Going into the evening ,the Los Angeles Clippers had a chance at making franchise history in a building traditionally not favorable to them. The Clippers are on the verge of 50 wins and looked to do it against an at best roller coaster Spurs bunch who has looked up and down the past few weeks due to injuries. The night started out in a strange way as just a few seconds into checking into the game Manu Ginobili re-tweaked his hurt right hamstring on a drive to the basket. He stayed in for a minute or so throwing a great outlet pass, however at the next dead ball walked straight to the locker room and was never to return. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan more than picked up the slack as Parker dominated Chris Paul and Tim Duncan continued his magical mystery tour of turning back the clock. Down 1 with 7 seconds to go the Spurs drew up a fantastic pin down play for Duncan who up faked Willie Green for the and 1. Duncan made the free throw and after the Clippers called time out to write up a play, the in bounds found Chris Paul who put up a flailing shot trying to draw a foul and the ball bounced harmlessly away for the Spurs victory.
The Stat: The Clippers out rebounded the Spurs but a thin 6 rebound margin and the three point shots made was very even as opposed to the Denver game 8 to 6 in favor of LA. The state that may tell the true tale is free throws and also a little bit of hack-a-Jordan helped the Spurs win the battle and maybe the game. The Clippers shot 12 of 21 free throws while the Spurs made 20 of 21 the lone miss by Tony Parker. In such a close, grind out every possession game, points at the stripe are a premium and the Spurs capitalized.
Turning Point: With the score at 54-45 after a Blake Griffin transition and-1. The Spurs looked to be on their heels, frustrated by the whistles and the lack there of and going into the half on a sour note. Popovich had picked up a tech and Duncan was very close to earning one himself, Duncan however went to work putting in a Tony Parker missed layup, the next possession drawing a foul and earning two free throws, then a nice spin and bank shot over Lamar Odom to lead a 16-8 run to end the half and be only down 1. Duncan showed old time grit by getting the ball in the post and doing the dirty work and putting the team on his back.
Hot: Tim Duncan. I know I’ve already dropped his name quite a few times but the story of the night was the man in the middle. Mr Duncan shot 12 of 19 on the night and was a perfect 10 for 10 from the charity stripe. All season long Tim has turned back the clock and even now the most pessimistic of commentators are almost expecting these old time numbers night after night. Duncan’s 34 and 11 proved to be en fuego.
Not: Blake Griffin. Stifled by great defense from Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter, Blake Griffin could only manage 7 of 20 from the field and 7 rebounds. Griffin who has been playing well lately ran into Splitter who in the post guarded him as well as any forward or center has this season. The one notable play was Griffin attempting to back down Splitter in the post who swiped the ball away creating a fast break opportunity to the other end.
Notable: Ginobili leaving the game in the first quarter re-injuring the same injured hamstring that has plagued him all season has put a bit of a downer on this victory. Its no secret for the Spurs to hoist banner number 5, the big three, along with everyone else have to be healthy. An injured Ginobili has proven in the past to be a playoff killer for the Spurs.
Up Next: Sunday (March 31st) Vs Miami Heat. Monday (April 1st)| at Memphis Grizzlies | Wednesday (April 3rd) Vs Orlando Magic
PG Tony Parker | 24 points. 9/15 shooting, 8 assists, 3 turnovers, 36 minutes.
Tony Parker returned to all star form this game against someone he is now having regular success against. Parker on offense blew by Paul and other Clipper defenders getting to the rack with ease and his step back to the side jump shot was falling quite regularly as well. Not only was he typically great on offense, his defense on Chris Paul was all star level as well forcing Paul into a 5/14 shooting night along with 4 turnovers. Parker took a shot to the head from DeAndre Jordan late in the game but stayed in and showed no ill effects of the elbow. Also showing no sign of ill effects was his ankle as he was fluid and crisp with his passes all night.
Grade : A+
SG Danny Green | 6 points 2 of 4 shooting, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 block, 27 minutes.
Danny Green had a very quiet night on a night where he was blanketed on the offensive end and it was apparent, Vinny Del Negro was not going to allow a repeat of the Denver Nuggets affair. Green’s two assists were highlight worthy, one on the fantastic and 1 Duncan by Duncan over Hollins, and the last shot of the game for Duncan’s and 1 game winner.
