Nine games remaining. The Clippers are at the stretch run of their season, and in just a few weeks, we’ll all be enjoying some great playoff basketball. But until then, the Clippers are jockeying with Denver and Memphis for the three-seed and a much easier path to the second round (this year’s West playoffs are just brutal). Which is why tonight’s game was so important. Not only would the Clippers have won and kept hold of the three-seed, but they would have relinquished any Spurs demons hanging over them. But Tim Duncan, and his game-winning shot, had different motives.
Depending on your outlook, the glass is either half-full or half-empty. The Clippers matched the Spurs for most of the night, and it’s clear a series between these two would be at least six or seven games. (It could really go either way, although the Spurs have an advantage because they’ll have home court.) At the same time, the Clippers aren’t likely to shoot 50 percent in San Antonio again, and a major defensive breakdown cost them a winnable game. It’s looking more and more like these two may have another second-round date. Onto Last Call:
San Antonio Spurs
Recap | Box score
Los Angeles Clippers
No dime tonight, folks.
Breaking Lawler’s Law
Duncan’s game-winner. Don’t watch it more than once, unless you like torturing yourself.
Tweet(s) of the Game
CP3: “It’s not easy to let it go. But keep it in the back of our mind that we should have won this game.”
— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) March 30, 2013
Chris Paul said Tim Duncan traveled before hitting the game-winning shot.
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) March 30, 2013
Eric Bledsoe Per 36 Stat O’ The Night
ClipperBlog Live’s Best Moment
Are you a Gothic Ginobili fan? Well tonight’s guest was Aaron McGuire, who had some sound advice for young people. Don’t buy houses. Check it out.
Check Your Messages
With 2.2 seconds remaining, the Clippers ran a pretty simple but effective play. Los Angeles runs a gate screen for Crawford, where Jamal runs between Odom and Griffin and the bigs close rank behind Crawford, cutting off Danny Green.
San Antonio plays it perfectly and Green switches to Griffin while Diaw meets Crawford on the other side. Meanwhile, Tony Parker is left to fend against Chris Paul on the right block.
All in all, it’s a pretty good look. Chris Paul is stronger than most point guards on the block and has a pretty developed post game. If we’re really nitpicking, maybe Griffin could be above Odom so Odom can screen Griffin’s man and Griffin can curl for a rim run on the weakside. But overall, this is a simple but effective set with multiple looks.
– Andrew Han
“It was a good death.”
Categories in which the Spurs and Clippers were tied tonight: points in the paint, second chance points, free throws attempted, defensive rebounds, turnovers. Nobody on the Clippers had a particularly great game. Tim Duncan scored 34 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, all the while missing just seven shots. DeAndre Jordan went 1/8 from the free throw line. Still, the Clippers were just seven seconds and a miracle Tim Duncan and-one away from beating the Spurs on their own floor, where they’re 32-4 this season. The Clippers do struggle against the best of the best, but tonight’s loss should be taken as a representation of progress rather than failure.
– Seerat Sohi
If It Ain’t Broke…
The Spurs are the kings of making beauty out of broken plays. There’s so much movement, so many options. And everyone on the floor—from stars to role players—maintains his poise. Ball knocked out of Duncan’s hands with only a few seconds left on the shot clock? No problem. He’ll retrieve it and calmly knock down a jumper from the elbow. Clippers harrassing Parker, cutting his off penetration and appearing to stymy him at every passing lane? He’s fine. He’ll just keep probing and dish it to a cutting Splitter for an easy lay-up just before the shot clock expires. Clippers closing out on every perimeter shooter no matter how many times the Spurs pass it? Doesn’t matter. San Antonio will keep swinging it until it reaches an open shooter.
The ease with which the Spurs milk shot clocks to find open shooters and cutters makes it seem like they never miss. To wit, their offensive efficiency numbers for the first half were a staggering 145.2. To their credit, the Clippers posted a 147.6—a valiant effort. But by game’s end, the Spurs just made too many shots, on too efficient a clip: 52.7 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 95.2 percent from the three throw line.
When a team shoots better than 50/40/90, it’s tough to break them—especially when you can’t keep up at the line.
– Patrick James
Falling In A Trap
With 2:31 remaining in the fourth quarter, Lamar Odom, at the behest of Vinny Del Negro, checked into the game for DeAndre Jordan. Odom’s contributions over the next 40 seconds consisted of standing around doing nothing in particular, then fouling Tim Duncan following a rebound. Jordan checked back into the game with 1:52 remaining.
The reason for this substitution, at least on the surface, makes sense – it was a close game, and Del Negro didn’t want Gregg Popovich employing his famed “Hack-a-[insert poor free throw shooter’s name here]” strategy on DeAndre Jordan. Jordan’s free throw accuracy currently hovers around 40%, a considerably lower efficiency than Chris Paul running high pick-and-roll.
The funny thing about this strategy is that Lamar Odom has been equally bad shooting free throws this year. He’s made just 45% of his attempts from the line this year. Admittedly, it’s a small sample, just 15-for-33, but Odom has never been a particularly strong foul shooter. He made just 59% last season, and hasn’t made 70% of his free throws since Kevin Garnett played in Minnesota.
Opposing teams don’t intentionally foul Lamar Odom. Why? Because they want him on the floor. If they fouled him, and he missed his free throws, he wouldn’t be preventing any upgrade over Jordan, and there would be no reason to take Jordan off the floor. So they foul Jordan, baiting Del Negro into taking him out of the game, making the Clippers hilariously easier to deal with – The Clippers usual “closing” lineup of Paul, Crawford, Barnes, Griffin, and Jordan, as our very own Jovan Buha profiled for ESPN Los Angeles, has an offensive efficiency of 119.4 and a defensive efficiency of 89.9, which would both lead the league by sizable margins over the course of a full season. When Jordan checks out, replaced by Odom, those splits tumble to 110.6/103.6 – still a productive lineup, but not a dominant one.
Fouling Jordan isn’t inherently a tactical advantage – opposing coaches do it to spring a trap on the unwitting Vin Del Negro. And he falls in. Every time.
VDN, CP3 and QWOP
When I’m pretending to work at my regular person job, I like to play a game called QWOP. Although I highly recommend trying the game for yourself, I’ll sum up the premise quickly: You’re a sprinter, but you have extremely limited control of your body. It’s like running without any coordination…or, uh, bones.
After many frustrating sessions of trial and error, I figured out how to move forward without face-planting. I kneel and scoot, slowly and under control, one tiny slide at a time. It’s a pretty fail-proof way of travel.
Of course, the creators of QWOP are some real assholes, so they add hurdles at about 70 metres. Hurdles. You can’t kneel over hurdles.
As you’ve probably gathered at this point, my process is flawed. It’s good enough to get me through the majority of the race, and good enough to crush most of my co-worker’s distances, but it’s clearly not good enough to win the whole thing.
I can be proud of my progress while acknowledging that the process needs to change. I’ve headbutted the hurdle enough to realize this.
So here’s the question. If Chris Paul loses to the Spurs in the playoffs again, will he?