May 15, 2012; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) is defended by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (left) and forward Boris Diaw (behind) during the second half in game one of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the AT
Somehow a team like the Clippers slipped by Memphis. It was not easy, and their bench picked up the load in a time of need. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were physically worn from a long, grueling seven game series, and what did anyone expect in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals? The Clippers to shoot lights out and hand San Antonio their first loss in over a month?
Los Angeles put themselves in a bad position, and it cost them Game 1. When healthy, they were able to hang with one of the most physical teams in the Association. However, with little rest, and against the hottest team in the NBA, the Clippers found themselves limping back to the locker room with a 16 point loss to ponder.
What went wrong? How can they go in to Game 2 and steal a game inside the AT&T Center? It will not be easy by any means, but Los Angeles has the ability to beat the Spurs. However, the Clippers can not shoot themselves in the foot. It is vital they do not let San Antonio take the keys and take total control of this series.
Here are three things to watch for in San Antonio, Thursday night.
Play four quarters. The Clippers did what they could Tuesday. The game was tight heading in to the second quarter, but a late 9-0 run in the first half and a big third quarter put San Antonio in prime position to beat Lob City. In order to beat the Spurs, the Clippers will have to play San Antonio’s game. They can not take quarters off and create a 19-point hole to climb out of in the second half. It was cool seeing them come back and beat the Grizzlies like they did in Game 1 of that series, but the Spurs are not a team likely to meltdown in the clutch. On that same token, the Spurs can not afford to let the Clippers hang around. They will, also, need four quarters of great basketball to keep their win streak alive.
Rebound battle. San Antonio benefited from plenty of second chance opportunities. With a team like Los Angeles, the Spurs must continue to box out, also to keep on following their shot. It is a basic thing you learn at a young age, but it is what wins ball games. Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw were huge in Game 1. Not to mention, Tim Duncan had 10 rebounds in a game where many felt like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would be problematic with their youth and aggressiveness in the paint. However, Duncan is a seasoned veteran, and they’ll need him and the rest of the front court performing at a high-level.
Limit the turnovers. The Spurs arguably move the ball better than other team in the NBA. However, after a week off from an actual game, the Spurs came out a little sloppy. Their rust showed through 18 turnovers, which is out of the ordinary for San Antonio. They have to protect the basketball, because the Clippers can kill you on the fast break. They have the athletes to get to the other end quick, so the Spurs have to cut down on lazy passes and not allow Chris Paul or Eric Bledsoe to poke at the ball, who combined for eight steals in Game 1.
Final verdict. Spurs win comfortably. It is hard to put a number figure on a playoff game. However, I see San Antonio doing what San Antonio does well, and that being: running away with the game in the final minutes. The Clippers should come out with more fire, but San Antonio is just too good to lose in this situation.