Ok, I didn’t predict this. Call me a Spurs homer. Call me an apologist. But despite the Clippers’ owning of the three-seed, in no way did I think they would dismantle San Antonio in the first game of the Playoffs.
Chris Paul went for 32 points against the battalion-based defensive scheme that Coach Popovich threw at him. That is surprising. I honestly thought that by using Danny Green’s size and Cory Joseph’s energy, would counterbalance any deficiencies the Spurs would display when playing Paul heads-up with Tony Parker.
What’s worse than Parker’s defense, is that he got hurt doing it. He found himself covering Blake Griffin on a switch in the first quarter. Bad idea. Parker suffered an ankle injury that briefly took him out of the game. San Antonio is reporting that he will be fine moving forward and will start Game 2, Wednesday night.
“To start [the game] with twisting my ankle, I was like, ‘Come on,’ ” Parker said. “I was like, couldn’t believe it; had to retape. But hey, it’s like that.”
I take some encouragement from the loss, however.
- The Spurs shooting percentage was a horrendous 37%. That is 10-points less than their season average. That will improve. Teams typically return to the mean. Championship-level teams like the Spurs will be better than the mean in the Playoffs.
- Part of that shooting percentage deficit was going 10-for-33 from behind the arc.
- Aron Baynes played pretty well as the primary center. Tiago Splitter started, but only played five minutes. He was aggressive, and is flirting with the role of company-bruiser. He had another Shaq-like pivot and dunk in the first quarter, and he went to the floor to wrestle a loose ball away from Matt Barnes in the third period.
This is relatively unknown territory for the Spurs. They haven’t lost the first game in the last 11 Playoff series.
I like that they lost by 15 points. San Antonio obviously played an egg in this game. It could not have gotten any worse. Their shooting was way off. They got nothing out of their four centers- aside from Baynes’ defensive aggression. They shot 53.8% from the free throw line. On the flip side, the Clippers had their best possible game. Their defensive interior was dominant. Blake Griffin was hitting jumpers and Lob-City returned.
Coach Popovich will make adjustments in Game 2. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kawhi Leonard covering Paul on Wednesday night. He had another four steals on Sunday night.
The Spurs have Monday off, returning to practice on Tuesday.