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Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs, NBA Playoffs 2015: Series preview, schedule and prediction

Two of the best teams in the league will face off in the most interesting first round series of the playoffs.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs and the Clippers could have faced each other in the conference finals and it wouldn't have been shocking. Both teams were among the best in the final stretch of the season, with the Spurs winning 21 of their last 25 and the Clippers 14 of their last 15. They finished with a similarly impressive record. The only reason one of them is going to be eliminated in the first round is because the West was incredibly competitive this year.

The Clippers have the best offense in the league. They have the perfect mixture of outside shooting and inside scoring and the best floor general in the game in Chris Paul to orchestrate their attack. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are a fearsome tandem inside, as their athleticism allows them to make themselves available for passes most players couldn't dream of catching. It's on the other end in which the Clippers struggle, so they will need to ride their offense to wins against the Spurs.

For San Antonio losing to the Pelicans in the final game of the season was a big blow. After overcoming a slow start to give themselves a shot at the second seed, they slid all the way to sixth. If there's a team with the experience to win on the road, however, it's the Spurs. They have the third best defense in the league and an offense that can catch fire at any time, as well as an emerging star in Kawhi Leonard. Tiago Splitter's health could prove to be a major factor, as he's their best shot at containing Griffin but their chances of advancing are better than the typical sixth seed.

THE MATCHUP

  • Clippers (56-26, expected record 58-24) vs. Spurs (56-26, expected record 58-24)
  • Clippers' offensive efficiency: 109.8 | Spurs' offensive efficiency: 106.2
  • Clippers' defensive efficiency: 103 | Spurs' defensive efficiency: 99.6
  • Season series: 2-2. The Spurs took the first two games and the Clippers emerged victorious on the last two matchups. The Spurs were healthy for just one game, which turned out to be a blowout win for the Clippers.

4 questions that'll decide this series

We asked our Clippers site Clips Nation and our Spurs site Pounding the Rock to give us the lowdown on these two teams.

1. What is your team's biggest advantage in this series?

Clips Nation: Obviously the Clippers can score -- they led the league in offensive efficiency on the season, and the offense has been ridiculous since the All Star Break. But the Spurs have a great offense as well, so while it's not a wash per se, it's also not a huge advantage. Where the Clippers do have a decided edge is in frontcourt athleticism -- Tim Duncan is still great, but he and Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw and Aron Baynes can't touch Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as athletes. The Clippers need for Griffin and Jordan to press that advantage if they want to beat the defending champs.

Pounding the Rock: Gregg Popovich and the defensive schemes he designs. The Spurs' defense has been excellent all year, and they can implement anything Pop dreams up.

2. What is your team's biggest disadvantage in this series?

CN: The Clippers' disadvantage is that they're not the Spurs. We're talking about a team that wins rings as if it were their birthright. The Clippers have never been out of the second round, while Tim Duncan has run out of fingers. San Antonio is really, really good -- but they're also really, really smart and really, really experienced. It's a tough combination to overcome.

PtR: Tiago Splitter's health. When he's been 100 percent and playing with the starting unit, San Antonio was nigh-unbeatable. If his calf continues to be a problem, then that means a less dominant version of the Spurs.

3. Who is the X-Factor that needs to step up?

CN: Without question it's Jamal Crawford. The Clippers' bench has been dreadful all season, especially so during the month they played without Crawford. He came back in time to play four regular season games, but showed a lot of rust in that time (though it must be said that he made some great passes in their win over Phoenix in the final game of the season). Clearly the LA starters are going to play big minutes in the post season, but if JCrossover can regain his instant offense form, it will help a lot.

PtR: Kawhi Leonard needs to play like he has since the end of February, and the team needs to look for him whenever he has a favorable matchup. He's become a beast in the post, turning mismatches into easy points when he doesn't settle for a jumper.

4. What is your prediction?

CN: I predict that one of the top three teams in basketball will be eliminated from the postseason in the first round. No matter how you slice it -- net efficiency, performance since the All Star break, star power, whatever -- the Clippers and the Spurs are the two teams closest to the Golden State Warriors, who are the clear-cut favorites. And it sucks that one of them will be gone so soon. These teams are evenly matched, so let's say it's the Spurs going home in six. A Game 7 would be in LA, but I'm not sure I'd bet against a Gregg Popovich team in that situation, so I'm hoping it doesn't come to that.

PtR: I like the Spurs in 6. Their starters can hang with anybody, even the Clippers' excellent top five. Once Rivers starts to sub guys in, San Antonio's bench will outclass Los Angeles' suspect reserves.

Predictions

Ziller
Flannery
Prada
O'Donnell
Clips Nation
PTR
IN 7
IN 7
IN 7
IN 6
IN 6
IN 6

SCHEDULE (all times ET)

Game 1: Sunday, April 19. Staples Center, Los Angeles CA. 10:30 p.m. (TNT)

Game 2: Wednesday, April 22. Staples Center, Los Angeles CA. 10:30 p.m. (TNT)

Game 3: Friday, April 24. AT&T Center, San Antonio TX. 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 4: Sunday, April 26. AT&T Center, San Antonio TX. 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Game 5 (if necessary): Tuesday, April 28. Staples Center, Los Angeles CA. TBA.

Game 6 (if necessary): Thursday, April 30. AT&T Center, San Antonio TX. TBA.

Game 7 (if necessary): Saturday, May 2. Staples Center, Los Angeles CA. TBA