Spurs in 6.

BERNUCCA: Spurs in 5.

HAMILTON: Spurs in 5.

PERKINS: Spurs in 6.

ZAGORIA: Spurs in 5.

PARK: Clippers in 7.

 

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  1. says

    Depth Factor.. Spurs have no match for the following Clippers.
    ERIC BLEDSOE The dude could start in most NBA Cities…. He rocks.. I have seen him agaisnt Ginobli and Tony Parker he looks Blazing young and fast Vs both of them…
    MO WILLIAMS Enough Said.. All this talk about Spurs outside Shooters.> NONE OF THEM COMPARE TO Mo show could start on most teams and always does well Vs Ginobli !!!!
    DEANDRE JORDON was more of a Bench Player Vs the Grizzlies who obviously he couldnt do much against BUT VS THE SPURS he looks like a allstar.> WATCH HIS MINUTES INCREASE Bigtime vs the Spurs !!!…
    KMART.. >>>>>>>>> ENOUGH SAID..

  2. says

    How bout CLIPPERS IN 6
    I believe they can do it in 5 but i will say 6..
    If it takes 7 than so be it
    but no matter what
    THE CLIPPERS WIN THIS SERIES !!!

  3. says

    No disrespect meant to Sheridan but really does not get the Clips.. For being a “NBA Insider” you would think he would actually do an analysis af the actual match-up we have seen in 2012 between the Clippers and the Spurs to date in 2012…. WHo cares if the Spurs made a great run at the end of the season ” haven’t lost since April 11″ What is he gonna say when the Clips Spank the Spurs in either Game 1 or 2 ? I wouldn’t be surprised if the Clippers SWEPT THE SPURS !!!! ( sure we all know the NBA Refs World Wide Wrestling style manipulate game outcome) wont let it happen.. The spurs dont have the Muscle to actually Beat up the Clips under the boards. Actually the Clips youth will be highlighted as the Clippers SCHOOL THE SPURS in this series !! I also strongly believe the NBA WWW style refs actually will want the Clips to win this series so they can get the Clips Vs LA Lakers or the Thunder… DEANDRE JORDON looks like a Allstar when he plays the Spurs bigs !!!!
    First game in December Spurs spanked the Clippers but come this team barely played together by then..
    Second game the Clips GAVE THAT GAME AWAY Chris Paul still talks about how embarrassed he was w that game…
    3rd game by the time the Clips were up and running easy victory. who cares if They had a injury during that game The Clips HAVE HAD THEIR BEST 2 guard OUT too ..
    CLIPS CAN WIN THIS SERIES I AM GONNA SAY EASY AND IT WONT TAKE 7 GAMES !!!
    Grizzlies much more tougher opponent for the Clips vs the Spurs Who cares how good the spurs record is.. its wake up time NOW !!

  4. Daniel says

    Also, Sheridan has been picking against the Clippers since day one, calling them a lottery team, and they keep proving him wrong. Let’s hope he reverse jinxes them to a championship.

  5. Daniel says

    Also, Sheridan might finally be right. First, he picks the Clippers as a lottery team. After admitting he was wrong, the Clippers enter a midseason funk–and he picks them to fall out of the playoffs. Then they surge into the playoffs, and he picks them to lose to the Grizzlies. Now, you may finally get your wish in picking them to lose to the Spurs.
    But I would absolutely love it if you were somehow reverse jinxing the Clippers to a championship.

  6. Daniel says

    ” It will be imperative for Paul to continue to create turnovers and transition opportunities that will allow the Clippers to get out in the open court and let Griffin do his Lob City thing. If this becomes a battle of half-court sets, Los Angeles stands no chance against a Spurs team that has become an offensive efficiency machine (they were 2nd in the NBA in scoring at 103.7 points per game.)”

    There is a lot wrong with this. Yes, the Spurs are an extremely efficient offense–first in the league. But it’s not like they are head and shoulders above the Clippers. The Clips are fourth in the league in offensive efficiency. So these are two top tier offenses. And the Clips aren’t just some fastbreaking team that can’t play in the half court when the pace slows down. In terms of pace, they are the 6th slowest in the league, where it is the Spurs who are the 8th fastest. So if anything, a slower pace favors the Clippers, not the Spurs.

    The Lob City name is really unfortunate because it leads to people saying stupid things such as “you can’t win games by just dunking” and “when the game slows down in the playoffs they won’t score.” This is a Chris Paul led team. Paul is not only the best pure point guard in the league, he loves to walk the ball up the court and play at a slow pace. As anyone who just watched the Grizzlies series knows, this team is about more than just dunking. They can play a grind it out style as well, and while they can get out and run with some of their athletes, they are as much an efficient half court offense as any team you will find.

    With all that said, I think the Spurs are still the better team and will win the series. All I’m saying is, at the very least, give the Clippers credit where it is due. Get the facts right before writing an article about them. They are a good team, and they are more than just Lob City.

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