Author: Matt Moore

San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan spreads his arms during a stop in play during their NBA basketball game in San Antonio, Texas

Clippers-Spurs Game 3: Surprise! The Spurs are better.


It’s over. Or, it may as well be.

The Spurs could have won Game 3 in the usual, undramatic, calm, cool, collected 15-point cruise victory they have every other game since April 11th, but this is honestly almost worse. The Clippers held a 24-point lead in the second quarter.

They lost, 96-86. The Spurs at one point rattled off a 24-0 run. It was a debacle. It was a meltdown. It was a collapse, a chokejob, a massive failure, and it shows the wide gap between these two teams in terms of class. The Spurs were never rattled being down 24, never looked down. Relaxed, calm, confident. Chipped away at the lead, got it within reasonable distance, then burned past them. And the reason’s pretty simple. They’re better. Much better. They were better before the series, they’ve been better during the series, and it says a lot about both teams.

The Clipppers beat the Grizzlies behind a series of bizarre circumstances. Reggie Evans hit 50 percent from the line in 3 of the 7 games. The Clippers offense was lights out. Memphis’ offense was both hobbled and independently terrible. The Clippers never really had a chance in this series because in a lot of ways, they never should have gotten past Memphis. Give the credit for playing to and above their reasonable ptoential to advance, but this is who they are. A team down 3-0, who gave up a 24-point lead at home in a little over a quarter of play.

There’s talk of the Spurs resting starters in Game 4, to save energy on a back to back for Duncan and the Big 3. But it’s extremely unlikely given Popovich’s respect for his opponent and the fact that you don’t want to risk aggravating the Clippers to the point they start fighting for their lives. The Spurs have them on the edge of oblivion and the Clippers know it. No reason to force feed them hope through anger.

The Clippers can start looking to next year. Chris Paul will watch the Lakers continue to play at least one more game in all likelihood as the team he landed with is exposed for needing contributions at both ends from Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin. Nick Young will hopefully develop, Mo Williams may be set free to bring in better wing depth, Caron Butler’s hand will heal, and Blake Griffin must, absolutely must, develop a better offensive set.

How did the Spurs come back? Well, they shot 30 percent for the first 14 minutes and 40 seconds. They shot 53 percent the rest of the time. The Clippers shot 64 percent that first 14:40. They shot 38 percent the rest of the time. The Spurs just defended better and hit shots. Really as simple as that. Kawhi Leonard changed the complexion of the game with corner threes, hustle steals, breakaway points, and working off-ball for easy looks. The rookie continues to impress as a player who does anything asked of him. Tim Duncan adjusted to Blake Griffin’s moves after a hot start, at one point blocking a driving dunk attempt from Griffin. It was a lesson from the master to the young gun, and hopefully Griffin will learn how to play better in the playoffs.

So the Spurs are up 3-0, and the series may as well be over. The only real thing we’ve learned from Game 3 is what we knew before: the Clippers aren’t ready, and the Spurs are in a class all their own.

Quote of the Day: Kobe Bryant is a winning winner who wins

Kobe Bryant

“I don’t give a [expletive] what you say,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports late Friday. “If I go out there and miss game winners, and people say, ‘Kobe choked, or Kobe is seven for whatever in pressure situations.’ Well, [expletive] you.

“Because I don’t play for your [expletive] approval. I play for my own love and enjoyment of the game. And to win. That’s what I play for. Most of the time, when guys feel the pressure, they’re worried about what people might say about them. I don’t have that fear, and it enables me to forget bad plays and to take shots and play my game.”

via Kobe Bryant embraces moment, saves Lakers’ season with Game 3 win over Thunder – Yahoo! Sports.

Kobe Bryant is a winning winner who wins. And who doesn’t care about what we in the media say. I mean, he can recite them back to him. And he doesn’t care about things like facts or evidence. Because he’s a winner.

Who wins.

Also, his expressive use of profanity is impressive. Bryant manages to be arguably the most marketable basketball player in the world when he casually and routinely trots out the F-bombs. He’s cultivated an image of being dismissive and disrespectful of pretty much everyone and is loved for it. That’s a pretty sweet gig.

Have I mentioned he wins?

Bryant was 8-8 from the stripe, 1-3 from the field, with one turnover in clutch time last night. Two of Bryant’s eight free throws were on a shooting foul in Friday night’s Game 3 win.

How the Sixers defense stopped Boston cold down the stretch… again

Thaddeus young

In Game 2, it was this masterpiece that sealed the deal for the Sixers. In Game 4, it was the Sixers once again shutting down the lauded Boston clutch offense on a key late possession to steal the win. Andre Iguodala’s jumpers were masterful. Lou Williams’ offense was crazytown. The Sixers momentum was huge. But up 2 with 1:30 to play, the Sixers made a defensive stand that lead to Iguodala’s dagger three. And it once again showed the defensive chops of this Sixers squad.

1. At the 8 second mark, Rondo has beaten his man and forced the weak-side help defender to come over. Bradley has cut to the basket and is going to have an easy reverse if there is such a thing) or stop-and-layup, but Rondo tries to one-hand-it side-arm, and the pass goes behind him. That’s the first play they’ve run and there are 17 seconds on the clock.

