Game 1 was a dominant Spurs performance that evoked memories of the championship teams in San Antonio — this version is more offense than defense, but the unselfish ball movement and team concepts were the same.
The Clippers looked like a team still learning to play at that level. Thursday night in Game 2 we’ll see how fast they learn.
In Game 1 San Antonio overloaded on Chris Paul, used Tony Parker well and basically blew up the Clippers pick-and-roll game that is the core of their offense. The overloaded pressure on him forced Paul into a 3-13 shooting night (he still had 10 assists). The problem was outside of Paul (and Eric Bledsoe who had 23 points off the bench) nobody stepped up, nobody made the Spurs pay. Blake Griffin was effectively single covered by Boris Diaw, which cannot happen for Los Angeles.
In Game 2, the Clippers need to get Paul more room to create, which in party could mean upping the tempo and getting transition buckets and setting drag screens (pick-and-roll before the defense gets set) to give him room. They need to get Griffin (bum knee and all, although he will play) and DeAndre Jordan out in transition to make the Spurs bigs run.
The Clippers effectively did to San Antonio what the Spurs did to them — they took the point guard out of the game, Tony Parker shot just 1-9. But unlike the Clippers, when you take away the first action of the Spurs offense they get to the next, and the next, then the next. They are an efficient machine.
The Clippers big men have to get out and chase guys like Kawhi Leonard and Matt Bonner off the three-point line on rotations. They have to be more physical. They have to disrupt the Spurs spacing.
The Clippers are a team learning how to win. They will be better in Game 2. They are learning how to make the kind of adjustments needed in the playoffs. We’ll see how fast they can do it.
Problem is, the Spurs already know how to do it. This game will be closer but you can expect the Spurs to still finish a step ahead.