Western Conference – #3 Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) vs. #6 San Antonio Spurs (55-27)
November 10 – Spurs 89 vs Clippers 85
December 22 – Spurs 125 vs Clippers 118
January 31 – Clippers 105 vs Spurs 85
February 19 – Clippers 119 vs Spurs 115
Spurs storyline: The Spurs have always been that sneaky good team all throughout the regular season. In the West, the focus has been on Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors, and James Harden’s Houston Rockets. While MVP talks are going those stars’ way, the Spurs actually won 21 of their last 25 games during the regular season. As usual, Greg Poppovich has the defending champions peaking at the right time. I’m not concerned about their age and whether they still have “it” to win the title and you shouldn’t too.
Clippers storyline: With an offensive efficiency of 109.8, the Clippers have led the league in offense. Chris Paul has been a steady facilitator and scorer, and coupled with the continuing rise of both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, they have the tools to outgun the Spurs.
The problem with the Clips is their bench. Their starting five is a pain in the ass for any team including San Antonio. But their bench? Not so much. Jamal Crawford has always been their sixth man but other than him, you’re relying on a couple of has-been’s and nobodies led by Hedo Turgkoglu.
Spur to watch: Kawhi Leonard is the guy you want to have your eyes on. The Spurs are always about growth and continuity, and Leonard will be their main weapon moving forward. Last season’s Finals MVP will not only defend Chris Paul, but he will also contribute significantly to the team’s offense.
Clipper to watch: The Clippers’ offense lives or dies based on CP3 and his performance. For every Blake or DeAndre dunk and each every Reddick open three, it’s all Chris Paul pulling the strings. Look for him to be in a dozen of pick-and-roll situations and how he reacts to the defense given by the Spurs.
Spurs X-Factor: The bigs of the Spurs will have their hands full against the frontline of Los Angeles. Tiago Splitter, Aron Baynes, and even Matt Bonner have to do well enough to hold off Lob City. But at the end of the day, the defense rests on the old shoulders of Tim Duncan. He has to perform well in the post and make life difficult for Jordan and Griffin. If Timmy scores and gets a ton of rebounds, the Spurs win more often than not.
Clippers X-Factor: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the go-to guys of the Clippers but as an x-factor, I have to go with J.J. Reddick. This season, he averaged 16.4 points while shooting at 47.7 percent and knocked down at least two three’s a game. He’s the Kyle Korver of the Clippers. If he can shoot at least 43 or 45 percent in this series, Los Angeles has a chance.
Prediction: Spurs in six.
I’m still not convinced that the Clippers have all the right pieces. Although coaches normally cut their player rotations to about seven or eight players come playoff time, I don’t think the Clippers have enough fire power when CP3 or Reddick goes to the bench. Jamal Crawford is coming off an injury so that’ll also be an issue for them as well.
And hello, this is the defending champs we’re talking about here, versus a team that has totally no idea of what it means to be in the Finals. The Spurs are going to win this one.
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