2. They reset the play and look to go to their go-to move. Rondo-KG on the pick and pop. If the big defender hedges or traps Rondo, KG’s wide open from 18 where he has killed the Sixers all series. If they don’t, Rondo can get to the edge for a layup.

3. Philly, though, has finally learned their lesson. Lavoy Allen, who has done an incredible job in this series defensively, shows on Rondo, but Rondo loses his dribble and can’t get past him baseline. If Rondo doesn’t lose his dribble, with the faster defender entangled in KG’s screen, Rondo’s got a clear path to the bucket. This is huge for two reasons, because it forces Rondo to reset his dribble. In doing so, Allen has time to recover and switch back to KG, cutting off the pick and pop, which is the preferred option here. Second,  you’ll notice Thaddeus Young on the weakside start to creep over. Essentially, that hesitation cues Young to what’s going on.

3. Rondo’s running out of time so he has to just try and take his man off the dribble. Which he does, and his pivot and spin is typically a layup. But Rondo doesn’t have time to find Bradley cutting so Young has a clear shot at the block.

4. The final element in play here is really something to talk about, and that’s the lineup Doc Rivers had on the floor at this point. Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, and Avery Bradley in a three-guard lineup against a Philly frontcourt of Jrue Holiday, Louis Williams, and Andre Iguodala, with Thaddeus Young. Young’s versatility means he can play up, and as a result, the Celtics have no one to go down and get that offensive rebound. Had they had a traditional big in this set, they’re probably looking at a putback. They chose instead to space the floor, and it cost them. The Sixers get the board, Iggy nails the three, and the Sixers win the game.

Clippers-Spurs Game 3: Clippers have to find something, anything to save themselves with

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two

We’ve reached a point where you pretty much have to say that if the Los Angeles Clippers are going to make their Western Conference Semifinals series into a competitive contest, they’re going to need San Antonio to hurt itself. They’re going to need mistakes, mental breakdowns, missed shots, and some good old fashioned luck. They’re going to need San Antonio to turn into Memphis, essentially, a team that beats itself and can’t catch a break.

Because if they don’t? This thing is over.

The Clippers’ defense has been up and down all season. But against San Antonio, it’s just been out-classed. Danny Green and Gary Neal put up 20 points on them in a game. That can’t happen. Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw put 25. That can’t happen. The Clippers are getting killed inside and out, and after a Grizzlies series where they honestly defended and closed out on (poor) perimeter shooters, they’ve gotten lost in the whirlwind of San Antonio’s system. It has not gone well.

If they want to turn this around in Game 4, they need better play on both ends. You just can’t see it happening. Chris Paul is not healthy, that’s pretty clear. Neither is Blake Griffin. Throw in the fact that San Antonio’s perimeter defense has helped consistently to attack CP3 with multiple defenders at multiple angles and that, shock of all shocks, Boris Diaw has actually done a fantastic job on Blake Griffin, and the Clippers’ two biggest weapons are out of whack. The Spurs are chasing Mo Williams off his three and into a mid-range jumper, they’re closing out shooters, they’re shutting down first, second, third options.

They’ve been better, is pretty much what I’m saying.

What does Game 3 mean for the Spurs? It essentially guarantees that the Spurs will have rest before the Conference Finals. They’re healthy, so this isn’t key, but it’s always a nice plus. It means there’s no risk involved. The series is over if the the Spurs win Game 3, even if it’s not over. The Clippers are not coming back from a 3-0 deficit. San Antonio doesn’t need this game. They can win the series if the Clippers win the next two. They don’t need the rest. They don’t have to make a statement. Honestly, Game 3 is a bonus game for San Antonio at this point. They’ve proven they’re better, for the whole season, in this series. It’s just a question of how dominant they are when the conference finals hit and if they’ll have spent any time with adversity whatsoever.

Greg Oden had the German procedure Kobe had done on his knees

Portland Trail Blazers v Charlotte Bobcats

Greg Oden needs a break. A good break. He needs something, anything, with his health to go right. After so many knee surgeries I’ve lost count, Oden needs something to go his way to change his career and give him a second third fourth chance at living up to his potential. Everything that’s happened has gone the wrong way for Oden. So he’s turned to the miracle that has saved Kobe Bryant’s knees. That experimental German procedure that Bryant and Gilbert Arenas tried? Oden’s had that done:

Oden, whose career with the Portland Trail Blazers was derailed by four knee surgeries, had the noninvasive procedure done in New York two weeks ago to accelerate the healing process on his left knee, which was operated on in February.

“Greg had long planned to have this procedure done,” one of the sources said. “He thought he’d wait until his knee was completely healed, but the doctor said Greg would get the greatest benefit by doing it now because it would help his recovery.”

via Sources — Greg Oden underwent same controversial procedure Kobe Bryant had – ESPN.

Oden needs as much help as possible. The Blazers released him after the trade deadline, finally cutting their ties after dealing with so much heartbreak. Not a bad thing for Oden, either, who had it intimated in an interview with ESPN earlier this month that the Blazers’ training staff didn’t treat him the best during his process.

If the procedure can give Oden any lift or stability back, he can still have a huge impact in the league. His raw size and skillset could still give him a productive career. But even this procedure and the way Kobe Bryant’s legs have responded  can’t provide much hope. It’s just been too long since we’ve seen Oden even play in an organized game. But at least he’s still trying.