Game 1: Los Angeles at San Antonio
The San Antonio Spurs are playing like the best team in the world right now. Including the regular season, they’ve won 15 straight games. That’s enough to tie the regular season into playoff record. Plus, over the last 78 days, they’ve only lost 4 games, total. They have the NBA’s best coach, and their top three guys have the most playoff and NBA Finals experience in the league (sorry Boston & LA). They also bore the crap outta people.
I’m not gonna write about how boring the Spurs are (they aren’t), what makes Tim Duncan tick (he’s just enthusiastic about winning), or how Tony Parker and Chris Paul canceled each other out. No, I’m just going to write that the Spurs look like the Monolith in 2001: Space Odyssey: tall, impenetrable, and of unknown origin; although, it probably has something to do with the curmudgeonly Popovich
Vinny Del Negro is not Gregg Popovich, and no one is more acutely aware of this, than Del Negro himself, who said of Popovich and the Spurs before game 1
“‘Pop’s done it. He’s hung banners. He’s been doing it for along time, and he’s a guy who I have a tremendous amount of respect for.”
But that respect from the Clippers doesn’t translate into wins. At least not yet.
With a hurting Chris Paul, still recovering from his hip-flexer, and Blake Griffin with a sprained knee, the Spurs out-played the Clippers best players on their way to a comfortable win. The Clippers were out-rebounded 47-34; the Spurs moved the ball better with 29 assists to LA’s 19; and San Antonio out-shot LA 49% to 45%. The Clippers still got to do a couple lobs, but it was largely superficial.
Tim Duncan was especially efficient, finishing 12 for 20 for 26 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks as he finshed on the offensive end and defended DeAndre Jordan and helped on Blake Griffin when he got by Boris Diaw. It was a reminder to everyone Duncan isn’t done collecting hardware.
Duncan was forever humble in the face of his excellence, saying after the game “I missed some shots early and then I got a couple to go. My teammates moved the ball really well and I got a couple layups.”
Tony Parker, the focal point of the offense for most of the regular season (the best of his career), finshed with only 7 points on 1 for 9 shooting from the field, but he added 11 assists and Duncan and Manu (22 points) stepped up in his place. But while Parker struggled from the field, so did Chris Paul who is more important to the Clippers offense, particularly late. Paul finished with only 6 points and 10 assists. His back-up at point, Eric Bledsoe actually led the Clippers in scoring with 23 on 10/16 shooting.
For San Antonio, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green stepped up with 16 and 15 points in their starting roles. It was more than enough to make up for Parker’s poor shooting. No such luck for Paul—beside Bledsoe’s production—Griffin and Caron Butler each scored a paltry 15 points with Nick Young adding 13 meaningless points off the bench late.
The Spurs look unstoppable. Moreso than even the Heat or Celtics after the first game in their series; they both lost their second one. You can be sure Gregg Popovich is reminding his team of that fact today.
As Stephen Jackson said before the series started: “This is chess, not checkers. Pop knows what he’s doing.”
If Oklahoma City does away with the Lakers as fast as some are expecting (I’m sure Kobe will have something to say about that tonight), the Spurs and Thunder appear destined for a WCF showdown just as the Celtics and Heat go into the latter stretches of their surprisingly tough semifinal match-ups. I don’t expect either the Thunder or the Spurs to have as much trouble as Boston or Miami. That favors a rested Western Conference representative when the finals roll around.
The playoffs are in full swing, so it’s important not to think too far ahead. That being said, I couldn’t be happier about the first 2 weeks of the post-season.
Final: SAN ANTONIO SPURS 108 - Los Angeles Clippers 92
The Spurs lead the series 1-0