NBA Playoffs 2012: 3 Things the Clippers Must Do to Beat the Spurs
I know you're probably thinking to yourself right now, "The Clippers need to do about 20 things to beat the Spurs." There's no way a Clippers victory could come as a result of a simple three-step process.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying a Clippers series victory is as easy as one, two, three. I'm simply saying there are three things the Clippers must do if they're to have any chance of pulling off the huge upset in the Western Conference semifinals.
Here are those three things they must do to have a chance in this series.
1. Slow the Game Down
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
In the Clippers series victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, it was to their advantage to use backup point guard Eric Bledsoe to push the tempo as often as possible. Against San Antonio, that strategy simply won't work.
In fact, the Spurs would love nothing more than to see Bledsoe push the ball early and often, as it would allow the Spurs to get the extra number of possessions they crave. They crave them because they are the second-highest scoring team in the league, having averaged 103.7 points per game during the regular season.
Tony Parker is an expert at pushing the tempo and getting the ball to the rim or the right teammate on the break. When the team is forced into a half-court game, they are merely average.
The funny thing is the Clippers are merely average in the half court as well, but they also possess the ultimate quarterback-type point guard in Chris Paul. Paul not only excels in the pick-and-roll but in getting each player in the exact spot on the court they need to be on every play.
The Clippers are just the 14th highest-scoring team in the league, but they're actually a better defensive team than the Spurs.
As such, Los Angeles would be wise to slow the game down and allow their defense to take control of the basketball game and series, and allow Paul to do his thing in the half court when necessary.
2. Stay Competitive on the Glass
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
In the Memphis series, the Clippers got worked on the glass, until the final game when they transformed into some mean, physical and extra-mentally tough version of themselves. Yet in the Game 7 win, the Clippers still only managed a plus-two victory over the Grizzlies in the rebounding department.
On the season, the Spurs managed 43 rebounds per game to the Clippers' 41.6. That differential may not seem like much, but the reality is that if the Clippers were to be out-rebounded every game of this series by one or two rebounds, their odds of winning would diminish dramatically.
To stay competitive against the likes of Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard—all great rebounders—the Clippers must make a concerted effort to rebound. It will take at least three guys crashing the glass on every single missed shot.
Expect to see more of Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin and Caron Butler in this series to help ease the burden. And since the Clippers are going to try to slow the game down, these guys won’t hurt the team in that regard.
The skinny, less physical DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are going to have to prove themselves tough and physical enough to warrant end-of-game playing time. Though the Spurs are nowhere near as physical as the Grizzlies, the Clippers are going to need to approach this series as if they are. Doing so will give them the edge in each game and subsequently the series.
3. Find Another Scorer
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
In the quarterfinals series, it was Chris Paul and the rest of the team in terms of who took the scoring load. Chris Paul scored 20.4 points per game in the series. Nobody else neared that for the Clippers. And that's not the way the Clippers want to play.
In the regular season, the Clippers were better overall when Paul was dishing out and scoring only when necessary. Ideally, the Clippers would get back to that kind of basketball in the upcoming Spurs series.
Blake Griffin needs to step his scoring game up in this round against the Spurs. But that is pretty much assumed. Finding a third player—be it Randy Foye, Caron Butler, Nick Young or someone else altogether—is crucial for the Clips.
The consequence of not doing so can easily be understood—they become a much easier team to guard. With a third and/or fourth scorer, the Clippers become a much better team overall. And if they are much better overall, it stands to reason they become much more likely to win this series.