Fresh off only their third postseason victory in the past 41 years (second since relocating to Los Angeles), there's no time to rest for the Los Angeles Clippers, as they are forced to jump right back into action Tuesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
After defeating a very good Memphis Grizzlies team in Round 1, the Clippers are forced to tangle with the Western Conference's No. 1 seed and the team possibly playing the best basketball in the NBA.
During the regular season, the Spurs took two of three games from Los Angeles, but this is a much different Clippers team than the one San Antonio last saw back in early March.
It's a matchup between the new-school, high-flying Clippers, with athletes that can raise way above the rim like Blake Griffin, and the old-school, fundamentally-sound Spurs, still led by veteran power forward Tim Duncan. San Antonio will put on a nightly clinic of how to play team basketball.
Who wins Game 1?
Fans will also be treated to one of the best individual matchups of the postseason as two of the best point guards in the game today go head to head in the Clippers' Chris Paul and the Spurs' Tony Parker.
That alone makes this series one to watch. With that being said, here's a look at everything you need to know about Game 1.
When: Tuesday, May 15 at 9:30 p.m. EDT
Where: AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas
Live Stream: None
Betting Line: San Antonio (-11)
Clippers Key Injuries
No Key Injuries Reported
Spurs Key Injuries
No Key Injuries Reported
What They're Saying
Looking at the numbers, it would appear that the Spurs had evolved from a defensive force to an offensive juggernaut during the 2011-12 season.
Gregg Popovich's once defensive-minded team finished only 16th in the NBA in points allowed during the regular season, but he made up for that by having the second-highest scoring offense (103.7 PPG) in the league.
But is that really the case?
NBA Coach of the Year Popovich turned in possibly his best coaching job of his legendary career this season and has the Spurs playing their best defense of the season as they head into Round 2 of the 2012 NBA playoffs.
SI.com's Zach Lowe examined exactly where the Spurs defense is at right now, and as you would guess, it's been performing as a San Antonio-type defense as of late.
San Antonio’s defense, by the way, has gotten better as the season has gone along, even as offense league-wide has surged. In the last 15 games, the Spurs have allowed just 98.2 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would rank about fifth overall for the season, per NBA.com.
Aaron McGuire of the TrueHoop Network took that one step further and looked at where San Antonio compared to all playoff teams the past 21 games, including the postseason.
Among playoff teams, the Spurs were ranked No. 5 on defense over the last 21 games of the season, a close tie to the No. 6 team, the Atlanta Hawks. The only teams better over that stretch? The Bulls, the Celtics, the Heat and the Knicks.
Most Important Player to Watch: Blake Griffin
Griffin must be all business in this one. Forget the flopping and the drama, someone is going to have to control the boards for the Clippers to have a chance.
That man needs to be Griffin, as one of the only ways the Clippers can win Game 1 in San Antonio—where the Spurs are now 30-5 on the season—is if Griffin has a Superman-type effort.
He had success against the Spurs during the regular season, averaging 21.7 points and 12.7 rebounds during the three meetings. Griffin needs that type of effort in Game 1 and not the 6.7 rebounds he averaged through the first round against the Grizzlies.
Key Matchup: Paul vs. Parker
If you like point-guard play, here is a matchup of two of the best floor generals in the game.
Both guys are coming off not only MVP-type regular seasons, but also impressive first-round performances. Just take a look at how similar their Round 1 numbers were.
Parker: 21.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 3.5 RPG, 2.5 TPG, 2.6 A/TO
Paul: 20.4 PPG, 7.1 APG, 5.7 RPG, 3.6 TPG, 2.0 A/TO
One thing to note is Paul's defensive ability, recording 2.8 steals per game compared to only 0.75 for Parker. But keep an eye on the turnovers, as Paul's number is uncharacteristically high. Whichever point guard can force the other into mistakes, and limit his own, could hold the key to winning the game.
Spurs 99, Clippers 91