The surging Clippers take on the struggling Spurs in a battle of 2010s Western Conference powerhouses. Check out the game preview of the Clippers against the Spurs below.
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 7:00 PM ET
How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Spurs: Dejounte Murray – Lonnie Walker – DeMar DeRozan – Keldon Johnson – Jakob Poeltl
Clippers: Patrick Beverley – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Nic Batum – Serge Ibaka
Spurs: Derrick White Out (Fractured toe), LaMarcus Aldridge Questionable (Knee soreness)
Clippers: Marcus Morris Questionable (Knee soreness)
The Big Picture
The Clippers appear to have fully moved past their historic loss to the Mavs, and sit tied for first place in the Western Conference. Their offense continues to excel due to newfound ball movement and passing, while their defense remains menacing with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Pat Beverley patrolling the perimeter. Despite the injury to erstwhile starting power forward Marcus Morris, the Clippers have motored right along, helped in large part by fill-in Nic Batum, who has been incredible to start the year. The bench has been more mixed, with Ivica Zubac in particular coming off the blocks a bit slow, but they’ve still mostly been solid despite hiccups defensively. Overall, the Clippers are just playing very well, and have been enjoyable to watch (Mavs game aside). It’s still early, but this is the team that Clippers fans were expecting last year, and it’s good to see them here this season.
The Spurs have an odd roster. They have some seasoned veterans drawing towards the end of their careers (LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills), guys entering their prime (Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl), and younger players who are still spreading their wings (Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker, Devin Vassell, and Keldon Johnson). With news coming out today that White, possibly their best overall player, has a fractured toe and will probably miss a large chunk of time, it’s possible we see some of those vets traded to clear playing time for the youngsters. The Spurs have enough talent to be a solid team if they don’t become a fire sale, but not enough to make any noise in the Western Conference. It could make sense to capitalize on the very competitive of the West and tank, landing a top pick in a stacked 2021 draft to put next to their cadre of prospects. However, for as long as the Spurs are playing with Greg Popovich, they will be a tough out on a game to game basis due to their ability to consistently do the little things correctly.
Zu’s Rebounding: While Ivica Zubac’s scoring efficiency has been tremendous this season, his rebounding has been the opposite. Last year, his effectiveness on the glass is one of the skills that differentiated him from the small Montrezl Harrell. But this year, he’s putting up rebounding numbers that would make Trez blush – Zu is pulling in only 2.9 rebounds per game compared to 7.5 last game in almost exactly the same amount of playing time. His rebounding percentage is at 8.7% compared to 21.3% last season, a precipitous fall-off. Zu didn’t just forget how to rebound, so a lot of this is probably small sample size and bad luck. However, his poor rebounding has been noticeable in several games so far, and it would be great if he could pick it back up sooner than later.
Watch for Keldon: Keldon Johnson might be having the best start to the 2021 NBA season that nobody is talking about. The 29th pick in the 2019 Draft barely played in the 2020 season, getting most of his playing time in the bubble – where he thrived alongside the Spurs’ other young guns in an up-tempo environment. He’s started this season, played big minutes, and done great with them, averaging 16 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.3 minutes per game in around 30 minutes while scoring very efficiently. Johnson is yet another big-name Kentucky recruit who flopped in college but has looked much better in the NBA. He uses his strength to relentlessly bully his way to and finish at the rim, but has been able to drain threes if given space as well. It’s all a very small sample so far, but he looks legit.
Paul George Sizzling: Paul George has been nigh unstoppable to start the year. Forget the fabled 50/40/90 club – PG is sitting at a ridiculous 51/49/93 split at this point of the year, and is taking nearly nine threes per game. Now, his free throw rate is down, and he’s turning the ball over far too much, but the confidence that was missing for quite a bit of last year is fully apparent. Not only that, but George is playing his best defense as a Clipper as well, absolutely locking in both on and off the ball. There are other players playing tremendous basketball right now (Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and LeBron come to mind), but few have been better than George to start the year. He probably won’t shooting 49% from three on such high volume forever, but he looks healthy and confident, and the Clippers have to love what they’ve seen so far.
Well, that’s it for this one. Give your thoughts on the Clippers’ game against the Spurs and provide your own preview in the comments below!