Spurs follow the script en route to blowout over the Clippers
It would be easy to pin a 116-92 win for the San Antonio Spurs over the Los Angeles Clippers on three things: Chris Paul’s absence, the Clippers playing on the second night of a back-to-back and the Spurs coming off a disappointing loss to the New York Knicks. It would be a total copout to point largely to those three things as the reason for a victory and a injustice to things like Tiago Splitter’s excellent performance and a highly efficient offensive game from Tony Parker.
But as a blogger, I’m nothing if not lazy, so here we go.
From time-to-time we see teams coming off the fresh loss of their best player by rising to the challenge and accomplishing an upset or two before regressing to the level of play one would expect them to have. This was not that instance, as the Spurs jumped out early on the Clippers and had a double-digit lead nine minutes into the contest.
From there, the Spurs won the first quarter 37-17, the first half 70-35 and grabbed the eventual victory with a 116-92 edge. A small bit of excitement started to build at the end of the third quarter, as Los Angeles cut into the Spurs’ lead with a 35-18 advantage in the period, but it did not last.
And these are the things that happen without your best player. For as good as Blake Griffin is—and he is good, I think the negativity surrounding his game has swung too far in one direction, not unlike how much negativity surrounded Manu Ginobili’s effectiveness entering this season—he’s not a creator and without Paul, his effectiveness was limited to filling up the boxscore in the high-volume, somebody-has-to-put-up-some-numbers-on-our-side sort of way.
When Tony Parker sits out a game for the Spurs due to rest or injury, Gregg Popovich’s strategy is often to forgo starting the backup point guard and instead start the third-stringer, while typically extending the amount of minutes the backup has. We saw this recently in Phoenix when Cory Joseph started in place of an injured Parker and Patty Mills played almost double Joseph’s minutes off the bench. It’s a way to keep the bench rotations fairly standard, more than anything.
Doc Rivers doesn’t have that luxury right now. Why? Because with Paul out, Darren Collison is only point guard on the active roster. Collison played about 36 minutes on Saturday night against the Spurs and in the minutes he was resting, Jamal Crawford seemed to be the primary ballhandler. It’s not a good situation for the Clippers and if Paul’s absence is any longer than the three to five weeks originally expected, they could be in for some slippage in the standings. (They’re still going to make the playoffs, though, let’s not get carried away.)
Making matters worse for a Los Angeles team without Paul, they were playing on the road for the second straight night. Those parameters are difficult enough on their own, but throwing in not having your best player and any hopes you had for sweeping the Texas Triangle seem to dissipate into the ether.
Counter that with the Spurs coming into Saturday night’s contest after a disappointing loss to the New York Knicks and having been called soft by their head coach. Those little call-outs through the media are usually good for a short term bump. They’re not ground-breaking adjustments that drastically change the way a team plays, obviously. But publicly decrying a team as soft is a manipulative gesture that usually inspires a team to play harder for at least the next game. And if not, well, that team probably sucks.
The Spurs, as we know, do not suck. In fact, these players were in the NBA Finals last season, so you can venture to guess that they’re still probably very good. They responded against the Clippers in beat down fashion and, despite losing focus for a long stretch in the third quarter, performed as you would expect them to perform coming off the loss to the Knickerbockers. The win over the Clippers makes San Antonio 8-0 in games following a loss this season.
Looking at the circumstances entering the game on Saturday night, it was clear the Spurs should’ve come away with the victory over the Clippers. The odds were ever in their favor on that night (solid Hunger Games reference, dude). The only real surprise coming out of it was that in a league where anything can happen from night to night, there were no surprises.