Here's what you need to know before betting on tonight's highly-charged environment in San Antonio when the Clippers will try to move to second place in the Western Conference.
The Los Angeles Clippers Can Win Because…
They are the hotter team right now. It’s true that the Spurs have won three in a row heading into this game, but the Clippers have won six consecutive games and are now tied with the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets for third in the West. What stands out about this team is that it has the best point differential of any team other than the two clear-cut conference leaders, Golden State (West) and Atlanta (East). The Clippers stand at plus-7.2 points per game, a product of an offense which averages 107 points per game and a defense that allows an average of 99.8 points per game. You’re seeing this team accomplish more at both ends of the floor than it did in November and December. Los Angeles is finally rounding into form and looking like the team many anticipated at the beginning of the season.
Great teams play their best when they have to, when the pressure is on and opponents are trying their hardest to stop them. The Clippers are developing the kind of pattern NBA champions manage to establish during games: They win fourth quarters decisively. That’s what they’ve been doing recently, at least. The Clippers outscored Phoenix in the fourth quarter, 31-23, to pull away for a 20-point win on Jan. 25. Los Angeles outscored Denver 33-21 in the fourth to win by four on Jan. 26. The Clips then outscored Utah by nine, 26-17, to win by five on Jan. 28. This is why Los Angeles is 8-2 in its last 10 games.
The San Antonio Spurs Can Win Because…
There is no question that the team has begun to improve with Kawhi Leonard back in the lineup and acording to NBA odds San Antonio is a 5-point home favorite tonight. The Spurs had a losing month in December, an extremely rare occurrence during the Tim Duncan era in San Antonio. This was with Leonard out of commission for several games. Once Leonard returned in January, though, San Antonio has finally begun to rise in the Western Conference. The Spurs have caught the Dallas Mavericks for sixth place and are just 2.5 games out of third place in the West. San Antonio knows that a win here over the Clippers would move the Spurs closer to Memphis in the NBA’s Southwest Division, giving the Spurs at least a chance of getting the second seed when the playoffs start.
One other reason the Spurs can win is that while the Clippers’ six-game winning streak is impressive, it has still come against lesser teams. Los Angeles beat Sacramento, Boston, Brooklyn, Denver and Utah in that stretch. Phoenix is the only team in a playoff position the Clippers defeated. San Antonio represents a higher standard, a tougher team the Clips might not be able to handle on the road.
The Spurs with Leonard are a different beast. The Clippers will keep this game close, but San Antonio is 8-2 in its last 10 games and has played better competition than Los Angeles in that stretch (Washington, Chicago, Portland, Milwaukee, Charlotte). The Spurs will be able to limit the Clippers’ offense thanks to Leonard’s dynamic defense. Take the Spurs with the NBA picks.
Free NBA Pick: San Antonio -5 at 5Dimes