LOS ANGELES — During the final 20 games of the regular season, the Spurs had the best offense in the NBA. San Antonio shot 50.3 percent, hit 38.1 percent tom three, and scored 109 points a game — or if you prefer 112.8 points per 100 possessions — in that stretch.
Then the playoffs started and the Spurs ran into DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers’ defense.
San Antonio struggled with its shot in a Game 1 loss to the Clippers Sunday night — and we’re not just talking the missed threes (4-of-18 through the first three quarters). The Spurs shot 14-of-28 inside three feet, 20-of-44 inside the paint overall. Doc Rivers had hyped DeAndre Jordan for Defensive Player of the Year through the end of the season, and on Sunday night he played like that guy.
“Their shot blockers in the back, with DeAndre especially, I think affected us at the basket,” Tim Duncan admitted after the game.
“(Jordan) might be the most athletic center in the game,” Manu Ginobili added. “He is long, very athletic, and (the Clippers) know that, so they send you to him and he’s really good. He gets about 15 rebounds a game and I don’t know how many blocks. It’s something that we know, and it forces us to change our shots.”
Jordan had a couple spectacular blocks and altered a lot more shots inside. To a man, the Spurs credited the Clippers aggressive, attacking defense for throwing off their game. The result was a Spurs’ offense that scored just 89.8 points per 100 possessions on the night.
“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 (the ball) up, and then Boris (Diaw) and Timmy (Duncan) become the quarterbacks. They found the players, Timmy and Boris, with good looks, we just missed.”
The Spurs got the kind of looks they normally knock down early on, but the shots would not fall. Whether it was just an off night shooting or if the Clippers’ pressure and athleticism had them rushing a little depends on who you asked. The Spurs coach was more succinct.
“Their defense was better than our offense. That’s the bottom line,” Gregg Popovich said. “Their aggressiveness, their physicality, their athleticism really hurt us offensively… Then they had that run, but I thought it was their defense, not just Jordan. He’s part of their defense, but I thought everybody did a great job.”
The Spurs will adjust. They will make shots (and will not shoot 14-of-26 fro the free throw line again. The Clippers have a tough road ahead still in what will be a brutal first round matchup.
But if they keep defending like they did Sunday they’ve got a real chance.