Clippers lose a close one due to another mental error in final seconds of the game

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The L.A. Clippers started their playoffs in great style with a big win over the San Antonio Spurs. Two nights later the Spurs came back to win a close game that turned on a miss-handled ball in the final seconds of regulation. Then the series moved to San Antonio where game three was a big blow out win for the Spurs. The newly crowned Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi Leonard, celebrated by lighting up the Clippers with 32 points, four rebounds and three steals.

In Game Four the Clippers came back to tie up the series at two games a piece.

San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich in pre-game press conference
San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich in pre-game press conference

Now, back at Staples Center the Clippers wanted to regain the lead in the series and prove they are a team that can beat the reigning NBA champs in a playoff series. They need their best defensive effort over these last games if they are to win the series. In game one they held San Antonio to 92 points, and their top scorer, Leonard to just 18.

At every post game press conference we hear Doc Rivers and his players preach defense. Now they need to practice what they preach at the highest level. They know the Spurs are in it to repeat.

San Antonio forward Tim Duncan has often said that to win a playoff series a team must win on the road. On top of that, in the team’s long history they have never lost a Game Five. Wednesday Night the Spurs won another road game and kept their Game Five streak alive with another close game against the L.A. Clippers.

How did they do it, when on paper at least, the Los Angeles Clippers should have wrapped up this series already? Number one they don’t pay attention to the hype. Number two: they have a legacy of winning playoff games and championships. They know how to stick with it and close out games.

L.a. Clippers forward DeAndre Jordan practicing free throws.
L.a. Clippers forward DeAndre Jordan practicing free throws.

It also helped that coach Gregg Popovich employed the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy to slow down the game and take the Clippers out of their rhythm. Once again, especially in the crucial third quarter, we saw DeAndre Jordan walking to the free throw line and missing. At one point Jordan looked dejected walking to the line after a cheap backcourt foul. Then, after Jordan would miss the second free throw the Spurs would often get the rebound. The strategy didn’t sit well with the Clippers fans at Staples, but their boos only made Popovich smile.

At the end of the third quarter Glen “Big Baby” Davis made two clutch defensive rebounds and a very big basket, all in the space of 30 seconds. Then Austin Rivers made a clutch shot at the buzzer to tie the game, so the Spurs and Clippers started the fourth quarter even.

At the end of the game, with just four seconds left, the Spurs were leading by one. Blake Griffin made a layup that bounced around the rim. Jordan leaped for the possible rebound or tap-in, and touched the ball while it was still in the cylinder. He was called for offensive basket interference. That would be the last chance for L.A. to take the lead. The game ended with Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard sinking three free throws for the Spurs.

The final score was 111-107, Spurs.

The Clippers need to learn how to overcome the Hack-a-Shaq routine and close out games. They need to stop making mental errors — they were called for offensive goaltending twice in this game. Looking back at Game Two, Blake Griffin turned the ball over with just 11 seconds in the game. Take away those two errors and the Clippers would have closed out this series and been moving on to play the Houston Rockets.

Half time entertainers were Redfoo.
Half time entertainers were Redfoo.

Plus, the San Antonio bench outscored the L.A. bench 47-17. The Spurs have a much deeper bench than the Clippers; rivers only brought in three players from his second team: Glenn Davis, Jamal Crawford and his son Austin Rivers. Five of their players never entered the game.

The Spurs had six players come off their bench and five of them scored.

Game Six will be in San Antonio Thursday Night. The Clippers have to win if they want a chance to close out the series back at Staples Center.

 (All photos by Claudia Gestro)