Los Angeles Clippers
San Antonio Spurs
MVP: The All-Stars came through in a critical spot, and it’s clear what the winning formula is for the Clippers in this series: Chris Paul going off. Paul shook off the brutality of Game 3 with a game-high 34 points on 19 shots. Paul added seven assists, only turned the ball over twice, and found a way to finish the game with five fouls.
That was … more like it: It was like the Clippers ate a Snickers bar Sunday afternoon. Doc Rivers lamented how the ball stuck in Game 3; more than half of the Clippers’ 45 field goals were assisted in Game 4, as the Clippers had an assist per turnover ratio of 24:9. The league’s top offense was back to its efficient self on Sunday, making shots at a 54 percent clip. The Spurs won many little battles in this game and never quite went away. But with both teams getting 84 shots from the field, the small San Antonio edges in rebounds (44-43) and turnovers (8-9) couldn’t make up for the fact that the Spurs couldn’t stop the L.A. guards down the stretch.
X factor: One of the questions from the most recent CBL asked about the bench Clipper most likely to come through with an unexpected performance in the playoffs. No one selected Austin Rivers, he of the questionable decision making and painful shooting percentages. Rivers is the youngest Clipper, and his tendencies have been mocked by his own teammates. A lot of folk like to mention how he plays his best in meaningless blowouts, only to turn around and drop a donut the next time out. One game doesn’t make a career, but credit Rivers for playing well on the road in the playoffs with 16 points on eight shots in 17 minutes.
— Law Murray
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Austin Rivers had a 3 point play in an away playoff game and Pop has no idea what just happened.
— Larry Beyince (@DragonflyJonez) April 26, 2015
This is why you don’t foul to get into the bonus. Pop has been horrible this series.
— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) April 26, 2015
Austin Rivers said, his dad told him before the game, “If you’re not making shots, why are you on this team” (15 Pts) pic.twitter.com/WTwVW2Fa1i
— Curt Sandoval (@ABC7Curt) April 26, 2015
I’m going to make a documentary about the Spurs’ Game 4 defense and call it “A. Rivers Runs Through It.”
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) April 26, 2015
Check Your Messages
Do What You Want, Be What You Are
The Clippers had the highest offensive rating among all teams San Antonio played against this season. It might not have looked like it in Game 3, but Game 4 was the return to form. Chris Paul was hitting his pull-up midrange jumpers. Blake Griffin had his Herculean athleticism, improved jumpshot, and passing skills all on display. J.J. Redick found the space to make open shot after open shot.
In essence, the Clippers found the answer by doing exactly what they’ve been doing all season as the league’s top offense.
To win this series, though, it was always going to come down to whether or not this team played within itself. That means Big Baby using his boxy frame to set great picks in a crucial stretch where DeAndre Jordan sat on the bench to avoid the reach of hacking hands. It also means Austin Rivers using his size over smaller guards to play competent defense while knowing he’s better on the other end as a slasher and not a shooter.
Doc Rivers was never going to outsmart Gregg Popovich on his journey to get his team to the second round. To his credit, he admits he doesn’t even try. But again, like his players, he doesn’t need to.
They all just need to be what they are.
– Brandon Tomyoy
Bully Blake, Part II
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the game that Blake Griffin had Sunday.
Griffin appeared to bump knees in Game 3, but he was no worse for the wear in Game 4. In fact, he had 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field and a playoff career-high 19 rebounds to go along with seven assists and only one turnover. Griffin didn’t have any dunks, but he was still aggressive, mixing up the jump shots with crashes to the glass, lobs to DeAndre Jordan, and handoffs to J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford.
Griffin also had a role in Tim Duncan’s disqualification. Duncan fouled out for just the sixth time in his postseason career – over 9,000 minutes. For comparison’s sake, Shaquille O’Neal fouled out 11 times in the playoffs, despite playing nearly 1,000 less minutes.
Paul got the buckets from the field and the line, while Redick and the bench played a strong supporting role in the same game. But like Jordan said last week, Griffin’s presence makes things so much easier for everyone else. And he made things harder for the Spurs in Game 4.
– Law Murray
A Trio Called Bench
For a long time this season, Doc Rivers has tried to field a 5-man reserves line-up with varying degrees of failure. Key offseason acquisitions, (namely Spencer Hawes) have struggled to fit in and guys like Jordan Farmar got the chop. In the end, Doc made a move that reeked of nepotism in early February, acquiring his son, Austin Rivers. There were flashes of intrigue but mainly bone-headed plays from the young Rivers since his arrival in L.A.
Each and every night the narrative became how much of a lead will the reserves give up, how long can they hold on? The 5-man combination of Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Spencer Hawes didn’t instil much fear in opposing line-ups — they were hardly “A Tribe Called Bench” made famous by Eric Bledsoe and friends a couple of years back.
But now, finally, what appears to be “A Trio Called Bench” has emerged. Doc has shortened the rotation off the bench to just three: Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford and Big Baby. Crawford’s credentials are well established: a two-time Sixth Man of the Year, he’s a streaky shooter with handles like pots and pans, he can shoot the Clippers back into any ball game and he can shoot them out of it too. Big Baby has proven himself once again too. He’s a mean screener that can block out the sun and is a surprisingly solid one-on-one post defender. His energy is insatiable, his drool is, well, unhygienic. Alas, this is a man who averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds in the Playoffs just three years ago.
And then, there’s Rivers. The man who became more meme than player after his trade to the Clippers. Defined by who his father was and what he couldn’t do, mocked by teammates and ridiculed whenever and wherever possible. Some of it he deserved. Some of his decision-making was terrible, sometimes his defense was bad, his shot selection was unique, to say the least. Then, on Sunday, with the Clippers needing anyone to step up off the bench, Rivers arrived (at least momentarily). He shot 7-8 in 16 minutes including what now appears to be his iconic moment, a strong lay-up against Tim Duncan. Good for him. Fighting back against the keyboard warriors, kid really did some good on the big stage. It was never going to be “A Tribe Called Bench” but there is a trio now and in Game 4 they did okay.
– Roscoe Whalan