Eric Patten (@ericpatten) | 5/15/12

Round two is here.

The Clippers and Spurs tipoff Game 1 in San Antonio Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. PST. To help get you up to speed, talked about the matchup with a Western Conference front office executive as well as an advance scout for an opposing team. Here's a look at how they break down the Spurs and the series. While many pundits have predicted the Spurs will dominate, our consultants both anticipate it will be a much longer series than expected.



Tony Parker, PG (6-2, 185). "Tony Parker's probably one of the fastest guys in the NBA in transition going from one end to the other. He's a one-man fast break," the executive said. ..."His floater game is extremely impressive," the executive added. "He can get to the lane and finishes real well in the paint." ...According to, 52.2% of Parker's shots in the regular season came in the paint where he shot 57.6% (268-for-465). ...The advance scout thought Parker is "playing like he's in his prime; like the 2007 Finals MVP." ...He added, "[Parker] sucks in the defense, kicks out to those shooters and can create body contact and finish plays." ...Strategically, "You have to exhaust all of your options to stop him in the pick and roll," the scout said. ...The executive said the only perceived weakness is Parker's 3-point shooting, which has improved over the years.


Danny Green, SG (6-6, 210). "Good defensive player," the executive said. "He usually ends up guarding the opponent's best wing." ...Both the scout and executive said he's a much improved 3-point shooter. He shot 43.6% from 3-point range in the regular season, nearly a 7-percent jump from last season. ..."He's been big for them this year," the executive added. "He's made a lot of big plays." ...The scout thought it was more than shooting saying, Green made big strides all-around this year after playing well at the end of last year. "He makes shots, has good size, and can handle the ball a little bit."


Kawhi Leonard, SF (6-7, 225). "He's clearly worked on his shooting," the executive said. "It didn't look like he could finish like this at San Diego State." ...According to the executive, Leonard's "deadly in the corners, especially when he's able to get his feet set." ...He also called Leonard a "great defender." ..."They traded George Hill to get him and that's a big trade for them because George did a lot for them," the executive said. "But clearly, the Spurs front office strikes again. They're one of the best at knowing what they want. They find it and get it done." ...The executive raved about Leonard's effort. "He's a hustle player, crashes the boards, and you've kind of got to know where he is at all times."


Boris Diaw, PF (6-8, 235). The scout said acquiring Diaw was a "coup." "He's unselfish and fundamentally sound, all-around." ..."He's another playmaker at the four," the executive said. "He can spread the floor a little bit." ...Both consultants referred to Diaw as a great passer with the scout saying he's good in the high post and low post..."He's a good teammate," the executive said. "He's got a good rapport with Tony Parker." Diaw was the best man in Parker's wedding. ..."He's a smart player," the executive said. "He's been around the league forever. He can play, plain and simple."


Tim Duncan, C (6-11, 255). "He might be the best power forward to ever play this game," the executive said. "And every year everybody tells me he's washed up, every year he puts in a solid year. His numbers aren't what they used to be, but he's done a great job allowing for the transition from being a post-up team to a pick and roll team." ...The scout said Duncan looks revitalized. "He's leaner than he used to be. He's moving well. The rest [in the regular season] has definitely helped him." ..."In the post he's tough, you know he's going to hit that bank shot," the executive said. "You can put a wall there, he'll still get it off. He's expanded his range and is very strong with the elbow jumper." ...The executive said the Clippers could exploit Duncan with their athleticism because "[Duncan's] not as young as he used to be."



Manu Ginobili, G (6-6, 205). "Manu Ginobili would start for any other team in the league," the executive said. "And he did start here, but he's that boost off the bench." ...According to both consultants, the lefty swingman is fantastic at creating shots for himself and others. ...The executive said he'll get to his left hand even when the entire defense knows that's what he wants to do. ...And the scout said one of the things that makes Ginobili so tough is his ability to cut. "He makes hard cuts, backdoor cuts," he said. "He just cuts so hard off the ball." ...Additionally, the executive said, "He's one of the [league's] fiercest competitors, probably right up there with Chris [Paul] and Kobe [Bryant]. He doesn't quit on plays. He'll do whatever it takes to win." ..."He's extremely crafty and has sense for the moment and can make the big play at the right time," the executive added.


Stephen Jackson, G/F (6-8, 220). "He adds another defender on the wing," the executive said. "He's another physical guard, who's hit big shots." ...They both felt that Jackson's previous experience in San Antonio (he won a title with the team in 2003) made the Spurs confident in bringing him in.

"When players come to San Antonio their personalities seem to change," the scout said.


Tiago Splitter, F (6-11, 240). "People don't realize Tiago's played in big games overseas to begin with," the executive said. "His improvement from last year to this year has been exponential. He's a strong player, physical, a good rebounder, he hustles." ...The scout said that Splitter's vital because he is capable of spelling Duncan. ...Splitter has dual citizenship in Spain and Brazil. He was named the 2010 Spanish League MVP and Spanish League Finals MVP.



Matt Bonner, F (6-10, 235) and Gary Neal, G (6-4, 210). "Bonner can flat out shoot the ball," the executive said. "He's not athletically gifted, but he's strong physically and can rebound well." ...The scout added that Bonner is great a drawing charging calls. ..."He's in there to spread the floor," the executive said. ...Neal is also in there to spread the floor. According to the scout, "He's a scorer, 3-point shooter, can drive and get to the basket and has a good mid-range game." ...The first thing the scout said when asked Neal: "This guy is impressive."


