As Griffin went, so did the Clippers. Their early lead was a direct result of Griffin overwhelming single coverage on the block and hitting some indefensible fadeaway shots. Although the Spurs weathered the early storm and began to double Griffin, the confidence and energy derived from watching the ball fall through the net made Griffin a monster throughout the game. He just needed some help.
The Clippers got back to their winning formula, in a sense, by jumping out to a huge lead, blowing it and then waiting for Paul to save them. That might have worked if the Spurs hadn’t gone hack-a-Reggie Evans — or hadn’t scored 24 unanswered points in the third period. The Clippers needed Paul to be a superhero earlier in the game, but on Saturday he was decidedly human.
Williams was one of the few Clippers shooting well from the perimeter, but despite that, he illustrated the problems with the Clippers’ backcourt rotation. Their most effective player overall in the playoffs has been Eric Bledsoe, but when Williams is hitting, it keeps Bledsoe glued to the bench. The buckets were needed, but one has to wonder whether it hurt the Clippers elsewhere.
Griffin’s return to his scoring ways was encouraging, but the early lead always looked unsustainable. Yes, the Clippers looked energetic and bouncy in front of their home fans, but the big lead came on the back of the Spurs missing open layups. There simply had to be a regression to the mean at some point — Griffin, as great as he was, just couldn’t do it by himself for 48 minutes.
Which team looked like it had been there before? Even when the Spurs got down big in the first quarter, they didn’t panic or drift away from the offensive system they trust. As the Clippers put their faith in one man to carry them, the Spurs put their faith in five. San Antonio has been wearing down opponents for nearly two decades. They did it again Saturday.