Tuesday’s NBA Playoff Pick: Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs
The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs have had more than a full week off to relax and prepare for their next opponent since completing a four-game sweep of the eighth-seeded Utah Jazz last Monday. Now the Spurs get to face a tired team in the fifth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers, who are coming off a grueling seven-game series against the fourth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
The Clippers won Game 7 at Memphis 82-72 on Sunday to advance in the Western Conference playoffs for just the third time in team history and first since 2006. They dropped two of the three meetings with San Antonio during the regular season, with each team winning on the other’s home court in the last two. The biggest issue for LA is the health of its two star players, point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin. Paul is dealing with a strained right hip that has limited his mobility while Griffin has been playing with a sprained right knee. The duo combined for 27 points, 13 rebounds and four assists in Game 7 against the Grizzlies, but fortunately the team’s bench stepped up outscored Memphis, 41-11.
Griffin clearly was not as effective in the last two games of the series after spraining his knee in Game 5, as he totaled 25 points and nine rebounds total in Games 6 and 7. He has vowed to play Game 1 and will be challenged inside by San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, who will have plenty of rest after playing an average of 30 minutes per game in the first round and then getting an extra week off following the series win over Utah.
Paul might be the bigger concern though because he leads the offense and defense and will be busy chasing Spurs point guard Tony Parker around. Parker helped limit Paul to 9 of 29 shooting from the field in the two San Antonio wins over Los Angeles during the regular season, and he sat out the other meeting that the Spurs lost. Parker also sat out the last two games of the regular season, and he responded by averaging 21 points and 6.5 assists against the Jazz.
San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich has done an outstanding job of managing his players’ minutes though, enabling the Spurs to finish with the top seed and earning him NBA Coach of the Year honors. Popovich has already led his team to four NBA championships, so he knows what buttons to push and will have a huge coaching advantage in this series against LA’s Vinny Del Negro. San Antonio will go for a blowout here right away in Game 1 in order to give the reserves some valuable playing time and save the legs of Duncan and the other starters for down the road.
Free NBA Pick: San Antonio Spurs -11.5
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