After sweeping the Utah Jazz in the first round and spending 8 days waiting for their second round opponent, the San Antonio Spurs finally returned home to the AT&T Center and showed the rest of the NBA that they are a force to be reckoned with in this years playoffs. Tim Duncan scored 26 points and added 10 rebounds to lead the Spurs to a 108-92 game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in this Western Conference semi-final matchup.
This was the Spurs 15th consecutive victory dating back to the regular season. It’s the longest winning streak sustained into the playoffs by a team since the Spurs did it back in 2004 with 17 wins going into the second round.
DOUBTERS BE DAMNED
After last years first round thrashing by the Memphis Grizzlies, it was getting harder to believe in the San Antonio Spurs as a legitimate threat to the NBA championship anymore. They were old and their time had come and gone.
I guess no one told the San Antonio Spurs that.
During this 15 game winning streak, the Spurs have won by a margin of 17 points a game. Not only have they maintained their effectiveness on the defensive end, but they’ve become one of the most potent offensive teams in the entire league.
Tim Duncan turned back the clock against the Clippers last night and had one of his better stat lines in recent memory (26 points, 12 for 20 shooting, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 1 turnover). That was his 44th career 25-10-2 playoff game. Only Shaquille O-Neal(57) and Hakeem “The Dream (49) have had more. He was aggressive in the paint when matched up with Blake Griffin and also showed his ability to nail the long-range jumper with several shots made from 15 feet away.
The Spurs also got solid production from a couple of young starters who are starting to stand out more and more as these playoffs progress. Third-year player Danny Green finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks while rookie starter Kawhi Leonard chipped in 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Both players each added 3 three-pointers to top it off.
The contributions from Green and Leonard covered up what was a bad day at the office for MVP candidate Tony Parker. Parker finished with just 7 points on 1 for 9 shooting, but he did dish out 11 asssists to save his evening. Parker was kept in check throughout the night by Clippers point guard Chris Paul, but thankfully the collective performances of his teammates helped salvage this game 1 victory.
The Spurs look like a scary basketball team right now. Not only are they winning, but they’re winning convincingly. Obviously, all of this can change if they lose in game 2, but as for now, the Spurs should not be slept on. Numbers and victories don’t lie.
The Clippers looked like a team that just went 7 games in the first round. Young legs or not, they are a team who is clearly tired and fatigued after their way with the Grizzlies.
Chris Paul never got his offensive rhythm going in this one. He finished with 6 points on 3 for 13 shooting, but he did have 10 assists and 5 steals. Those numbers are nice, but Paul needs to be the scorer that he was in the Memphis series for this team to win this series. Luckily for Paul, his matchup Tony Parker didn’t have the best of nights either, but thats still no excuse.
For the minutes he played (28), Blake Griffin had himself a solid ballgame with 15 points and 9 rebounds. His knee may not be 100%, but it’s certainly gotten better to the point where he can run the court efficiently and make plays like this.
Los Angeles also got incredible production from backup guard Eric Bledsoe off the bench as Eric finished with 23 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
The problem with the Clippers is that instead of trying to stop the Spurs on defense, they just tried to keep pace with them on the scoring end. San Antonio shot nearly 50% from the field, hit 13 three-pointers and hit 8 more free throws than Los Angeles. That’s not how you beat the Spurs. They were the #2 scoring team in the regular season with 103.7 points a game.
The Clippers need to get their legs back underneath them because the Spurs are rested and will run away with this series unless they learn to stop the Spurs offensive attack.
QUOTES OF THE GAME
”I felt I got all the shots that I wanted. I just didn’t make them. That’s the most frustrating part. Getting to where I wanted to and not seeing them go down. Can’t do that in the playoffs.’‘ – Clippers guard Chris Paul
”It’s hard to tell if they were tired or not. If we were rusty or not. The game just developed that way it did.” – Spurs guard Manu Ginobili
TWEET OF THE GAME
Tim Duncan is going to teach Blake Griffin how to play PF this entire series.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) May 16, 2012
– I wish the San Antonio fans would wear similar shirts as they do in most arenas during the playoffs (ex. Oklahoma City and Miami). It would be cool to see the audience dressed in a see of black and white.
– Not to take anything away from his performance, but Manu Ginobili finally had a solid game during these playoffs. He scored 22 points in 28 minutes off the bench. He didn’t have the best of series against the Utah Jazz, so hopefully this is a sign that Manu is finally finding his game again.
Game 2: Thursday, May 17, Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs, 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports