Last playoffs, in the second round, the Spurs swept the Clippers out 4-0. It was a beat down, but the kind improving teams like the Clippers are supposed to learn and grow from.
Thursday night it didn’t look like the Clippers learned a thing.
San Antonio’s execution exposed Los Angeles’ defense, the Clippers could get nothing going in the half court and Tony Parker completely dominated his matchup with Chris Paul on the way to an easy 116-90 San Antonio win.
The Clippers tried to pressure the ball and Parker shredded them. Before long Clipper big men had no idea how to play the pick-and-roll — hedge out and pressure Parker or lay back and take away the lane — but whatever they did the result was Parker making them look bad.
When the Spurs put pressure on the Clippers, Los Angeles became unglued.
The Spurs have now won 16-of-17 and Parker looked like an MVP candidate with 31 points on 16 shots plus 7 assists. The Spurs were the Spurs with impressive ball movement, fantastic execution and a focus that lets them tear apart any defensive mistake. And the Clippers made plenty.
For Los Angeles, this is the kind of game that raises doubts. Combine it with the beating they took from the Heat before the break and you have to question how far Los Angeles can go in the playoffs, if they really are still a step below the elite. In their last 10 games their defense is giving nearly six more points per 100 possessions than their season average and if they can’t defend they won’t win. Take the Clippers out of their high-flying, half-court transition game and they don’t look special. And come the playoff everything is slowed down.
As for the game, it started out with promise and the score was 17-17 before Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker led a 12-0 Spurs run — they are relentless. It’s not just that Parker drives and kicks to Danny Green, it’s that Green who immediately drives and now with the defense out of place he kicks Ginobili for a clean look at a three.
The Spurs blew the game wide-open in the third quarter when they outscored the Spurs 34-21.
It was the kind of game where Tim Duncan only played 16 minutes.
If you’re the Clippers you just want to flush this game and move on. Chris Paul isn’t going to have nights often where he shoots 1-of-6 and has as many turnovers as assists. But the questions have to linger a little about just how good this team really is? We’ll get the answer to those questions come the playoffs, but if the answer has any reflection of this game in it Vinny Del Negro may want to be concerned.
If you’re the Spurs, just keep doing what you’re doing.