The San Antonio Spurs will play the Los Angeles Clippers tonight at the AT&T Center for their Western Conference semifinal series opener and should have the advantage in this series.

The Clippers are hurting, Chris Paul, Caron Butler and Blake Griffin are playing through injuries; but somehow they managed to outlast the Memphis Grizzlies in seven games in the first round.

The Spurs on the other hand, dispatched the Utah Jazz with relative ease in a four-game series sweep. It is one reason why the Spurs have the upper hand in this series, their aging stars got their needed rest.

Another is coach Gregg Popovich.

The Spurs head coach has done a masterful job this season, managing minutes, finding the right combination on the floor, and making the proper adjustment when needed.

Their bench will be a factor too. Manu Ginobili leads the Spurs reserves that include Stephen Jackson, Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner and Patty Mills, a lineup that could provide them enough firepower.

However, there are reasons why the Spurs should expect a tougher series this time around.

The Clippers may be young but they are not short in talent. 

Paul showed how amazing he can be in the series against Memphis. Butler played through pain and Griffin for all his shortcomings still has the explosiveness and athleticism to make plays. They also have veterans that plays tough in Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans.

If San Antonio could protect homecourt in the first two games, they should take this series in five games. If not, Los Angeles could drag them all the way to a Game 7.

But if the Spurs keeps playing the way have played, stay focused, respect their opponents, and give their best every game, there is no doubt about the outcome.

Yes they have the edge. Nonetheless, they must realize that there is still a lot of work to be done.

(Photo via zimbio.com)