Scouting Report: Spurs vs. Clippers
By John Carroll, Scouts Inc.
These two teams are complete opposites. The Spurs are a team that
drafted its “Big Three” of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
They have been together for 10 years, and have been thru a lot. Duncan
has won four NBA Championships, while Parker and Ginobili have won
three. They know each other, and can count on each other when games are
close. They are talented, disciplined and will execute their game plan
The Clippers are the modern day version of an NBA team. They have
only two key players in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan that were
drafted by the franchise. This season they picked up Caron Butler and
Kenyon Martin via free agency, Mo Williams in a salary related trade,
Nick Young at trade deadline and most importantly Chris Paul in a steal.
Paul wanted to play in a large market and the Clippers got him for less
than fair market value. The Clippers are learning on the fly, they are
talented and deep but they are undisciplined and disorganized. This is
the first time their core players have been together. They are a low
basketball IQ team and although they have proven that they can win games
during the regular season they have too many warts to advance past the
Gregg Popovich has been at the helm of four NBA championships and he
can count on Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. There is no team in the
league that has three players of this stature that have been together
for ten years. Vinny Del Negro can only count on Chris Paul in this
series, every other player on his roster is a wild card. This is a
series about youth, talent and athleticism versus discipline, execution
and savvy. The Clippers have the talent to advance beyond the second
round in future years but they will have a very difficult time getting
by the experience and talent of the San Antonio Spurs this year.
San Antonio Spurs
The schedule in this series favors the Spurs. The Clippers are
coming off a seven-game series that just ended on Sunday in Memphis. It
was a physical series and they are dead tired and banged up. Chris Paul,
Blake Griffin and Caron Butler are all injured to some degree. Because
their first round series went seven games, the NBA has imposed a
schedule that includes back-to-back games in Los Angeles this weekend.
That means that the first four games of this series will be played in
six days. The Spurs are rested and healthy. They have been preparing for
this series since May 7th. In preparation for this series they have
attempted to keep their game rhythm by scrimmaging with referees all
last week. The back-to-back in Games 3 and 4 may appear to favor the
younger legs and athleticism of the Clippers, but being on the road with
your team Friday thru Sunday gives the Spurs more time to be with their
team and prepare to win at least one game on the road. I like the
chances of the Spurs in this series and I think the schedule definitely
Pick and roll defense will be a big key in this series. Tim Duncan
is an elite defender in the post and with his ability to guard one on
one and with his help defensive principles, but he will be tested in his
pick and roll defense. The Clippers will run a high volume of pick and
rolls throughout each game and it will force Duncan to come away from
the basket and move his feet. This may be the weakest aspect of his
individual defense. Chris Paul is the best pick and roll point guard in
the league and he will force the Spurs and Duncan to be exact in their
coverages. Luckily the Clippers do not have big men that can shoot on
pick and pops. Duncan should be able to commit to the ball handler and
give as much help as necessary without worry about sprinting back to a
big man who can shoot a perimeter shot.
This series could be decided by the 3 point shot. The San Antonio
Spurs are the leading 3 point shooting team in the NBA. They shot 39.3
percent as a team this season and continued that by shooting 40.7
percent in the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers are also an
excellent 3 point shooting team making 35.7 percent of their shots from
behind the 3 point line. Games in this series could be decided by
whichever team defends the 3 point line better. The Clippers are the
worst team defending the 3 point line left in the playoffs. They allowed
opponents to shoot 36.5 percent from 3 point range and that had them
ranked 27th in the NBA this season. The Spurs are not much better in
that they allowed their opponents to shoot 35.4 percent which had them
ranked 20th in the NBA during the regular season.
The Spurs have tremendous spacing and ball movement. They have the
potential to torture the Clippers because they are not a disciplined
defensive team. Although the Clippers are solid on the initial pass of
the ball they break down as soon as they are put into movement with pick
and rolls, the ball is passed from side to side and opponents have
spaced the court properly with shooters. These are all things that the
Spurs do well.