Green’s defense was solid, although unspectacular. He was pretty much lost in the game as he couldn’t do much offensively and defensively stayed at the perimeter.
While his threes were good, his shots inside the circle continued to underwhelm.
SF Kawhi Leonard | 4 points on 2 of 6 shooting. 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 32 Minutes
In a game where he doesn’t have a prolific wing scorer to defend, Kawhi didnt bring much to the table. His offense was very hesitant and stagnant. He did not cut to the basket often nor did he really call for the ball like he lately has been. Kawhi in a night where Manu Ginobili fell to injury and the need for a third scorer could’ve been helpful fell short. His rebounding was solid but outside of that his defense wasnt much better than his offense. While this may be harsh criticism for the second year player, it has to be expected that he must contribute more offensively to help open things up. He can no longer sit on the sides of the court waiting for the kick out from Parker for 3. He has to create, be aggressive, and call for the ball when things get tough on the offensive end. Hopefully he rebounds for Miami in a game where his scoring will desperately be needed.
PF Tim Duncan | 34 Points 11 rebounds 2 blocks 3 assists 10/10 free throws, 32 Minutes
Another chapter in the amazing resurgent season of one Timothy Theodore Duncan. He was flashing moves from the early 2000s with his back to the basket offense on Lamar Odom and DeAndre Jordan who both simply had no chance. Surprisingly for one possession even Willie Green took a turn at guarding Duncan but fouled him within seconds of Duncan receiving the ball. Duncan was spectacular offensively and defensively all evening as he patrolled the paint deterring and blocking shots. Offensively DeAndre Jordan who lately has guarded him well looked flummoxed with Duncan’s array of fall away jumpers, post spin moves, and silky smooth 18 foot jumpers. Duncan even flashed a few highlight dunks, one on an old rival Ryan Hollins who foolishly attempted to block a dunk, and another play which saw Duncan beating Jordan down the floor for a transistion dunk that forced Vinny Del Negro into a timeout late in the 2nd quarter. At this point of the year theres not much else that can be said other than, keep it up big fella.
Center Tiago Splitter | 14 points 3 rebounds 1 block 1 steal, 30 minutes
On a night that showed a pretty up and down Splitter, its hard to judge too harshly. Splitter was good early on and late with his finishes at the basket, however many times went up soft for shots ala the next to last shot at the end where he was double blocked in the paint near the rim. While his post defense against Griffin was quite good, his help and perimeter defense left much to be desired. Splitter also underwhelmed in the rebounding department only grabbing 3 rebounds. For a big of his size and one that will get a significant contract in the offeseason 3 rebounds is unacceptable. Splitter in these playoff games has to toughen up and scrap a little harder on the defensive end and rebounding. rebounding games like this wont cut the mustard come May.
Bench | 22 points 8 of 21 shooting, 12 assists, 8 rebounds
When Manu Ginobili went down with his re-injured hamstring, the bench seemed a bit as Gregg Popovich put it “Dazed”. They faltered allowing the Clippers to go from down 2 to up as much as 9 in the second quarter. However the second half was a completely different story as the defense was fantastic and the playmaking was smooth and good. Gary Neal in his first action since against Cleveland, produced decent points and dished out an eye boggling 6 assists. His play was just right, not forcing the action nor putting passes where they dont fit. He played SG playmaker quite well along side the always solid Nando De Colo who had stout defense along with some big buckets.
De Colo’s offense is night and day since the beginning of the year and hopefully this game spurs him onto better things. When De Colo is playing well and defending the Spurs are a much more dangerous team and Parker is allowed just a few more minutes of valuable rest here and there so hes fresh for 4th quarters. Stephen Jackson came in and played solid as well, looking good on the defensive end with a heady foul on a wide open DeAndre Jordan dunk. and hitting a bit top of the key jumper in the 4th quarter.Boris Diaw played an underwhelming first half to where he was replaced by the now little used Matt Bonner. However in the second half he was much better not only defensively but offensively as well with a beautiful lay in and 1 on a fantastic pass from De Colo. Diaw’s expectations have to be just that, a little offense, good defense, and help spread the floor with his passing and occasional deadly outside shooting. Matt Bonner played a non descriptive 9 minutes where he made a hook in the lane and otherwise was badly beaten on the defensive end. If the Spurs are forced to play Bonner more than the said minutes a night the team will be fighting a tough uphill battle come playoff time.
Grade B +