The San Antonio Spurs (22-26) begin their 2020 Rodeo Road Trip with a very difficult contest against the Los Angeles Clippers (34-15). The Clippers, who are 20-5 at home, are heavy favorites tonight over the Spurs, who are 8-14 on the road. L.A. enters the game as the second seed in the Western Conference, while San Antonio is the tenth seed.
Kawhi Leonard Dominating for the Clippers
While Kawhi Leonard still isn’t playing in back-to-back game as load management remains in full effect, the superstar for the Clippers has taken his game up another level recently. He has scored at least 30 points in nine straight outings. In those nine games, Leonard is averaging 34.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.9 blocks, while shooting 50.9% from the field, 39.7% from three-point range and 88.3% at the free throw line. The Clippers have won eight of those nine contests.
LaMarcus Aldridge Returns to Action
After missing two games with a thumb injury, LaMarcus Aldridge suited up for the Spurs against the Charlotte Hornets. While Aldridge didn’t play that well, he appeared to get through the game unscathed and isn’t on the injury report heading into the game versus the Clippers.
On the season, the 34-year-old is averaging 18.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 33.0 minutes per game.
Spurs Must Limit Dunks by the Clippers
The last time these two teams played, the Clippers annihilated the Spurs by a final score of 134-109. Calling it an annihilation isn’t an overstatement, considering that the Clippers had 20 dunks — the most dunks in an NBA game in over two decades.
For the Spurs to compete tonight, they’ll need to do a much better job of keeping Los Angeles out of the paint. To do so, head coach Gregg Popovich should consider using bigger lineups and avoid those that feature multiple defensively-challenged players like Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli.
Spurs at Clippers – Key Matchup
How the Spurs try to slow down both Leonard and Paul George will obviously be the focus for San Antonio. DeMar DeRozan will need to be ready to play more defense than usual, as he’ll have to either defend Leonard or George. DeRozan has had his moments against each player this season, particularly George.
Obviously, the Spurs can’t put Forbes on Leonard or George. That leaves Dejounte Murray as the most likely player to be put on Leonard out of the gates. Lonnie Walker IV is another player who could see extended minutes, especially if he steps up to the challenge against either Leonard or George.
Prediction: Spurs at Clippers
The Clippers are favored by nine points but I think the Spurs will keep it closer than expected. San Antonio has played really well lately against the better teams in the league. I see that trend continuing this evening.
Los Angeles Clippers – 120
San Antonio Spurs – 118