One team is coming into this game undefeated, but it’s not the one most would have expected: The Spurs are 3-0, stringing together home wins over the Knicks, Wizards and Trailblazers behind their reliable veteran duo of LaMarcus Aldridge (21.3 points on 49.0 percent shooting) and DeMar DeRozan (22.0 points and 48.0 percent shooting).
It’s remarkable because the Spurs are so desperately shorthanded. Their offseason was torpedoed by Marcus Morris, who reneged on a deal to sign with the team to fetch more money with the Knicks—after the Spurs had traded away Davis Bertans to create room. Bertans is averaging 16.0 points on 56.8 percent shooting in Washington to start the season and the guy the Spurs eventually got to fill the gap at power forward, Trey Lyles, is averaging 3.3 points on 36.4 percent shooting.
Don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, I suppose. Sigh.
The Clippers are a mere 3-2, coming off a loss in Utah in which star forward Kawhi Leonard took a game off for load management after the (ahem) grind of two grueling weeks playing basketball. Take it for what it’s worth but, after having their star sit out games in Toronto last season, the Raptors were 13-3 in his first game back.
And speaking of NBA players who ticked off all of Southern Texas with the way they mistreated the Spurs, Leonard will be facing his old team tonight, but he’ll do so in the comfy confines of the Staples Center.
Spurs vs. Clippers Preview
The Clippers have the potential to have the best defense in the league, but it’s been slow to come together. Missing Leonard against the Jazz certainly hurts and, eventually, the Clippers also will get Paul George back. Still, the D has underperformed so far, allowing 109.6 points per 100 possessions, 22nd in the NBA.
The Clippers defense is most often concerned with corner 3s and layups but the Spurs will provide a different challenge, as DeRozan and Aldridge rely on the midrange game like it was 1994 or something. But Aldridge could be licking his chops on this one. In seven games since Clippers center Montrezl Harrell (who will guard Aldridge most of the game) went to Los Angeles, Aldridge has averaged 27.0 points on 57.1 percent shooting.
The Clippers are likely to get the win, but this should be a tight one.
Spurs vs. Clippers Pick & Prediction
PICK: Spurs +5
SCORE PREDICTION: Clippers 110, Spurs 107