The San Antonio Spurs may be old and creaky, but they’ll be at full strength Thursday night when they visit the Los Angeles Clippers, who have been nothing but poison against the NBA odds.
Jason’s record as of Feb. 18: 35-29-4 ATS, 2-4 Totals
There’s no question that the San Antonio Spurs (34-19 SU, 23-28-2 ATS) and the Los Angeles Clippers (35-19 SU, 22-32 ATS) have both been disappointing basketball picks this year. They’re doing just fine when it comes to winning games, but meeting market expectations is a whole other story. The Spurs haven’t been scoring. The Clippers haven’t been defending. And injuries have taken their toll on both clubs.
One of these teams will be at 100-percent capacity when they meet Thursday night (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT) at the Stapler. That would be the Spurs, who were no doubt thankful to get that extended All-Star break this year. The Clippers, on the other hand, will be without Blake Griffin (elbow) for at least the next couple of weeks. No wonder the Clips have fallen from +2 to +2.5 on the NBA odds board as we go to press.
Thy Rod and Thy Staph
We’ve been taking our digs at the Clippers lately, and for good reason – they were 1-4 SU and ATS in their last five games before Griffin (23.1 PER) developed that nasty staph infection. But a funny thing happened on the way to the All-Star Game: The Clippers started winning. With Spencer Hawes (12.6 PER) in the starting lineup, L.A. beat the Dallas Mavericks (–8 at home) 115-98, then the Houston Rockets (+3 away) 110-95. Very interesting indeed.
Let’s not get too carried away with those results. Dallas only got 1:24 out of starting center Tyson Chandler (21.4 PER) before he sprained his left ankle, and Houston was minus starting center Dwight Howard (18.2 PER) with a sprained right ankle. This allowed DeAndre Jordan (20.8 PER) to post back-to-back games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. Hawes contributed something to this outburst as stretch-4 alongside Jordan, but he’s a minus-16.9 in his three starts, compared to minus-0.8 as a reserve.
Then you have the fact that taking Griffin out of the equation and elevating Hawes to the starting five means more minutes for Hedo Turkoglu (10.4 PER) and Glen Davis (11.7 PER). At least Davis can play some defense (plus-0.4 DBPM), but Turkoglu is below replacement-level at pretty much everything he does. Unless the Clippers pull a deadline deal by the time you read this, they’re going to be in trouble until Griffin comes back – and maybe after, too.
Le Grand Claquage
We haven’t really gotten to see much of the Spurs at full strength, but there was a brief sighting in the last game before the All-Star break. San Antonio put the boots to the Detroit Pistons, winning 104-87 as a 6.5-point road chalk. Five different Spurs scored in double figures, including Marco Belinelli (13.6 PER), who’s shot 45 percent from downtown in five games since returning to action.
Tony Parker (14.8 PER) also had a very nice game for San Antonio with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting. While Parker’s overall numbers are down significantly this year, that’s due in large part to his balky hamstring, which doesn’t seem to be as problematic since Parker sat out most of December and struggled through January. He’s a plus-2.8 in February after posting a minus-5.6 last month. The prolonged All-Star break should help Parker maintain or even improve those numbers.
It’s still entirely possible that Jordan and the Clippers will slice and dice San Antonio’s frontcourt Thursday night. But the Spurs are 2-1 SU and ATS against L.A. this year, and that was with Griffin in the lineup. We’ll put San Antonio in our NBA picks for Thursday, and if the Clippers happen to be even more shorthanded than usual because of the trade deadline, all the better.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Spurs -3 at 5Dimes