Scouting the Clippers: Griffin-Paul will be focal points for Spurs’ defense

The San Antonio Spurs (21-9) are gunning for their 10th win in a row today as they take their Rodeo Road Trip (5-0) success into Hollywood, to faceBG the Los Angeles Clippers.

To find out how the Spurs have fared 30 games into the season, check out my recent column titled: Spurs’ 30-game scouting report

The Clippers have won their last two games and are readjusting their after adding exiled forward from China, Kenyon Martin, and playing without injured guard Chauncey Billups, who is projected to be out the rest of the season, and possibly the rest of his career.

Though they landed Martin, the Clippers weren’t the most entertaining draw, as J.R. Smith confirmed he would be joining all of the glam in New York with the Knicks.

Case No. 31: Los Angeles Clippers (19-9)

Home: 11-3. Last 10: 7-3. 3rd in Western Conference.

Commendable areas for the Clippers

Whenever you add a game changer like Chris Paul to your team, your offense is going to be quite productive. Throw in the fact that your team has a guy like Blake Griffin, who can pretty much dunk on people and get to the free throw line at will, then you’ve really got a formidable team to throw out on the floor. Here is where the Clippers rank highest in most categories.

  • 4th 3PT Makes (7.7), 3PT Attempts (21.6)
  • 6th Points (97.7)
  • 8th Free throw attempts (24.9), Field Goal Percentage (46%), Blocks (5.4)
  • 9th Field Goals Made (36.8)
  • 27th Turnovers (13.2)

Deficient areas for the Clippers

  • Free throw shooting: Though the Clippers get the line a lot behind Griffin, their ability to convert those free throws into points is a struggle. The Clippers are ranked 29th in the league with a free throw shooting percentage of just 68%.
  • Not quite sound defensively: The Clippers struggle at keeping their opponents in front of them, as the Clippers are ranked 5th in personal fouls with 21.7 per game.

Clippers’ Top-7 Players

1. Blake Griffin – 21.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 16.4 FGA (53%), 6.9 FTA (53%)

Griffin plays almost 37 minutes per game and is constantly on the floor. DeJuan Blair will have to be ready as he’s usually the best defensive option for the quick and explosive Griffin. If the Spurs can force Griffin to shoot the majority of his shots from the outside, the Spurs will deter the Clippers’ most dominant offensive weapon.

2. Chris Paul – 18.2 points, 8.8 assists, 2.4 steals, 14 FGA (49%)

Tony Parker is coming off scoring 34-points in Toronto, and he’s been arguably one of the best players in the league in the month of February. Parker will need to be explosive on offense to keep Paul on his toes on defense. I’m also interested in seeing if Danny Green or rookie Kawhi Leonard will defend Paul for several possessions.

3. Caron Butler – 15 points, 1.2 steals, 12.5 FGA (44%), 5.5 3PT FGA (38%)

After dealing with injuries through the past few seasons, Butler is showing some productive numbers now that he’s healthy. Like the Spurs’ Richard Jefferson, the majority of Butler’s points come from behind the arc.

4. Mo Williams – 13.7 points, 1 steals, 11.6 FGA (45%), 4.1 3PT FGA (38%)

Williams is the Clippers’ 6th man off the bench, which means Danny Green will probably be the main person coming into defend him for the majority of the game. Williams vs. Gary Neal could also be a one-on-one matchup where a lot of three’s could be hoisted.

DJ5. DeAndre Jordan – 8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 5 FGA (66%)

Jordan controls the paint for the Clippers and has them ranked 8th in blocks per game. The Spurs’ defense on the frontline will have to be aware of Jordan’s presence at all times as he’s one of Paul’s favorite targets to throw alley-oops to.

6. Randy Foye – 7.8 points, 7.4 FGA (38%)

7. Kenyon Martin – 6 points, 1.3 blocks, 5.7 FGA (47%)

Game Expectation

Normally I’d say the Spurs just need: good production from their second unit, Parker to have a big game, to take care of the ball, and the defense to continue its attention to detail as they’ve shown during this 9-game win streak.

The Clippers don’t have enough weapons offensively to keep up with the depth of the Spurs, but……

There’s something that concerns me lately with the Spurs outside of the Clippers. In the Spurs’ last two wins, the team has struggled to close out games. Against Detroit and Toronto, the Spurs were outscored a combined 110-to-102 in the second half of both games. Detroit scored 33 points in the fourth quarter against San Antonio and Toronto scored 33 points in the third quarter against San Antonio. Granted, the Toronto game was on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Spurs were able to have bad second halves against teams like Toronto and Detroit, however if they display that kind of performance against a dominant team like the Clippers, they could easily get blown out of the building.

If there’s one thing I’m looking at in this game today, it’s focus in the second half.

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.

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