Clippers vs. Spurs preview: Battle at the top of the Western Conference

USA TODAY Sports

Two of the top three teams in the Western Conference battle it out Friday night with plenty on the line in the final stretch of the season. Will Tony Parker have his way with Chris Paul again, or will Paul return the favor?

The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers face off in a battle featuring two teams in the top-half of the Western Conference playoff standings. The Spurs and Clippers are each in tight races for their final playoff position with only a handful of games remaining before the smoke settles.

San Antonio sits atop the Western Conference with the No. 1 seed. Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are at it again, putting on another monster run through the regular season. Over their last 30 games they have gone 24-6, with two of those losses coming in overtime. The Spurs hold onto a 1.5 game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top seed in the Western Conference and will play the Thunder in Oklahoma City on April 4.

The Clippers, meanwhile, are in the muddled middle of the Western Conference playoff picture. The Clippers, Denver Nuggets, and Memphis Grizzlies are all within 1.5 games of each other and have been rotating their positions since the All-Star break concluded. While the Clippers will not be facing the Nuggets in the final stretch of their season, they travel to Memphis on April 13 in the second half of a back-to-back.

Both the Clippers and Spurs have plenty riding on how they conclude their seasons, though the Clippers could potentially fall all the way down to the fifth seed and lose home court advantage in the first round. A much steeper price to pay than the Spurs dropping down to the second seed.

The teams have played three times this season, with the Clippers leading the series 2-1. The Spurs have gone 31-4 at home with one of those losses owned by the Clippers.

Chauncey Billups is considered doubtful for the game with a strained right groin. Tony Parker is questionable with a sprained right middle finger. While Billups' absence won't be entirely detrimental for the Clippers -- he has only played in 20 games for the Clippers after all -- Parker was dominant in the last meeting between these teams. Parker put up 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting while also dishing out seven assists. He went at Chris Paul, who was something much more like Cliff Paul, and came away with the Spurs' lone victory over the Clippers. Paul had only four points on one-of-six shooting and had only one assist.

More on the Clippers: Clips Nation

The Spurs are in the middle of an extremely difficult stretch of games against top-tier opponents. In a six-game stretch the Spurs will have faced the Nuggets, Clippers, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, and Oklahoma City Thunder. The lone game that doesn't feature a team in at least the top five of their respective conference comes against the Orlando Magic. Of course, after their game against the Magic they travel to Oklahoma City the next day in a back-to-back. So much for cruising to the finish line.

The Clippers and Spurs should put on a competitive game with both teams having plenty of motivation to keep their foot on the gas pedal. San Antonio's third ranked defensive rating goes head-to-head with the Clippers' third ranked offensive rating Friday night. Or, the simple joy of watching two great point guards linking up against one another should be enough reason to make this a great game of basketball.

Odds: Spurs favored +4,5, via OddsShark.com

Game time: 8:30 p.m. EDT

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