For the Los Angeles Clippers, it sometimes seem that a home victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs pales in impact compared to a home loss to them.
Understand thatthere is no such thing as overkill when it comes to this team. TheSpurs arelike Mustafa from Austin Powers. You may think you have won as you witness them fall offa cliff after taking apoison dart to the jugular. But then you suddenly hear, “Hello up there. I’ve seem to have fallen down a cliff. I’m still alive, but I’m very badly injured. The wound is beginning to smell a little bit like almonds, which is not good.”
Speaking of Austin Powers, Spurs head coach Greg Popovich does a fine Dr. Evil impression whenever he is at podium after every big game, thinking he is surrounded by freakin’ idiots.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobiliand Tony Parker seem immortal at this point. It is almost as if they depart to an unknown location every offseason to drink from the fountain of youth that they discovered long ago. They sit for so long during the regular season so that no one would suspect of their secret.
As he approaches the age of 39 on Saturday, Duncan has reached thepointwhere he no longer looks forward to his birthday. Believe it or not, Duncan is older than Boston Celtics head coach, Brad Stevens, who is 38 years old.He had to be reminded by a reporter and his instant reaction to that news was, “Is it really? That sucks.”
With the series tied 1-1, the Clippers go into San Antonio for the next twogames of the series starting on Friday. The goal for most of these teams is to stay at a focus state and remain resolved while the flow of a playoff series goes up and down like every heartbeat seen on an EKG. That being said, losing the first game makes that hard to do, especially when Game 2’s loss evens up the series and sends the Clippers to the Alamo for the next stage of this series.
“It’s difficult,” Blake Griffin said, “but at the same time sometimes things like this kind of refocus how you go about the next couple days to prepare. You know, we said during practice yesterday that when you lose that first game, that’s all you think about, and so they came out like that. They came out like that’s all they thought about, like they were ready to play, and I expect us to respond in the same manner.”
“We’ll have to be poised,” Chris Paul said. “We won’t have the crowd behind us like we did here, but we’ve shown the ability to win there, but their team is not going to beat themselves, you’ve got to go out there and beat them, and we’ve got to come in ready for Game 3.”
“We’ve been down,” Griffin added. “Last year, first round we lost the first game at home, so I mean, there’s a lot of basketball left to be played. It’s not over. We’ve just got to be better and go in their place and take one.”
The Clippers can lay siege on the grizzledSpurs at the Alamo and set the stagefor the execution of the defending NBA champions atStaples Center in Game 5. Or, the Spurs could demoralize the Clippers the same way they did against the Miami Heat a year agoand move towards thereclamation of the rightful place asTexas’ champion in the second round against the Houston Rockets.
The series is now shifting to an every-other-day schedule which will include multiple trips from San Antonio to Los Angeles should the series go the full seven games — do you expect anything less from this series? Duncan and his team of international ballers may be on the other side of the hourglass, but with depth on their side, they may hold an distinct advantage thanks to the scheduling.
“I hope so,” Duncan said. “I hope it wears on them. There’s some young, great athletes, and it’s playoff time, and hopefully it takes something out of their legs. Hopefully it takes something out of them. But we’re playing pretty significant minutes ourselves. Luckily we’re going to stretch it out, and we’ve got guys that can come in and spell us and be very effective. Hopefully the depth of our bench really helps us. You see it tonight where Patty comes in and plays great for us, and when Tony goes out, we’re able to do that. That’s what got us through the season and got us through a championship last year. We’ll continue to rely on that, and hopefully it affects them in the other way.”
If there is one thing the Spurs have that the seemingly complete Clippers doesn’t, it’s depth. Popovich has every reason to believe that he can give nine players significant minutes. YetDoc Rivers doesn’t feel like he has that same luxury.
In the Clippers’ overtime loss in Game 2, each of the starters with the exception of Matt Barneswere on the court for more than 40 minutes. With just four points on 1-of-10 shooting in 37 minutes, Barnes was a liability. Sure he had 10 rebounds in that game, but his poor defense allowed the Spurs to kill any momentum that the Clippers were building up late in the fourth quarter.
DeAndre Jordan scored 20 points with 15 rebounds and three blocked shots, but he also shot 6-of-17 from the free throw line. At this point, the hack-a-Jordan move is something that they are going to have to live with. Sure his teammates say they believe in him, but what the hell else are they going to say or believe at this point?
It may have backfired on the Spurs at the time in Game 2, but those misses do add up against the Clippers. Eventually, the opponent will do it not when they are behind and desperate, but when they are slightly ahead and spiteful. When that happens, then what? Jordan’s poor free throw shooting will serve as a crutch against the Clippers.
Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers were the only bench players with significant minutes in Game 2. Glen Davis was on the court for only 11 minutes. Spencer Hawes, who signed for four-years and $23 million prior to this season, didn’t even play. And no, he is not injured. The Clippers have nobody as a suitable substitute for Jordan in order to avoid this hack-a-yak nonsense.
At least for the Clippers, they will not be helpless in the Alamo. They have the second best road record in theNBAat 26-15 (tied with the Houston Rockets). They have won before in San Antonio during the regular season, but as Paul said, it’s a “totally different game in the postseason.”
“It’s going to be a great environment,” Griffin said. “It’s going to be loud. They have a great crowd, but that’s exciting for us. I think we respond to that well. We like to play on the road and we need to embrace that. And overall we just need to clean up some things defensively, you know, guarding without fouling. At the half we put them on the line too many times, we hadn’t gotten to the line enough. We’ve got to be aggressive. We’ve got to change some things around. But it’s about the spirit we played with, and I expect us to come out with the right spirit on Friday night.”
“You’ve got to go in there and you’ve got to win it,” Paul said. “You’ve got to go take it.”
Tony Capobianco started the SMDP column “Cap Space” just in time for the 2014-15 Clippers season. You can contact him via email at email@example.com.