The Spurs have three to four players that can play with their back
to the basket and this will prove to be an advantage for them throughout
this series. Duncan, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair can
all play with their back to the basket. They can catch, read the defense
and make plays. The Clippers are extremely limited offensively in the
low post. Griffin is uncomfortable with his back to the basket. And
DeAndre Jordan, Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans do not have back to the
basket moves. Although Tim Duncan will be forced to defend pick and
rolls he will not have to deal with a grinding, physical low post game
that can take a toll on him during a long series. If Memphis had won he
would have had to deal with Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol. Look for Gregg
Popovich to assign Duncan to DeAndre Jordan who is a limited offensive
player. He can only set pick and rolls, attack the offensive glass and
dunk. This will allow Duncan to roam on defense, not exert as much
energy, and to focus on the offensive end of the floor.
One of the biggest problems for the Spurs in this series will be
their ability to defend the smaller perimeter players of the L.A.
Clippers. Besides Tony Parker the Spurs struggle to defend on the
perimeter. Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Randy Foye, and Mo Williams are
extremely quick and talented scorers. Bledsoe and Williams will cause
problems for the Spurs bench players such as Gary Neal who is a
defensive liability and Manu Ginobili. Ginobili is an aggressive
defender especially against players with size and strength but he will
struggle to defend the speed of the Clipper guards. Popovich will be
forced to utilize Patty Mills in this series in order to help limit the
effectiveness of the Clipper guards, especially those that come off the
The veteran savvy, experience and discipline of the Spurs shows up
in late game situations. The Spurs are terrific in clutch time. Clutch
time statistics are based on the last five minutes of a game or overtime
then there is less than a five point differential. The Spurs are 21-9
in clutch situations this season. They were second in the NBA in field
goal percentage during those periods at 48.4 percent and third in 3
point percentage at 39.2. Tony Parker leads the Spurs in scoring 3.1
points per game in clutch situations. He also shot 43.9 percent from the
field, 40.0 percent from the 3 point line and 90.6 percent from the
foul line during those clutch periods.
Los Angeles Clippers
The pace of the game will be an important factor in this series. The
Spurs want to get out and run for easy baskets. They were ranked 10th
in the NBA this season scoring 13.7 points in transition. They like to
create early opportunities for themselves that they can exploit. This is
extremely important in the playoffs where the ability to score in the
half court is minimized. The problem for the Spurs in this series is
that the Clippers are the slowest paced team still left in the playoffs.
Chris Paul has the ability to control the pace of games and not allow
the Spurs to play up and down.
During the regular season the Clippers averaged 91.8 possessions per
game. In order to defeat the Grizzlies the Clippers slowed the pace
down even more, with less than 90 possessions per game. The Spurs on the
other hand averaged 95.1 possessions in the first round of the playoffs
versus the Jazz. However, they will struggle to speed up the pace of
the game with Chris Paul in the game. The Spurs have lost only one time
since late February when they had at least 95 possessions in a game, so
it is imperative that the Clippers slow the pace of each and every game
in this series.
The Clippers are capable of scoring big numbers in any one
particular game due to the individual firepower of their team. Their
backcourt players can all score and create their own shot and Blake
Griffin scored 20.7 points per game during the regular season. But the
Clippers will struggle in this series because they cannot rely as much
on individual talent. They have several problems that will haunt them
versus the Spurs: (a) the Clippers are way too predictable offensively
running a high volume of pick and rolls for Chris Paul (b) they have
horrible spacing when they run their pick and rolls (c) they have
extremely poor ball movement (d) they have poor spacing when they get
the ball to Blake Griffin (e) they do not have big men that can shoot
the ball, and put pressure on their opponents in pick and rolls. When
the Clippers become a more disciplined team and understand the
importance of the offensive fundamentals and organization they will be
able to advance in the playoffs. However they are facing a team that is
well prepared, and understands the Clippers flaws and will exploit them
throughout this series.
