The San Antonio Spurs are the defending champions of the NBA, but they have immediately been placed in a very difficult situation by the Los Angeles Clippers, who took command in Game 1 of this first-round Western Conference series on Sunday night. If San Antonio doesn’t answer in Game 2, the champions will be on the ropes.
The San Antonio Spurs Can Win Because…
They could not have shot the ball much worse than they actually did in this game. San Antonio briefly made a run in the fourth quarter to get what had been an 18-point Clipper lead down to only nine. However, just as soon as San Antonio made that run, the Clippers responded with a 7-0 run of their own, and the game was basically over. With four minutes left in the game, San Antonio had four of its key players in the throes of a slump. Tim Duncan, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, and Manu Ginobili were a combined 11 of 42 from the field at that time. That’s an average of under 30 percent, just above 25 percent. Plenty of the Spurs’ shots were contested, but in the NBA, plenty of shots over a game will be contested. Great players make a fair percentage of shots, but in this game, nothing fell for the Spurs, who were not competitive in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. The Clippers had effectively put the game away.
San Antonio is simply not going to shoot or play this poorly in Game 2. If the Spurs play the way they know how to play, they’re going to be in perfectly good shape for this upcoming game, so keep this in mind when looking at the NBA betting odds.
The Los Angeles Clippers Can Win Because…
They did everything they possibly hoped to do in Game 1. Through three quarters, the stats painted an accurate picture of what had happened on the court. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had both shot over 50 percent through three quarters, with Griffin scoring 23 points and Paul 19. The Clippers scored 30 points in the first and third quarters. They got a sensational performance from Jamal Crawford off the bench – he hit each of his first three three-pointers in Game 1. Los Angeles was able to score a lot when going to the rim. San Antonio was on its heels for much of the night… and that was only on defense.
When the Clippers played defense, they did not allow San Antonio’s best offensive players to feel comfortable. This was a six-point game at halftime, but after three quarters, it was a 79-64 game in favor of Los Angeles. The Clippers harassed Tony Parker, limiting him to 4 of 11 shooting through three quarters. Danny Green was 1 of 9 overall and 0 for 5 from long range. Tim Duncan hit only three field goal attempts by the time the third quarter ended. San Antonio also missed 11 of its first 20 free throws and (in terms of a percentage) shot in the middle 30s for much of the night. The Clippers played one of their best defensive games of the season, showing that after playing in Golden State’s shadow in the Pacific Division, they are capable of being the best team in the NBA when the playoffs are done. More efforts such as this one from Game 1 will be enough to beat the Spurs, who are suffering from the absence of Tiago Splitter and seem to have Parker playing at less than full strength after some midseason injuries.
The Spurs are banged up, but they also were 21-5 to finish the regular season. They still deserve to be trusted, although the Clippers are certainly making it difficult to do so right now. The Spurs have room for improvement after missing 12 free throws, shooting so poorly from the field and allowing the Clippers to shoot over 50%. Expect the Spurs to bounce back, so take them with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: San Antonio at The Greek