The Clippers begin their first extended road trip and arguably toughest test of the early season Monday night in San Antonio as they take on the Spurs.
It is the first of four road games for the Clippers on a trip that goes through Oklahoma City, Brooklyn and Atlanta after Monday. The four teams have a combined record of 26-11. Despite starting the season 7-2, the franchise’s best start since the 2005-06 season, the Clippers are aware of the importance of the road trip.
“We just have to keep remembering that it’s a long season,” point guard Chris Paul said. “I was telling someone [that] we’d be in really good shape right now if it was a 10-game season. But it’s such a long season, so we just have to stay the course and keep building.”
Historically, the Clippers have had a tough time against the Spurs with a 31-115 all-time record, including an 8-64 mark at San Antonio. But recent history has been much kinder to the Clippers. They snapped a 17-game losing streak in San Antonio last season with a 120-108 win at the AT&T Center.
In their Nov. 7 meeting, the Clippers handed the Spurs their first loss of the 2012-13 season with a 106-84 victory at Staples Center. Blake Griffin led the way offensively with 22 points and 10 rebounds. He was one of seven players to score in double figures. The 22-point win was also their largest margin of victory in 146 regular season games against the Spurs.
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 101, Bulls 80: Griffin recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 26 points and 10 rebounds and put on a jump shooting display in the fourth quarter, draining three shots from 18 feet and beyond. He finished the night 11-for-18 and made four of his five free throw attempts.
“It’s about getting the ball in the right spot and doing what we worked on,” Griffin said about his fourth quarter shooting. “I missed some shots early on, but my teammates gave me the confidence to keep on shooting. They see me out there working every day and it’s encouraging.”
Spurs 126, Nuggets 100: The Spurs set a season high with 126 points and led by as many as 32 points in Saturday’s win over the Nuggets. San Antonio shot 54% from the field and put on a show from beyond the arc, hitting a season-high 16-of-27 from 3-point land.
Manu Ginobili was one of six Spurs to score in double figures, leading the team with 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting. He was also one of the leaders of the 3-point barrage, hitting five of his seven attempts from beyond the arc.
Manu Ginobili vs. Jamal Crawford. Two of the most exciting sixth men in the NBA will square off Monday. Crawford’s hot start has him ranked tenth in the league in scoring, averaging 20.7 points per game. He has failed to score at least 20 points in just three games this season, one of those happening against the Spurs on November 7. He was just 3-for-7 from the field for 10 points.
Ginobili is coming off his best scoring game of the season against the Nuggets and will be looking to improve on his previous performance against the Clippers on November 7. He scored just nine points and had a rough shooting night, hitting just two of his eight attempts from the field two games after returning to the lineup from an injured back.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
The Paint: The Clippers are currently third in the NBA averaging 46 points in the paint per game. DeAndre Jordan is one of the big reasons for that as he leads the league making 68.9% of his field goals. The Clippers are also one of the stingiest defenses when it comes to guarding the lane, allowing 38.8 points in the paint per game, ranked fourth in the NBA and first in the Western Conference.
The 3-point line: The Spurs feature two of the premier perimeter shooters in the NBA with Danny Green and Matt Bonner; the latter leading the league at 63.6% from 3-point range. The team is coming off a 16-for-27 night from beyond the arc against the Nuggets.
Meanwhile, the Clippers had their best game defending the 3-pointer this season against the Bulls, holding them to 14.3% shooting from long distance. In their first match up with the Spurs, the Clippers allowed them to hit 8-of-23 3-pointers, including a 3-of-5 night from Green.
Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps tendonitis in left knee) will not play for the Spurs… Gary Neal (right index finger laceration) has missed the last two games… The Clippers shot 55.4% from the field and went 8-of-9 from the free throw line in their win over the Spurs on November 7… Clippers Head Coach Vinny Del Negro played for the Spurs from 1992-1998 helping lead them to the playoffs on five consecutive occasions, including two Midwest Division titles…The Clippers lead the NBA, averaging 19 points per game on the fast break.