Almost every time the Spurs took the court this season they had an
advantage with their team’s depth. They can put ten players on the court
and not worry about a letdown of production. However the Clippers are
the one team that match the Spurs depth and in a series where the
Clippers are coming in banged up and somewhat fatigued it will be
extremely important that their bench delivers. The Clippers have ten
players that they can throw on the court who can contribute. This was
extremely obvious in their Game 7 against Memphis on Sunday when along
with Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams, Nick Young, Reggie Evans and
Kenyon Martin won the game for the Clippers in the fourth quarter. They
scored almost every point for the Clippers in the most important
quarter of the game. Rest will be important for the Clippers in the
first game of the series and the Clipper bench needs to deliver in a
very productive way for them to have any chance. The bench will come
into play again this weekend when these two teams play back-to-back
games. This series will be decided by the second five players as much as
the starting five.
The Clippers have a closer and his name is Chris Paul. In the
playoffs it is imperative that a team have a player with the skills to
make plays in the fourth quarter and down the stretch of games. Chris
Paul is one of the most dangerous closers in the game because he can
beat opponents with his shot or a pass. He is the best pick and roll
player in the NBA and he has consistently stepped up under pressure and
delivered. He wants the ball in his hands and can beat you by himself.
Paul is a fourth quarter player. His produces more in the fourth quarter
than any other 12 minutes of the game. Chris Paul is fourth in the NBA
in clutch scoring averaging 4.0 points per game in the clutch. He leads
the league in assists with 31 in clutch time and is automatic at the
free throw line making 54-56 in the during clutch situations.
Free throw shooting is going to haunt the Clippers at some point in
this series. Popovich has already demonstrated he is not afraid to give
fouls to poor free throw shooters when necessary. They will not allow
DeAndre Jordan a 52 percent free throw shooter, Reggie Evans a 51
percent shooter or Blake Griffin a 52 percent shooter any wide open
layups or dunks, they will be fouled and fouled hard. Also if the Spurs
find themselves down late in the fourth quarter they will intentionally
foul Jordan, Evans, or Griffin in order to play catch up. Lionel Hollins
had several chances to foul Reggie Evans during the Grizzlies free
throw attempts. He could have fouled and put a 51.0 percent free throw
shooter to the line but decided not to. Popovich will not hesitate to do
this if it is required.
Tony Parker: Parker is the Spurs MVP this season. He has had one of
the best seasons of his career averaging 18.3 points and 7.7 assists per
game. He has played at an All Star level all season while Duncan’s
minutes have been limited and Ginobili has been out with injuries.
Parker has shown tremendous poise running the Spurs this year. He
averaged 21 points and 6.5 assists in the first round series with Utah.
He also was extremely efficient from the field shooting 50 percent.
Chris Paul: Paul is a NBA superstar who can single-handedly carry
the Clippers in this series. Paul averaged 19.8 points and dished out
9.1 assists per game during the regular season. In the last five games
of the regular season he has averaged 26.8 points per game. Paul is a
tremendous ball handler with excellent vision. He has an edge to him and
a competitive fire that makes him special. Paul is one of the best pick
and roll player in the game and the Clippers utilize the pick and roll
extensively in their offense. He is a clutch performer who will deliver
in late game situations. He is deadly from the foul line, shooting 86
percent from the line this season.
Danny Green: Green has worked hard to earn not only a spot on this
roster but starter’s minutes. He was inserted into the starting lineup
by Popovich because of his tenacious defense and energy. He has the
ability to hit open corner 3 point shots with proficiency. Green has
figured out how to get to the rim with crafty driving abilities. Green
averaged 8.5 points but only shot 43 percent from the field in the Spurs
first round series against the Utah Jazz.
Randy Foye: Many experts thought Foye would be just a bit player
this season for the Clippers with their logjam in the backcourt. But
with the injury to Billups early in the season, Foye has gone from a
backup to a starting role. Foye may be the most improved player on the
Clipper roster this year. He has worked hard to become a terrific
shooter. He led the NBA in 3 point shots made since the All-Star break.
Has scored 15.0 points per game and shot 45.5 from the 3 point line in
the last five games of the regular season for the Clippers. In the first
round series against Memphis, Foye averaged 7.7 points per game and
shot 37.5 percent from the 3 point line.
