Rest is a tenuous preposition. It can be beneficial to the progression of a basketball team yet, in some instances, it can eliminate any momentum. The end result isn’t finite; a team with rest could parlay that rest into a successful playoff run while another team with the same amount of rest could parlay that into a playoff exit. There are no guarantees for either side of the spectrum.
The only way you can really tell how a team responds to rest is, simply, through their play on the basketball court. And while one game isn’t enough to deduct the merit of a prolonged period of inactivity, it appears that the Spurs adjusted quite well judging solely on their 16-point victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of the semifinals.
The Spurs received eight days of rest after dispatching the Utah Jazz in four games. The Clippers weren’t so fortunate. They battled through a difficult seven game series despite holding a 3-1 lead after Game 4. The Clippers had little down time to recuperate and, as a result, Blake Griffin (sprained left knee) and Chris Paul (hip) played hobbled last night.
What we saw was a rested team appear extremely polished as if they played the day before. The other team, though, looked rusty even though they had played two nights before. See, this rest thing is kind of tricky.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili seemed to benefit from their time off more than anyone on the court. Duncan led the Spurs in plus/minus and points. Duncan also notched his 25th double-double of the season. Ginobili paced the bench with 22 points, three rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers, indicating that, yes, he can still score the basketball efficiently.
Spurs MVP Tony Parker’s scoring didn’t translate last night. Parker distributed the ball to 11 Spurs teammates as he acted as the quasi-Ginobili, creating offense for his teammates rather than himself.
The Spurs filled in the gaps with performances from Boris Diaw, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Diaw had a very Diaw-like game with five assists and a high plus/minus. Green and Leonard attacked from the perimeter and Leonard’s defense on Chris Paul hampered the Clippers offense. Paul failed to reach double-digits and the Clippers mustered up 44.6 percent of shooting.
Vinny Del Negro went to a smaller lineup in the second half consisting of three guards, a forward that usually fills in at the 3 and Kenyon Martin. The lineup did trim the lead slightly but the Spurs’ depth allowed them to combat their speed with athleticism and length without compensating on either side of the court.
If this series comes down to a series of chess matches, the Spurs hold a significant trump card in Gregg Popovich. Del Negro is in a very difficult spot; his team is hurting, he’s at a disadvantage tactically and there is still some moderate pressure to succeed with this Clippers core.
With these caveats in mind the Clippers, without the benefit of rest and an injured Griffin, seem to be the perfect team to utilize some off time. If the Spurs have their way, the Clippers will get their wish next week.
The Spurs turned the ball over 18 times which created 24 points for the Clippers … This was the Spurs’ sixth time with a victory despite 18+ turnovers this year … The Spurs’ 29 assists represents their fifth highest total this season … San Antonio knocked down 13 3-pointers for the fourth time … Eric Bledsoe continues to play well; Bledsoe led the Clippers with 23 points while also adding rebounds, four assists and three steals … Blake Griffin, limited to 75-80 percent of his self, posted a 15-9-4 line in 28:24 … Griffin’s -24 was the lowest on the entire team … Chris Paul failed to reach double-digits since Apr. 12, a 13-point victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves … Paul did, however, dish out 10 assists and created five steals … There were 12 lead changes and five ties … Game 2 is tomorrow at 8:30 p.m …