Defensively: "They're very aggressive defensively. In pick and rolls they push everything towards the baseline," the executive said. "They know their system, their routine. Listen, coach [Gregg] Popovich is one of the best in the game, if not the best. They've drilled the rotation into these guys and they're a phenomenal rotating team. They help each other. They help the helper. It's constant rotation. They're on a string. One man moves, the other four react."

The executive thinks the Spurs will start with Duncan on DeAndre Jordan and Diaw guarding Griffin and the scout said they will force Griffin to prove he can make shots from the perimeter. "San Antonio will not play the pick and roll that aggressive," the scout said. "They won't always pick up 3-point shooters and they sometimes let mid-range shooters free." He added that Popovich's biggest point of emphasis is to contest everything.

Still, the scout said San Antonio will give up some threes because of the way they play the pick and roll. "I don't think they're going to be out there hedging Paul too much on the pick and roll. Duncan will play off the screener because Blake and DeAndre aren't great mid-range shooters." That defensive strategy, according to the scout, could allow Paul to get free for a lot of mid-range jumpers at the elbow and free throw line extended.

Offensively: "They play a high-octane offense," the executive said. "They were second in the league in scoring this year, which is kind of a departure for them because they used to be a strong defensive team. They're dangerous and explosive." The scout agreed, saying, "These guys have such a great system. Their 3-point shooting, floor spacing."

The executive pointed out that the 3-point shot comes from their transition game and with the pick and roll and the way teams defend it. "It's important for them to hit their threes," he said. "It's a key in terms of defending the 3-point line."

A team so good at the pick and roll game makes stretch big men more deadly, the executive said. "You've got to help on the inside on the roll guy and right then and there they find their open shooters and they're going to drill these open shots."

The key to the transition game, from the executive's point of view, is having playmakers like Ginobili and Parker.

With Ginobili and Parker out there, he said, "You have two play makers on the court that can run the offense that makes a huge difference. They can both initiate the offense, they're both great in pick and roll, they play very well off of each other. We're talking about a core that's been together for 11 years and won three titles together. It's a tough challenge."


The scout said he was impressed with what the Clipper showed against Memphis, which he suggested could go a long way in boosting their confidence facing a championship organization like San Antonio.

"They out-grinded the Grizzlies," he said. "It was the best series by far in the first round, a real dog fight. The grit they showed playing through injuries could be a great boost of confidence and is something they can keep building on."

He said Game 1 could be there for the Clippers to steal because "San Antonio is well-rested and sometimes that can cause a problem. We'll see how in-tune they are."

Still, he said Popovich has "an unshakeable faith in his players." And that Popovich always wants his teams to fear their opponent enough to know if they don't play hard they're going to get beat. He also cited the 14-game winning streak of the Spurs as proof that they're peaking at the right time.

Both the scout and executive thought that Blake Griffin's health will play a role because he presents a matchup problem for San Antonio's front court. "Blake's a tough cover, no matter who you are," the executive said. "So his matchup with [Diaw] could be something [L.A.] looks to exploit." According to the scout, the Spurs are likely to "make Blake prove he can make jumpers."

"I've always felt like the toughest guys for him to go up against are guys like Pau Gasol or Tim Duncan," he continued. "Even as athletic as he is, he has trouble with length." The executive thought the Clippers' front court as a whole could be problematic for the Spurs. "I think they have to worry about the Clippers' speed and their front court," he said. "DeAndre [Jordan] is an athlete, Blake's an athlete, Kenyon [Martin] is unbelievable, Reggie [Evans] is coming off an amazing series. They've got to be concerned."

The matchup of the series is likely Parker and Chris Paul. And both consultants agreed that both All-Star point guards will try to create plays by getting into the paint. The executive said it will be "critical" for the Clippers to prevent paint penetration from Parker and that the best way to do that will be to control the pace of the game. As for Paul, the scout said, "He has the ability to win close games and I think there will be some close ones in this series. It won't be a sweep as a few people have predicted. [It will go] six games, maybe seven."

Overall, the scout said there are four keys to the series for the Clippers: the bench play, transition defense and defending the 3-point line, free throw shooting, and making shots from outside. Arguably, the most important factor, he said, will be the bench. "If the Clippers bench plays a lot like they did in the last series. They're going to give San Antonio some problems. The bench will have to show that grittiness. They're deep. Kenyon Martin could start for a lot of teams. Mo Williams could. Reggie Evans started for Philadelphia and Toronto at times. And Nick Young's another guy who's a starter."

Final thought: "The Clippers are resolute. I don't think it will be as high-scoring as expected. It will be another grind it out kind of series."


Here's a look at how the team's fared against each other in the regular season. Note: The season series is not much of indicator of how the postseason affair will play out. Nick Young, Stephen Jackson, and Boris Diaw did not play in any of the three games, while Kenyon Martin, Mo Williams, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili missed all or parts of at least one game.

  • Clippers 120, Spurs 109, March 9, 2012
  • Spurs 103, Clippers 100 (OT), February 18, 2012
  • Spurs 115, Clippers 90, December 30, 2011

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