Starting the playoffs as a three seed is always a good thing. Until you realize that you are facing off against the defending champion, San Antonio Spurs, who also are the hottest team in the association, winners of 11 in a row and 21 of the previous 24. The Clippers have been on fire as well, winning seven straight and 14 of 15 with the lone blemish being against the conference winning Golden State Warriors. Toss in the fact that the Spurs have been elite ever since Tim Duncan, arguably the best power forward to grace a NBA court, winners of five championships including last year's dismantling of the Big Three in Miami, leading LeBron to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gregg Popovich is definitely on the Mount Rushmore of NBA coaches and the best in the game today. And the Clippers know all this, as Blake made it clear during a practice. "You probably never want to play the Spurs in the first round if you have a choice," said Griffin. "The Spurs are playing their best basketball, like they normally tend to do." Four meetings throughout the regular season ended with each side taking two of the match-ups, with each side taking a home game and one on the road. The Clippers won the last two of the series, though, that was prior to the Spurs epic run, as it was also prior to the Clippers run as well. Two of the games were decided by four points, with the Spurs taking a 89-85 victory at the Staples Center on November 10th, while the Clippers hung on to a thrilling 119-115 victory on February 19th, also at Staples Center. DeAndre Jordan was the recipient of intentional fouls, attempting 28 during the victory, after combining for three during the first two games. San Antonio ran off a 125-118 home win on December 22nd, while the Clippers thumped the Spurs 105-85 in January.
Arguably the best match up in the history of the first round, the series will come down to a set of match-ups, but none more than the chess match that goes on between head coaches, as it will be interesting to see if Doc Rivers can properly adjust and out-coach the great Pop, or if Pop will walk simple circles around the Doc.
Chris Paul going heads up against a declining Tony Parker will need an eye to be kept on. Paul is annually amongst the league's best point guards, yet, hasn't made it past the Western Conference Semi finals, while Parker has been the Spurs point guard for all five of the championship runs, including a finals MVP trophy in his showcase. Paul has always been the motor making his team go while Parker has been more of a system guy, and, considering recent form, expect Paul to thoroughly outplay his counterpart.
DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin form one of the most imposing, young, athletic big men combination in the league, and will be going up against the battle tested Duncan. Duncan is the smartest player of the three, and has more experience in one of his shoelaces than Griffin and Jordan have combined. The pace of the game will be key here, as Duncan doesn't have the pace to keep up with the two workhorses, and missing Tiago Splitter won't make it any easier. However, Pop has the master strategy under his belt, as shown during the last meeting, and will not hesitate to put in his 12th man to gift Jordan a dozen free throw attempts to slow the game down.
In the end, this is an atrocious reward for the gaining the third seed in one of the greatest conferences in the history of all pro sports, but should make for an exciting season. Whoever wins this series, will win it in six.