Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs -11 (Total: 191)
So much for the supposed interior advantage leading to some success for the Lakers, huh? Los Angeles got absolutely blitzed last night in Oklahoma City, despite the Thunder’s nine day layoff, they out-quicked and out-toughed the Lakers all over the basketball court. They led by thirty-plus most of the second half, and left little doubt who the prohibitive favorite is in this series.
Can the San Antonio Spurs do the same things to the Lakers Staple Center compatriot tonight? If you look at Vegas as indication, the possibility certainly seems reasonable. The Spurs are an enormous 10.5 point favorite tonight; a rarity in a second round NBA Playoff game. If last night’s performance by OKC is any indication, perhaps the “rust factor” isn’t as significant as many people assumed.
The marquee matchup in this series is the battle of two of the league’s best point guards. The Clippers boast the “people’s champ” Chris Paul. Nearly everyone on Earth agrees CP3 is the best point guard alive, and when compiling rankings you generally see Derron Williams or Rajon Rondo a distant two and three. Very rarely does the floor general of the Spurs merit much discussion, though he probably should. Tony Parker has not only been one of the best point guards in the league, he deserved some MVP votes (not ahead of Lebron or Durant, but I have no problem voting him third) he received. This is no longer Timmy Duncan’s team, nor is it Manu Ginobili’s. It’s Tony Parker’s.
This is also not the “aging” Spurs team you might have heard so much about. Their average age is actually YOUNGER than the Miami Heat’s, with the majority of their core rotation players in their mid twenties.
The season series between these two teams was a little closer than tonight’s line indicates, the Spurs holding a 2-1 edge, but just an average point differential of +4.4. They did shoot a robust 49% from the floor, which LA will have to improve on if they hope to make this a series, but with Griffin and Paul both apparently back to full strength, they should be able to put forth a better defensive effort. Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin have also emerged over the past month to give the Clippers a much-needed infusion of defensive fire.
I think the Spurs are a little too smart and a little too deep for Los Angeles, but I think this will be a better series than most predicted. I think it starts tonight with a better-than-anticipated opener, with LAC keeping it close before being edged out in the fourth quarter by the more efficient Spurs.
Free Pick: Los Angeles Clippers +11