Clippers-Spurs Preview Capsule
By BRIAN MAHONEY
(AP) -- A look at the Western Conference semifinal series between the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers (with regular-season and playoff records):
No. 1 SAN ANTONIO SPURS (50-16, 4-0) vs. No. 5 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (40-26, 4-3)
Season series: Spurs, 2-1. The Spurs won the first two meetings before the Clippers took the finale with a 120-108 victory March 9, a game that Tony Parker sat out with a sore thigh. That was the Clippers' first win in San Antonio since Jan. 31, 2002, a span of 18 games. None of the games came after the Spurs added Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw later in the season, remaking their rotation.
Story line: The Clippers are in the second round for the first time since 2006 and just the third time ever, but it took them seven games to get there before beating Memphis on Sunday. Meanwhile, surging San Antonio had more than a week off after sweeping Utah and extending its current winning streak to 14 games.
Key Matchup I: Parker vs. Chris Paul. Parker will have an advantage in the matchup of speedy point guards, both top-five finishers in the voting for MVP, if Paul is limited by the right hip injury that bothered him late in the first round. He had 36 points and 11 assists in the Clippers' victory in San Antonio that Parker sat out, but made only 9 of 29 shots in the other two games. Parker had 30 points and 10 assists in the Spurs' 103-100 overtime victory at Los Angeles on Feb. 18 and scored a head-to-head victory over Paul in this round in 2008, when the Spurs beat Paul's New Orleans Hornets in seven games.
Key Matchup II: Tim Duncan vs. Blake Griffin. Griffin's injury problems seem even worse than Paul's. Bothered by a sprained left knee, he played only two minutes of the fourth quarter in the Clippers' Game 7 victory, and if he is robbed of too much of his athleticism, that eliminates one of the few advantages Los Angeles seems to have. Duncan is well-rested after playing only 30 minutes per game and averaging 14.3 points in the Spurs' first-round rout.
X-Factor: The Clippers' reserves. If Paul and Griffin are limited, the Clippers will need their subs to come through against the NBA's best bench. Manu Ginobili and Co. are rarely outplayed, but the Clippers can match them if guys like Nick Young, Kenyon Martin, Mo Williams and Reggie Evans play the way they did Sunday, when the bench combined for 41 points, including all but two in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Spurs in 5.
Updated May 14, 2012