It had to be a heart-warming sight for Los Angeles Clippers’ coach Vinny Del Negro to see his bench carry the Clippers in their Game 7 road win versus the Memphis Grizzlies. Watching the Clippers over the course of the season they have had issues with their depth and things only got worse when they lost Chauncey Billups to a torn Achilles injury earlier in the season.
But the Clippers were able to address their depth issues by signing Kenyon Martin and trading for Nick Young from the Washington Wizards. They are also getting more meaningful minutes from Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe and Reggie Evans.
This has been great in terms of getting them past the Grizzlies but it will be even more important when they face the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs. Simply put, the Spurs are the deepest team in the playoffs so the Clippers are going to need to use their depth to offset the Spurs bench.
Of course that won’t be an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. The Spurs have a nice mixture of youth and experience on both the starting unit and their second unit. They come at teams in droves and don’t take their foot off the gas until the final buzzer sounds.
The Clippers have a strong enough starting unit to compete with the Spurs but their bench will have to try and keep San Antonio’s bench from extending leads when both second units are on the floor together.
L.A.’s bench may even have to win a game or two for them to win this series. The biggest matchup in this series will be at the point guard position with Chris Paul and Tony Parker battling it out as their team’s two best players.
Parker owned Paul in the two meetings they faced each other this season. Parker averaged 22 points and 9.5 assists while shooting 55% from the floor in their two meetings.
Paul averaged 15.5 points and 7.5 assists while shooting a paltry 31% from the floor during the two losses to the Spurs. The only time the Clippers beat the Spurs was in their third meeting when Parker didn’t play.
Hopefully for the Clippers, having Parker missing games isn’t the only way they can beat the Spurs because Gregg Popovich isn’t going to let L.A. off that easy. The Clippers will have to find some way to either slow down Parker or at least get Paul to play him to a standstill.
But the ultimate key to beating the Spurs may lie with their bench. The Clippers must get the same kind of production out of their bench for a whole series that they got in their closeout win versus the Grizzlies if they want to survive this series. With the way the Spurs have been playing though that still may not be enough.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.