SAN ANTONIO SPURS (43-13)
at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (35-22)
Tip-off: Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: San Antonio -4, Total: 210
One night after playing the Warriors, the Clippers catch a well-rested Spurs team in LA.
The Clippers didnít exactly have an ideal matchup to kick off the post-All-Star break portion of their regular season, but they did manage to cover as 13.5-point underdogs in a 123-113 loss in Golden State on Thursday night. The Clips are now 35-22 (30-27 ATS) and tied with the Jazz for the 4/5 seeds in the Western Conference. If Los Angeles is lucky, it will have been their last game without PG Chris Paul this season. He has been cleared to play after missing over a month with a thumb injury, and is questionable to play at home on Friday night against the visiting Spurs. It will be San Antonioís first game back from All-Star Weekend, and they will look to further secure their hold on the No. 2 seed in the West at 43-13 (32-23-1 ATS). They have won four of their last five games and seven of their last nine. Since 1996, road favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points revenging a lossóthe Spurs lost 106-101 to the Clippers on Dec. 22óare 66-30 ATS when their opponent is coming off a road game in which both teams scored over 100 points. In the same timeframe, Friday night games between a team with a winning percentage between .600 and .750 and a team with a winning record are 188-119 Under against totals of 200 or greater. San Antonio C Pau Gasol is expected to return Friday night from a hand injury that has kept him out since mid-January.
The Spurs are fifth in the league in offensive efficiency rating, as they score 112.3 points per 100 possessions. They have the best defense in the league by efficiency metrics, allowing only 103.5 points per 100 possessions. They play at the sixth-slowest pace in the NBA, as they average 94.7 possessions per 48 minutes. The teamís lone representative in the All-Star Game this year was SF Kawhi Leonard (25.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.8 SPG), who could make a serious run at the MVP award with a strong finish to his season. Heís truly a two-way force, as he is seventh in the NBA in scoring and sixth in steals. He put up a stretch of four straight 32-plus point games in mid-February and scored 22 in a blowout against Orlando in the last game before the break. PF LaMarcus Aldridge (17.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG) felt he also deserved an All-Star bid, an argument bolstered by his teamís record if not his individual stats. He is only shooting 39.8% from the floor in the month of February, and he only broke 20 points once in his seven February games before the break. SG Danny Green (7.7 PPG, 3.3 APG, 1.0 SPG) is back at 40.5% from deep after floundering at 33.2% last year, and SG Manu Ginobili (7.7 PPG, 1.1 SPG) can still provide a spark off the bench (18.4 MPG). PGs Tony Parker (10.6 PPG, 4.8 APG) and Patty Mills (9.7 PPG, 3.3 APG) split minutes fairly equally at the point. With Gasol (11.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.2 BPG) out, C Dewayne Dedmon (5.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG) and PF David Lee (7.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG) have seen more time on the court.
Los Angeles scores 111.7 points per 100 possessions, which puts them at eighth in the league in that category. Their defensive efficiency rating of 108 points allowed per 100 possessions is 13th in the NBA. They play a more-or-less average pace of 96.4 possessions per 48 minutes. The absence of Paul (17.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 9.7 APG, 2.3 SPG) leaves a Hall of Famer-sized hole in the lineup, which puts extra pressure on the teamís other offensive star, PF Blake Griffin (21.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 5.1 APG). There was a brief period of time where both were out of the lineup, but Griffin has been excellent since returning from his own injury. Heís averaging 24.0 PPG and 6.4 APG in February, although he only had 12 points on 3-of-13 shooting against the Warriors on Thursday. Perhaps a better outing wouldíve made the difference in what has to be thought of as a close game, considering the opponent. Other players who have had to take on increased roles in the wake of Paulís injury are PGs Austin Rivers (12.3 PPG, 3.0 APG) and Raymond Felton (7.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.7 APG). Rivers actually leads the team in minutes played over their last 10 games, and Felton is playing more minutes at 32 than anyone would have anticipated. Without Paulís scoring, SGs J.J. Redick (15.1 PPG) and Jamal Crawford (12.5 PPG, 2.9 APG) take on an increased load, and they have been playing essentially the same number of minutes as one another. Rivers and Crawford led the team in scoring last night with 19 points each. C DeAndre Jordan (12.1 PPG, 13.7 RPG, 1.7 BPG) is third in the rim, and his rim protection duties become more important without Paulís perimeter D. SF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (6.0 PPG, 1.0 SPG) and the rest of the teamís small forwards rarely make an impact.