The Clippers out-gunned the Spurs 120-108 to get their first win in San Antonio since 2002. Let’s get to five thoughts from the win.
That’s, like, a really long time: Fox Sports Prime Ticket ran a graphic during the game that said gas was $1.29 a gallon the last time the Clippers won in San Antonio. I refuse to believe that could possibly be true. If gas were $1.29 today, I’d be out having a good ol’ fashioned gasoline fight instead of writing this recap. Back to the game — how did the Clippers finally conquer one of their biggest road demons? They shot the lights out. Mo Williams hit just about everything he threw up, connecting for 33 points on 7-for-9 shooting from deep. Paul’s slicing and dicing to free up open looks for Williams was pretty phenomenal, and give Del Negro credit for making a pretty good offensive adjustment. Very rarely did the Clippers go to the block to Griffin, which would invite a double team and play right into the long arms of Tim Duncan. Instead, the Clippers initiated a ton of high pick-and-rolls, which pulled San Antonio’s non-mobile big men away from the basket. The Spurs couldn’t contain Paul in that setting. On the other end, the Clippers pick-and-roll defense was hilariously bad, and that’s how you end up with a 120-108 final score in a ballgame where both teams shot right around 50 percent from the field.
Let’s talk about
defense offense! This game doesn’t move the needle for me in terms of postseason optimism, mainly because the Clippers still allowed the Spurs to score 108 points on 48 percent shooting without their best player, and they never really showed the ability to stop a simple Ginobili-Duncan pick-and-roll. But instead of focusing on that too much, let’s look at what worked tonight, and that was the Clippers Chris Paul ran offense. Caron Butler got back on the right track a little bit by knocking down some pullup jumpers, and Randy Foye looked pretty comfortable spotting up on the wing. When those two guys both have good shooting nights like they did tonight, and Mo Williams and Chris Paul hit big shot after big shot, the Clippers really can beat anyone, anywhere — at least in a single game. This shootout was going to be lost by whoever ran out of bullets first, and after a little tease of back-and-forth crunch time scoring between CP3 and Manu, Williams took over and banged home a few big shots to pretty much put it away after the Red Rocket, Matt Bonner, had a few rim out. The Clippers problems on the defensive end aren’t going away, but offensive nights like this one can help you temporarily forget about them.
The 7-footer in the room. It’s probably time to start worrying about DeAndre Jordan. Kevin Arnovitz tweeted during the game (@kevinarnovitz) that on this six game road trip, Jordan registered more personal fouls than points. With Kenyon Martin sidelined tonight, Jordan played 5 minutes. 5. He had 5 fouls in those 5 minutes. Reggie Evans played 27. When Reggie Evans can stay on the floor for 27 minutes and you can’t, there’s something wrong. I don’t really know who to blame here. Gone are the days where Del Negro could afford to put development over winning, and I don’t blame him. He’s fighting for his job, and he’s made it clear that he believes Martin gives the Clippers a better chance to win than Jordan does. Meanwhile, Jordan isn’t really doing an awful lot to discredit that belief. He made strides mentally in the beginning of the season, but now it almost feels like we’re back to square one in the Dunleavy days. Jordan is making mistakes, looking over his shoulder, and playing with absolutely no confidence. This is troubling for the future for many reasons, especially now that Jordan’s potential comes at a heavy price. The solution here is not an easy one. I’m personally not an advocate of this answer, but there is a timeframe in which Jordan could be traded this month before the deadline. Let’s just say this — Eric Bledsoe may not be the only bait Neil Olshey can cast out anymore.
Smallball. Jordan was glued to the bench. Martin, as mentioned, was sitting. That left Reggie Evans, who had rebounded well (of course) but had been torched a bit on defense. Moreover, Evans basically has a big blinking sign over his head that says “foul me!” when he’s on the court, so playing him late in games isn’t the best option. Del Negro chose the lesser of the evils and put Bobby Simmons in to play the four, moving Griffin to the five. It’s actually a little funny, because Gomes would have been a decent option (hypocrite alert!) had he played earlier in the game, but Simmons is a little more stretchy and I think Del Negro fully grasps the ramifications of putting in a cold Gomes now. This small lineup with Simmons at the 4 basically says, “we’re going to outscore you” and that’s pretty much what it did. In no way is Griffin a passable center defensively right now, but it will be interesting to see if the Clips go to that again should Martin be unavailable late in games. Simmons was only 1-for-6, but the floor spacing was important for what the Clippers wanted to (read: shoot jumpers).
I’m not gonna do…what everybody thinks I’m gonna do and…FREAK OUT! Yes, I still think relying so heavily on jump shooting is foolish. No, I don’t think this is sustainable. Yes, I think the Clippers would definitely lose in a 7-game series to a healthy Spurs team playing the way they are. However, I will say this: The Clippers represent a definite mismatch for teams that don’t have mobile bigs. If you can’t trap, hedge in a Varejao manner, or occasionally switch on pick-and-rolls involving Chris Paul, he will eat you alive. There aren’t many teams with the ability to compensate for Paul’s mischief in the lane and then rotate fast enough to contest the quick release of Mo Williams spotting up on the perimeter. If you’re looking for positive playoff matchups for the Clippers, the mobility of the opponent’s big men is a good starting place.