LOS ANGELES — The Clippers had the best offense in the NBA during the regular season, scoring 109.8 points per 100 possessions. But that was the regular season, how would things look in the playoffs? How would the Chris Paul look with Kawhi Leonard draped all over him? How would the Clippers score inside with Tim Duncan patroling the paint?
Everything looks good, thank you very much.
In an impressive offensive display, the Clippers shot 51.9 percent overall, hit 10-of-18 from three, and beat the Spurs 107-92 in Game 1 of their playoff series. Game 2 is Wednesday night at Staples Center.
It was an impressive performance — on both ends, an aggressive Clipper defense took the Spur out of rhythm (and the Spurs helped by missing good looks). The Clippers did whatever they wanted, and for a night it felt like Lob City was back. Blake Griffin was dunking on everyone.
“I tried to be aggressive, I did not want to settle for jump shots,” Griffin said.
Clippers took control of the game in the third quarter, when the Spurs kept missing their shots and the Clippers got out running and playing like their fans love. Chris Paul was dishing, while Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick were hitting threes. Clippers put up 30 in the third quarter and were up 15 entering the fourth.
But it all started with the Clippers defense, which was anchored by a strong DeAndre Jordan performance.
“They were just hard hedging (on the pick-and-roll)… they were very aggressive,” Tony Parker said. “On the pick-and-roll I had to give it up, and then Borris (Diaw) and Timmy (Duncan) become the quarterbacks. They found the players, Timmy and Borris, with good looks, we just missed.”
The Spurs shot 4-of-18 from three through the first three quarters. For the game the Spurs were 14-of-26 from the free-throw line. Both are very unSpurs numbers. Ones likely to be different on Wednesday.
Parker suffered both a tweaked left ankle and a knee to his thigh in the game. He said both would be sore Monday but that he’ll be ready to go Wednesday.
Paul finished 32 points — 13 in the fourth quarter — and six assists on the night, Griffin had 26, and Jamal Crawford had an important 17 off the bench.
It started well for Los Angeles. The Clippers got pretty much their ideal first quarter. Kawhi Leonard lost Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick at the arc, and they hit their threes. Crawford and Glen Davis gave the Clippers quality bench minutes. As a team, the Clippers shot 55 percent, the Spurs 28.7 (0-of-6 from three, 6-of-12 from free throw line), and it was 30-18 Clippers after one.
The Spurs roared back in second quarter, going on a 19-5 run to take a lead. But Crawford got hot, and despite CP3 being on the bench with three fouls and a round of hack-a-Jordan the Clippers led 49-43 at the half. The Spurs shot 3-of-14 from three in the first half, just 35.6 percent overall. They got some quality looks, they just missed.
We got a dose of DeAndre Jordan being sent to the free throw line at the end of the first half with a hack-a-Jordan system, something you can be sure will be an off-season topic for the rules committee. We’ll see more of that this series, but it didn’t work well for the Spurs in this game. Doc Rivers said the key reason is it let the Clippers set their defense, and their defense was good.
Clippers made a point to double Kawhi Leonard, both in the post and at times out by the arc. He said after the game he expected it, but he didn’t handle it smoothly.
The Clippers answered a lot of questions with this performance. The big question remaining, can they replicate it in Game 2? The Spurs will play better — history has taught us that much — but if the Clippers play like this they will be in a good spot this series.