Clippers fail to contain Spurs and lose

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Sunday’s big win over the San Antonio Spurs was a big deal for the Los Angeles Clippers. In last year’s playoffs, the Spurs blew right past the Clippers on their way to another NBA championship.

DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin
DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin

So the Clippers have been working at winning Game Two, because they know how explosive San Antonio can be when it comes to offense. What they really need is for the reserves, their second team, to step up and deliver quality minutes so the starters can rest.

On Sunday L.A. used three reserves a lot, Glenn Davis, Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford, who had a great game. Both Austin Rivers and Davis provided good minutes as well, with Rivers giving Chris Paul some much-needed rest during the game.

But, if the Clippers’ big three dominate the game like they did Sunday, L.A. will have a great game and will be in a great position to win Game Two. L.A.’s big three being Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes give L.A. a really good starting five and Jamal Crawford is one of the best sixth men in the league.

For San Antonio, their focus after Sunday’s game is defense. They know if they don’t slow down the scoring and play-making of Paul and Griffin, they won’t be able to keep up with L.A. Plus, D.J. dominated the boards Sunday, giving the Clippers extra chances to score or create fast breaks.

Clippers Spirit warming up.
Clippers Spirit warming up.

The Spurs had to take Game Two if they wanted a good chance to win the series. The Clippers want to win so they can minimize San Antonio’s home court advantage.

On Wednesday San Antonio and L.A. delivered the game everyone expected here at Staples Center: a big defensive game with spectacular shooting from unlikely sources. Tim Duncan played 44 minutes and added 28 points. He played like he was 28 years old, not 38. Patty Mills came in off the bench and put in 14 points, sinking all his free throws at the end, the nails in the coffin. Kawhi Leonard had 23 points and 9 rebounds, but more importantly, he kept Matt Barnes to just four points. Boris Diaw had 12 points and 9 boards — you can go down the list of San Antonio players and click off their contributions to this game.

The Spurs knew they had to win this game and did everything they could do to make it happen. But even that wasn’t enough. The game turned on a miss-handled ball in the final 11 seconds of the fourth quarter when the Clippers were ahead by two and all they had to do was stretch out that one last possession to win the game. That one turnover turned the game around for San Antonio.

Both teams fought

Chris Paul
Chris Paul

hard throughout the game, with the Spurs leading most of the night. Twice San Antonio led L.A. by ten points, and twice the Clippers clawed their way back. The Clippers defense would stiffen and stop the Spurs from scoring and then go on scoring runs.

And once again Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich resorted to the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy of fouling the worst free-throw shooter on the Clippers, DeAndre Jordan, stopping the Clippers from playing their game, taking Chris Paul and Blake Griffin out of their rhythm. At one point in the second half Jordan missed seven in a row. The strategy obviously worked for San Antonio, but it cost the Spurs Manu Ginobili who fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter.

Everyone is going to point to the big turnover with just 11 seconds left in regulation, when Blake Griffin was handling the ball, but let it get away from him and into the hands of Boris Diaw. Chris Paul had to foul Patty Mills, who made the two free throws to tie the game.

The game went to overtime and obviously both teams were tired. Even in the fourth quarter L.A. was making sloppy passes. The Clippers were able to score 13 more points, but the Spurs added 17 to their total. L.A. was unable to stop Mills in the extra five minutes, he scored eight points in overtime and L.A. could only foul him and then watch him sink his free throws.

Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan

The turnover by Griffin was a big moment for sure, but probably a bigger stat that explains why the Clippers lost: bench scoring. The Spurs bench outscored the L.A. second team 48 to 17. For the Clippers to win through the entire playoffs, and more importantly this series, they have to figure out how to get their second team to be a bigger factor in the game.

Final score Wednesday Night: 111-107, San Antonio Spurs. Game Three will be at the AT&T Center in San Antonio Texas Friday Night, April 24.

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Other NBA Action Wednesday Night: The Atlanta Hawks beat the Brooklyn Nets, in Atlanta: 96-9. The Memphis Grizzlies beat the Portland Trail Blazers, in Memphis: 97-82.

 (All photos by Claudia Gestro)