The San Antonio Spurs ran a clinic yesterday as they slice-and-diced the Los Angeles Clippers 108-92. While the score seems to signify a blow-out, the Game flowed evenly for much of the night. The downfall of the Clippers was their inability to silence the Spurs “mini-runs” and Chris Paul’s dreadful game. CP3 scored but 6 points on just 3-13 shooting as the Spurs limited his ability to create space for his patented fade-away. If San Antonio continues to smother Paul in the pick-and-roll game, the Clippers are not going to extend this series past 4-5 games, as the Clippers are built around Paul’s 19 points per game.
This is in direct contradiction to how the Spurs are built. For example, Tony Parker shot only 1-9 from the field and the Spurs didn’t skip a beat offensively. They simply countered the Clippers’ attention to Parker by going into Duncan (12-20 from the field) and riding the perimeter play of Manu Ginobili (22 points). The Clippers also tried to find other scoring options (Eric Bledsoe’s 23 points and Caron Butler’s 15 points) but the reality for the Clippers was that their defense (lack there-of) didn’t allow their offense a chance.
While Paul struggled mightily, there were many encouraging signs for the Clippers:
1. Bledsoe: EB changed the tempo of the game positively for the Clippers. His athleticism bothered the Spurs as he was able to get into the paint to both score and rebound (4 offensive boards). Bledsoe is growing up before our eyes and his ability to play along Paul is an adjustment Vinny Del Negro should continue to explore.
2. Clippers Bench: The Clippers Bench was +5 for the game, comparing to its starters who were -85. Conversely the “renowned” Spurs bench was -19 (take out Ginobili and they were -31). The bench has become a source of strength for the Clippers and was the greatest X-factor in their series win over Memphis. Bledsoe, Nick “Swaggy P” Young (13 points), Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans and Mo Williams are all capable of providing sparks in a multitude of ways. Williams and Young can be offensive microwaves while Evans and Kmart provide toughness and energy. Bledsoe can single-handedly change the tempo and the complexion of a game with his speed and athleticism.
3. Paul is NOT going to be THIS BAD: CP3 is battling an assortment of injuries and looked a half-step slow on Tuesday. After he struggled in Game 6 versus Memphis, Paul carried the Clippers in the 1st three quarters of Game 7 until the Clippers bench finally gave him some help. Paul is mentally tough and the Clippers have to be encouraged that they were within striking distance with 4 minutes to go with an atrocious performance from their best player.
The biggest adjustment the Clippers need to make is at the defensive end. They were simply too soft. Tim Duncan scored 26 points on 12-20 shooting and shot only 2 free throws. If you are the Clippers you need to make Duncan earn his points. Push him off the low-block. Don’t allow him to dunk; foul him HARD! Last night they gave him any spot he wanted on the floor. When they did double him, Duncan burned them with pin-point passes that exposed the Clippers lethargic rotations. The Clippers need to be more physical and do a better job of anticipating defensive rotations in order to compete with the Spurs.
A healthy and effective Chris Paul wouldn’t hurt either.
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