After a weekend full of fun, the second half of the NBA regular season starts Tuesday night with nine games, the most anticipated of them all coming from the Staples Center when the Los Angeles Clippers host the San Antonio Spurs.
At 38-15, the Spurs enter the second half in second place in the Western Conference and the Clippers are in fourth place just two games behind them with a record of 37-18. This is a big game for both teams to see where they stand against top teams in their conference.
For the Spurs, health will be an issue that not only affects this game but the rest of their season. Kawhi Leonard has missed the past 11 games with a broken hand and Tiago Splitter has only played in four of the last 19 games due to a right shoulder sprain and a calf problem. Point guard Tony Parker will also be out due to a “variety of maladies.”
The defending Western Conference champions have also had their struggles against the NBA’s elite this year, as they are just 1-11 against the top seven teams in the NBA based on their records heading into Tuesday, despite being one of the top seven.
The Clippers are looking to prove that they are a better team than they were last year. Their defense has improved mightily, as they are seventh in the NBA in field goal percentage defense (44.3 percent) and first in three-point field goal percentage defense (32.5 percent). Blake Griffin has shown improvements as well as he has been knocking down jumpers and has more post moves to his repertoire this season. While Chris Paul was out, Griffin averaged 27.5 points and 4.4 assists per game, both above his season averages. With Paul back, it will be interesting to see how the league’s second best scoring offense meshes together now that Griffin is playing at the top of his game.
These two teams have played twice already this season and both times the home team won by over 20 points. In the first game at the Staples Center, Paul scored 23 points and had eight assists and seven rebounds. Parker had just eight points for the Spurs in the loss, and as a team they shot 12-21 from the free throw line, 6-18 from three and committed 22 turnovers.
The second game was a completely different story. Paul didn’t play with his separated shoulder and Parker had 17 points on 8-9 shooting to go along with nine assists. The Spurs only turned the ball over twelve times that game and held the Clippers to just 3-15 three-point shooting, as opposed to the 11-23 they surrendered to their opponent in Los Angeles.
Two players have been consistent in both of the games so far the Spurs. Manu Ginobili has averaged 15.5 points on 63 percent shooting and Tim Duncan has averaged 18 points, 11 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Griffin has shined in both games against the Spurs, averaging 23 points and eight rebounds.
The Pick: Both teams have had interesting seasons so far and two lopsided games have been split between them, so it is hard to pick. The Spurs are 8-8 in their last 16 games and the Clippers are 8-3 in their last 11. The Clippers have the hot hand right now and are playing just their third game with Chris Paul back, so I think I will have to give them the edge, especially with them being at home where they are 23-4. Clippers win, 110-95.
When: 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California