Kawhi Leonard: Leonard has had an excellent year for the Spurs. He
has seized the opportunity that Popovich gave him when he inserted him
into the starting lineup. With his terrific athleticism and incredible
wingspan he has become a terrific defender assigned to the opponent’s
best perimeter player. Leonard has slowly figured out how to score in
the league averaging 7.9 points per game. He averaged 7.0 points in the
first round against Utah and shot 40 percent from the 3-point line.
Caron Butler: Caron Butler broke his hand in the first round and was
supposed to be out for four to six weeks. Having missed the playoffs
last season with Dallas, Butler decided to wrap his hand and get back on
the court. Butler brings a tremendous amount of playoff experience to
the Clippers starting lineup having scored 16.4 points and 7.8 rebounds
in 31 playoff games. Butler averaged 12.0 points this season but shot a
poor 40.7 percent from the field. He averaged 10.0 points per game but
only shot 35.0 percent from the field against Memphis.
Boris Diaw: Diaw is a mobile forward who the Spurs picked up after
he received a buyout from the Bobcats. Popovich has slid him into the
starting lineup alongside Tim Duncan and Diaw responded in the opening
round with 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds. He has never been an aggressive
scorer but as a complimentary piece he has scoring and passing abilities
that fit in nicely for the Spurs. He shot 56.9 percent from the field
during the regular season and 60.0 percent in his four games against
Utah. He will be assigned to defend Blake Griffin in order to keep
Duncan out of foul problems.
Blake Griffin: Grffin is one of the league’s best young players. He
made the All-Star team this season and averaged 20.7 points and 10.9
rebounds per game for the Clippers. He must continue to grow his skill
set and develop a reliable jump shot and low post game. He currently
relies strictly on his terrific athleticism and explosion. In addition
to a knee sprain, Griffin’s main problem coming into this series is his
lack of post season experience. He averaged 18.0 points, 5.7 rebounds
and shot 52.7 percent from the field in the first round of the playoffs.
Griffin needs to play harder for longer periods of time, and become a
much more mature player on the court. He lets contact and official’s
calls bother him way too much.
Tim Duncan: Popovich has limited Duncan’s minutes this season and it
has kept his big man fresh and healthy. Duncan has not had superstar
numbers this season but he is the team’s second leading scorer with 15.4
points per game and he leads the team in rebounding and shot blocking.
Duncan will not get worn down having to defend big strong low post
players in this series and he will be fresher on the offensive end of
the floor. Tim must defend a high volume of middle pick and rolls
involving Chris Paul. Duncan has four championship rings and has the
talent and leadership skills to help his team to a 5th this season.
Duncan averaged 14.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in the first round versus
DeAndre Jordan: Jordan is a long and athletic big man that the
Clippers went to great lengths to resign in the offseason. He is
extremely raw offensively but he provides rebounding and shot blocking
that this team desperately needs. He is the team’s best rim protector
averaging 2.0 blocks per game during the regular season. Jordan cannot
score via a post touch. He needs to score off interior passes, lobs to
the rim and offensive rebounds. He is an aggressive offensive rebounder
averaging 3.1 offensive boards per game. He averaged 3.6 points and 4.1
rebounds in the first round versus Memphis
San Antonio Spurs Bench
Manu Ginobili: Giniobili is still one of the best sixth man in the
NBA. Ginobili has battled injuries all season. He has still had decent
numbers in the games he played averaging 12.9 points and 4.4 assists.
Ginobili is still an aggressive player and plays with reckless abandon.
He helps space the court for Parker and Duncan. Manu will be an
important player for the Spurs in the playoffs because of his shot
making abilities in the clutch. He has always been willing to take and
make big baskets for the Spurs in the fourth quarter.
Tiago Splitter: Splitter has become a consistent role player for the
Spurs logging 19 minutes and scoring 9.2 points and grabbing 5.2
rebounds per game. With his height and length he provides the Spurs with
another rim protector. Splitter has developed into an efficient
interior player, possibly their second best bench player after Manu
Ginobili. Splitter averaged 8.0 points and shot 47.6 percent against
Gary Neal: Neal has had a nice two year career in San Antonio for an
undrafted player. He is a long range shooter, and drills perimeter
looks at opportune times. Neal shot 41.0 percent from the 3 point line
this season, and 55.6 against Utah in the first round. Neal’s minutes
may be limited in the first round if he cannot defend the likes of Eric
Bledsoe, Nick Young or Randy Foye.
