Chris Paul is the beating heart of a Clippers offense, one based around him using his immense skill and basketball IQ to carve teams up. Ask Memphis.
But behind Tony Parker, Danny Green and a team effort where San Antonio overloaded Paul’s side of the court they held CP3 in check — 3-for-13 shooting, 10 assists and 5 turnovers — and that kept the explosive Clippers in check. The result was a very Spurs-like 108-92 win in Game 1.
What should concern Clippers faithful is that while the Spurs started to figure out and adjust and go with what worked as the game went on, the Clippers found it harder to go to other options.
The Clippers did a good job of slowing down Tony Parker — 7 points on 1-9 shooting, but 11 assists and 4 turnovers. But the Spurs had other options: Tim Duncan had 26, Manu Ginobili had 22, Kawhi Leonard had 16 points and was 3-3 from beyond the arc. The Spurs core destroyed the Clippers core.
Part of that might have been the Clippers were tired — this was their sixth game in 11 days. But it doesn’t matter, this series goes plays again Thursday then back-to-back Saturday and Sunday. There is no rest coming.
Neither team was sharp all the way around on defense in this game, save for their point guards cancelling each other out. It was 57-49 Spurs at the half but the only real difference was the Spurs were 7-11 from three.
San Antonio finished 13-25 from deep, but they also shot 81 percent in the paint and got a lot of shots right at the rim. When the Spurs are getting baskets from layups and threes they will destroy any defense.
There were bright spots for the Clippers — Blake Griffin was moving better early on and had 10 points in first half. Eric Bledsoe was spectacular off the bench with 23 points and great energy. DeAndre Jordan at home in finesse not physical style of play with 7 points and 8 boards in first half. But the Spurs adjusted like they do and had 1 rebound only on the second half.
That’s because the veteran Spurs behind Gregg Popovich adjust. After a closer first half San Antonio the third quarter with a series of runs (one 8-0, another 7-0) by playing sharper defense, making the extra pass on offense. The Clippers had no answers.
But at the start of the fourth the Spurs started hurting themselves with bad decisions, like Tiago Spliter trying to take Kenyon Martin off the dribble from the top of the key (it wasn’t pretty). The Clippers went small with a Kenyon Martin at center lineup, a few quick Spurs turnovers and the 18-point lead was down to 8.
But San Antonio is not Memphis, they do not melt away.
The Clippers have to find some defensive answers. They have to figure out how to make the Spurs pay for overloading on Paul. It’s not easy, it’s growing pains. Something the Spurs have already been through and come out the other side.