LOS ANGELES (Sporting Alert) — There is a massive fixture on Saturday night. No, it’s not that one. Not the boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
I am talking about the Western Conference first-round playoffs series Game 7 matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs at STAPLES Center.
“I think they need something to challenge the fight on Saturday, so why not our game,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said after the win on Thursday night that tie up the series at 3-3.
The pivotal final game of the quarterfinals series is expected bring lots of excitement to the neutrals, but LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers believes it’s “ridiculous” that the NBA format would have two of the best teams in the West meeting in the first-round of the playoffs.
“It’s ridiculous that it’s a first-round series. That was the first thing Pop (Gregg Popovich) said to me before Game 1, and I said the same thing.,” Rivers said. “But we both decided, ‘What the hell, it is what it is.’”
The Spurs and Clippers both finished the regular season with impressive regular season records in the Western Conference, but divisional standings caused the two powerhouses to be drawn together as playoffs first-round opponents.
Rivers thinks this is a “joke.”
“I don’t think the division should carry weight,” Rivers noted. “You can get a banner. All right, you win your division.
“Take the banner. If our record is better, (a division title) shouldn’t supersede. That’s a joke.”
But there is nothing Rivers and Popovich can do about the matchup for this season and the two veteran coaches are focusing on earning the win that would book them a place in the conference semi-finals against the well rest Houston Rockets.
Down 3-2 and facing elimination in Game 6, Paul and Blake Griffin combined to help the Clippers to a 102-96 victory over the defending champions in San Antonio.
Griffin had 26 points and 12 rebounds and Paul brushed off his struggles in the first half where he went 0-of-7, to come alive in the second half to finish with 19 points and 15 assists as Los Angeles held off a late rally from the host side.
“In the second half, he (Paul) was just on the attack,” Rivers said of his point guard. “He was more aggressive.
“Somehow, I still have to get on him. It’s amazing because he’s a great player, but trying to convince him he’s a great scorer, especially in this series, has been difficult.”
San Antonio was the favourite among the leading bookmakers to closeout the series in Game 6 in midweek, but after failing to do so, Popovich had some harsh words for his group.
“Our execution at the offensive end was really poor,” Popovich said. “There’s no excuse for it. We should be embarrassed at the way we came out for a closeout game.”
Marco Belinelli was a key member in the Spurs’ rally in Game 6, finishing with a team-high 23 points and he can look forward to getting some extra minutes in the seventh game on Saturday night.
Interesting eyes will also be on Kawhi Leonard, who has struggled shooting from the field in the past two games of the series. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year who was 5-of-16 in Game 5, went just 3-of-15 in 40 minutes in Game 6.
At the other side, meanwhile, Griffin, who is averaging 24 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists, has been backed to be the star-man again for the Los Angeles Clippers, with the forward gaining the highest over/under attraction for points scored Saturday with O/U 25.0 (-110/-110), according to the Westgate LV Superbook.