Stephen Jackson: The Spurs reacquired Jackson at the trading
deadline from the Golden St.Warriors. He has been a volatile but
prolific scorer during his career. Jackson is one of Gregg Popovich’s
favorite players so this trade is perfect for both parties. He was on
the Spurs 2003 championship team, and is familiar with the Spurs system.
Jackson has the ability to help the Spurs win a game in the playoffs
with his 1-1 shot making skills. Scored 10.0 points per game and shot
53.3 percent from the 3 point line in the first round of the playoffs.
DeJuan Blair: Blair has a tremendous feel for the game, especially
in the low post. He has great hands and ability to score even though he
is undersized. He scored 5.8 points and grabbed 3.5 rebounds in the
first round series against the Jazz. He also shot 58.8 percent from the
field. Blair may see more minutes in this series due to the physical
play and offensive rebounding abilities of Kenyon Martin and Reggie
Patty Mills: The Spurs acquired Mills after T.J. Ford retired
earlier this season. He will play back up minutes to rest Parker
throughout the playoffs. He can score and distribute the basketball.
Mills may see more action in the second round due to the speed of the
Clippers guards. He may be called upon to match up with Eric Bledsoe or
Randy Foye at some point in this series.
Matt Bonner: Bonner is one of the league’s best 3 point shooters and
an important reserve for the Spurs. He shot 42.2 from the 3 point line
this season and 50.0 percent for the Spurs in the first round series
against Utah. He helps space the court for Parker, Duncan and Ginobili
due to his ability to knock down the open shot.
Los Angeles Clippers Bench
Mo Williams: Williams has played 28.3 minutes off the bench for the
Clippers this season averaging 13.2 points per game. He has embraced his
role as a sixth man and has not disrupted the chemistry of the team
after the trade of Chris Paul to the Clippers. He plays with energy and
works hard on the defensive end of the floor. Williams is an effective
scorer who can shoot the 3 point shot with good proficiency. He
attempted 4.6 3 point shots and made 39.0 percent of them. He scored 9.7
points per game but shot only 33.3 percent from the 3 point line versus
Nick Young: Young is a scorer who can create his own shot and the
Clippers already got much needed production from him in their first
round matchup versus Memphis. He scored 19 points on 6-9 shooting from
the 3 point line to help the Clippers defeat the Grizzlies in Game 1.
Young scored 8.1 points per game while shooting 52.6 percent from the 3
point line. He has had to make an adjustment to his new role, going from
scoring 16.6 points with the Wizards to 9.8 points per game and playing
only 24.9 minutes.
Kenyon Martin: Martin brings a wealth of playoff experience to the
Clippers roster. He has played in 89 post season games scoring 14.9
points and 7.6 rebounds in those games. He brings a tremendous effort
and a defensive mindset to the court. Martin is a rugged interior player
who will battle Tim Duncan toe to toe in this series. Anything he
gives the Clippers offensively is just gravy. Martin needs to defend,
rebound and attack the offensive glass versus the Spurs. He averaged 4.7
points and 3.4 rebounds in their first round series against Memphis.
Eric Bledsoe: Bledsoe is a terrific young player who is a high
energy guy for the Clippers. He is an excellent defender, and puts
tremendous pressure on the ball. He has gone from an inconsistent rookie
to someone that has become a productive role player off the bench.
Bledsoe averaged 5.9 points per game against Memphis and was terrific
for the Clippers in the fourth quarter of Game 7, playing big minutes
and making major contributions to their win.
Reggie Evans: Evans is a hard worker and tenacious rebounder. He is
only 6-feet, 8-inches tall but he is nasty and willing to mix it up with
players much taller and bigger. Evans was the Clippers leading
rebounder in their first round matchup with Memphis, grabbing 8.7
rebounds per game. Evans is a relentless offensive rebounder who
averaged 2.1 per game in his seven games against the Grizzlies. He will
be called upon in the second round to defend Duncan, Splitter and Blair.
Prediction: Spurs win in five games