Stalwart Spurs Humble New Look Clips
In what was supposed to be a big time early season test for the new look Los Angeles Clippers, the hometown San Antonio Spurs completely humbled the visitors 115-90. Second year star Blake Griffin posted impressive numbers of 28 points and 9 rebounds, but was mostly embarrassed on the defensive end en route to a shockingly poor -37 plus/minus. Overall, the Spurs looked very much like a well-oiled machine on the night, where as Los Angeles looked very much like a squad that still has plenty of questions left to answer after acquiring Chris Paul just two and a half weeks ago. While it should come as no surprise that the accomplished squad with the intact core K’O'ed the hastily assembled young guns, the extent of the beat down still surprised many. How the Spurs were able to pull off the victory was a testament to perhaps basketball’s two most important factors; defense and efficiency. Here’s a look at those two aspects and one more that helped shape last night’s game.
Last night the Spurs shot an excellent 56.3% from the field and turned the ball over 15 times, with the starters combining for just 6 turnovers all night. Most impressively, the Spurs made over half their three point attempts, going 10/19, and made every single one of their 15 free throws. That’s right, the Spurs went 100% from the stripe. Our starters dominated, posting a plus/minus average of +18.4. The individual play of four particular starters stood out, especially in terms of how efficiently they played last night. Manu Ginobili once again led the Spurs with 24 points, going 6/10 from the field, 5/8 from three, and 7/7 from the line. Tony Parker shot an excellent 6/9, working for his shot all night long and setting up teammates when it wasn’t there. In the end, TP ended up with 9 assists in 26 minutes, and only turned the ball over once. DeJuan Blair absolutely abused Blake Griffin on the offensive end. Granted, he didn’t offer much resistance against the superstar defensively, but any night Blair can post 20 points on 10/15 shooting San Antonio will gladly take it. Lastly, Richard Jefferson was an absolute marvel against the Clips, facing off against his would-be replacement, Caron Butler, and totally outshining him. Going 8/9 from the field (3/4 from three), Jefferson looked like he couldn’t miss, and to be honest I don’t even remember the one time he did so. Finishing with 19 points to go along with his 14 on Monday, Jefferson is having the exact start to the season Spurs fans were hoping for…though maybe not expecting. The Spurs had 27 assists on the night and ultimately just looked like a team that has few kinks left to work out early on in this strange season. Clippers coach, and former Spur, Vinny Del Negro summed up San Antonio’s performance on the night while simultaneously pointing out exactly what separates our squad from his in his post-game comments. The Spurs “shot it really well tonight,” said Del Negro, “They hit some tough shots when they had to. But you expect that. They have been together for awhile.”
Coming into the game, the main question was whether San Antonio’s thin frontcourt could keep up with the dynamic athleticism of Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and the Lob City Clips. Fortunately, that question was answered not through individual efforts, but a stifling brand of team defense that never allowed the Clippers to get hot and gain momentum. Very few highlight plays were allowed by the Spurs D, and likewise San Antonio allowed few easy buckets. On the night, San Antonio held L.A. to just 39.2% shooting, and though they forced only half the turnovers they did against Memphis, the Spurs never allowed the Clippers to get comfortable on offense. This fact is best represented by Paul’s numbers, as the superstar floor general went a disappointing 3/10 from the field for just 10 points to go along with 9 assists in 36 minutes.
Spurs fans will be happy to see that no member of the big three played over 27 minutes, and neither, for that matter, did any other starter. Overall, ten Spurs played somewhere between 18 and 27 minutes, a stat that not only bodes well for the depth of the squad, but also sets us up nicely heading into tonight’s game against the Houston Rockets. Blow out wins are nice, but they are especially nice on the first night of back-to-backs, and Coach Popovich has to hope more games in this condensed season will see a similar distribution of minutes.