For two games, the Clippers and Spurs had played each other tight, with the little things swinging games. Yet at the end of Game 2, it felt like the Spurs were starting to figure things out. They had seen this Clippers defense a lot in recent years — it’s basically what LeBron’s Heat played — and were beginning to make the plays to beat it.
Friday night they looked like they figured it all out.
The Spurs held the Clippers to 34.1 percent shooting and got 32 points from Kawhi Leonard to pull away in the second half and win handily, 100-73.
The Spurs now have a 2-1 series lead, with Game 4 Sunday in San Antonio.
“I just think it was one of those nights,” Gregg Popovich said after the game. “We had a great night shooting; they had a real difficult night shooting, and that’s a bad combination. They get a loss. We’re not that good, and they’re not what you saw tonight, without a doubt. We had a heck of a night.”
Leonard had a heck of a night at both ends for the Spurs. On defense, the just named defensive player of the year took J.J. Redick out of the game at points, then made plays on anyone he switched on to. On offense, he exposed the Clippers long-standing issues about wing defense, Matt Barnes had no answers for him.
The problem for Doc Rivers and the Clippers is they don’t have the depth to try much else if option No. 1 doesn’t work. The Clippers bench remained an issue, shooting just 11-of-41 on the night (and that looks better thanks to some garbage time buckets).
The Spurs depth was on display all game — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 12 points. This was about everyone else, such as Leonard (32) and Boris Diaw, who added 15.
The Spurs led from the start, racing out to a 25-13 lead early and keeping a comfortable lead through the first half, then they blew it open in the third quarter. The Clippers scored just 11 points in the third quarter as the Spurs defense was simply fantastic. Duncan may be turning 39 this weekend, but he can still quarterback a defense with the best of them.
We can break down the details of the game, but Popovich may be right, this may just be a one-off in a tight series where the Clippers were cold on a night the Spurs were hot. Certainly Sunday’s Game 4 should see a much more desperate Clippers squad and a closer game. More like the first couple in the series.
But it feels like San Antonio has figured Los Angeles out, and we see which way the series is trending.