Last season’s highest point for the San Antonio Spurs was the night when Kawhi Leonard came back to South Texas. The crowd was fired up, Leonard heard a chorus of boos throughout the game and the Spurs stomped the Toronto Raptors, 125-107.
Since then, things have changed. Leonard had the last laugh, as the Raptors went on to win the 2019 NBA championship. He then completed his goal of returning home by signing with the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason. The Spurs? Well, after losing in seven games in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, they are currently 6-13 and their playoff chances are dwindling.
Tonight, Leonard returns to San Antonio for the second game. The Spurs, who are 5.5-point underdogs, have lost ten of their previous 11 games. The Clippers, on the other hand, have won seven straight games and haven’t lost yet in games where Leonard and Paul George have both played. Leonard and George will play this evening.
Expect Leonard to be motivated to put on a show in San Antonio. His season-high of 38 points came in the Clippers’ 103-97 victory over the Spurs in Los Angeles. The home fans won’t be as rowdy as they were last season — it’s not possible. But Leonard remembers what happened the last time he was in San Antonio and will look to turn the tables this time out.
Can the Spurs Beat the Clippers?
It’s going to be difficult, to say the least. The Clippers are arguably the best team in the league and they have motivation to beat the Spurs.
San Antonio, on the other hand, is struggling in multiple facets of the game. Defensively, they’ve been really bad. Their point guard situation is a mess, as Derrick White looks gimpy and Dejounte Murray lacks confidence since being demoted to the bench. Head coach Gregg Popovich’s rotation has been erratic, with few players knowing what to expect on a game-to-game basis.
For the Spurs to win, they’d need to hit three-pointers in bunches, have at least one of their point guards step up and for the team to compete for more of the 48 minutes than they have in any other game this season. On top of that, both DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge would need to play well — particularly in the fourth quarter.
San Antonio Spurs Starting Lineup
Pop announced prior to the game that Rudy Gay will start. That likely means the Spurs will go with a starting lineup of Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge. While that’s a small quintet, the Clippers have so much perimeter skill in their starting five, it would be nearly impossible for the Spurs to start both Jakob Poeltl and Aldridge in this game.
Los Angeles Clippers Starting Lineup
In addition to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, expect the Clippers to start Patrick Beverley and Maurice Harkless. The fifth starter isn’t set in stone but it will probably be Ivica Zubac.
In that starting five, the Clippers have four strong perimeter defenders in Leonard, George, Beverley and Harkless. Zubac, a 7-footer, provides length in the middle.
Spurs vs. Clippers – Prediction
If the Spurs aren’t on top of their offensive game, it could be difficult to score. On defense, the Spurs will be smaller and less athletic. With San Antonio streaking the wrong way, Kawhi Leonard isn’t the person and the Clippers aren’t the team the Spurs want to see in town.
Los Angeles Clippers – 112
San Antonio Spurs – 102