Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs look like a team on a mission.
Those are the two thoughts heading into tonight’s Game 4. Which team will show up and win tonight is anyone’s guess.
One thing is for sure: After being down 24 points, the Spurs flexed their veteran muscles and made a great playoff comeback against an inexperienced Clippers team.
Spurs Win on Balance and Composure
The Spurs look like a well-balanced team that can win no matter what happens.
Entering the year, the Spurs—like the Boston Celtics—were thought to be too old to contend come playoff time. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were supposed to fall apart down the stretch, especially against the younger, athletic Clippers.
However, the Spurs veterans have shown that they still have plenty left in the tank to keep up with the younger, faster teams. Thanks to great chemistry and a balanced lineup, the Spurs are destined for a showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals.
While Duncan and Ginobili didn’t score as much as they have in the past during the regular season, they have shown that they have can go to another gear in the playoffs.
Duncan has been a pest against the Clippers because he is fundamentally sound and his height and outside shooting ability pose problems for anyone who defends him.
Ginobli also has been a problem because his herky-jerky style and three-point shooting have been too much for the younger Clippers.
Add in a Tony Parker and one of the deepest benches in the playoffs and the Spurs have been too much for the athletic Clippers.
Young Clippers Struggle Against Veteran Spurs
While the Clippers were able to defeat the young Grizzlies team in the first round, they have struggled mightily against the veteran Spurs.
The Clippers' biggest weakness in this series has been their lack of shooting. They are one of the most athletic teams in the entire NBA, which has helped them get easy buckets all year.
However, their lack of shooting ability has been one of the main reasons why they have struggled against the Spurs.
The Clippers haven’t been able to get as many easy points against the Spurs because they are sounder defensively than the Grizzlies and once the Clippers get in their half-court sets, the Spurs suffocate and all but eliminate the athletic advantage.
If the Clippers are going to have a chance at making this a series and avoid the sweep, they will need to start making more shots and find ways to cause turnovers and get fast-break points.
Blake Griffin, despite being a poor free-throw shooter, also needs to be more aggressive and force the Spurs to foul him. If he is able to get to the line more against the Spurs, then the Clippers may have a chance if they can cause Duncan and others to get into foul trouble.
Can Clippers Take Advantage of the Back-to-Back?
With back-to-back games, the Clippers need to take advantage of being the younger, more athletic team tonight.
If the Clippers don’t out-hustle the Spurs, then they will lose and, even though they won their first playoff series since 2006, all that fans will remember is that they got swept.
The Clippers need Chris Paul to show that he is the best point guard in the league. He has yet to make his presence known in the series and has been outplayed by Tony Parker.
Paul, like Griffin, needs to be more aggressive and draw fouls. He is one of the Clippers' best free-throw shooters and needs to get to the line and try and force Parker to the bench.
The Clippers not only need to win, but they need to win big in Game 4 and gain some momentum for when they return to San Antonio.
Even though the Spurs are clearly the better team, this series is far from over.
The Clippers have too much talent and even though the Spurs have looked like the best team in the NBA the past two months, they are bound to have a hiccup at some point.
If the Clippers can manage to win a game at home and gain some confidence, then this series could turn around quickly.
However, if the Clippers come out slow tonight, the Spurs will pounce at the opportunity to rest up for their next series and the Clippers' season will be over.