Spurs - Clippers Preview
While highlight shows focus on Linsanity and monster dunks from Blake Griffin, the San Antonio Spurs have quietly put together the NBA's longest winning streak of the season.
The veteran team is far less flashy than Griffin's Clippers, but Los Angeles is right behind the Spurs in the race for first place in the Western Conference.
In a matchup of division leaders, San Antonio looks to extend its winning streak to 10 games and continue its dominance of the Clippers on Saturday night at Staples Center.
After being in eighth place in the West following a 101-100 overtime defeat at Dallas on Jan. 29, the Southwest Division-leading Spurs (21-9) have reeled off nine straight victories to vault into second, one game ahead of Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles (19-9).
"We've been on fire lately," Tony Parker said after Wednesday's 113-106 victory over Toronto. "We've been playing very good basketball, moving the ball great."
Parker scored 34 points, handed out 14 assists and made all 12 of his free throws against the Raptors. In his last eight games, Parker is averaging 25.3 points - 6.3 better than his season average.
He's led the way during the Spurs' longest winning streak since a 10-game run Dec. 3-22, 2010.
"No one is walking around here talking about (the streak), no one is sitting here focused on it," forward Richard Jefferson said. "It's more about how can we get better."
There are few areas where San Antonio seems like it needs to improve, although its defense appeared to take a step back Wednesday. After allowing an average of 87.4 points in the first eight games of their win streak, the Spurs let the Raptors shoot 54.7 percent and become the first team to reach triple digits against them since the Mavericks.
San Antonio had little trouble slowing down the Clippers in the first meeting, a 115-90 home win Dec. 28, but Griffin and Chris Paul have since had seven weeks to further develop their chemistry.
Griffin ranks in the top 10 in the league in scoring at 21.2 points per game, while Paul averages 18.2 and ranks in the top five in assists at 8.8 per game. The Clippers, 11-3 at home, are averaging 98.5 points in their last 12 games.
Even when the offense struggled like it did Thursday in Portland, Los Angeles still found a way to win. Paul was scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting with one assist before scoring 13 in the fourth quarter in a 74-71 comeback victory.
"This says that we've matured as a team," said Griffin, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double in eight games. "I think we've answered the question that we can win on the road."
Now Griffin and Paul need to prove they can beat San Antonio.
The Spurs have won 27 of the last 29 meetings, although they suffered a 90-85 loss in their last trip to Staples Center on Dec. 1, 2010, snapping an 18-game winning streak in the series.
In the first meeting this season, Manu Ginobili made five 3-pointers and finished with 24 points to lead six Spurs in double figures. Ginobili had 11 points Wednesday after combining for nine in his first two games back after missing 5 1/2 weeks with a broken left hand.
Griffin, who has decided not to defend his All-Star slam dunk title, had 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting in San Antonio in December, but the rest of the team combined to shoot 32.7 percent. Paul had 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting in his second game in a Clippers uniform.
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