After the first half of basketball the Spurs were only down 49-43. The TNT halftime crew of Charles Barkley, Shaq, and Kenny Smith all said it was the Spurs' game to lose. In reality, it was the Clippers game to win. And in the second half they did so.
In the opening minutes of the third quarter both teams were playing at a frantic pace. They finished 6.5 minutes of basketball in less than 10 minutes of real time. This new pace suited DeAndre Jordan best. In these first few minutes he served as a defensive force. He both blocked and changed shots which led to more offensive opportunities for the Clippers.
As the offensive opportunities grew, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul shined in the bright lights of LA. Several times Blake Griffin destroyed Spurs' forward Aron Baynes with poster dunks. Then late in the third quarter sailing into the fourth, Chris Paul caught fire. It seemed every shot he threw up, fell right back down through the nylon. Paul finished with 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Blake had 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists.
While the Clippers' big three cruised to victory, the Spurs struggled. They finished the game with 15 turnovers and let up point after point in the paint. Luckily, these are easy things to fix. San Antonio just needs to take care of the ball well and rotate better on defense.
Although Los Angeles was able to win in style last night, game two may be different. San Antonio's bad play is an easy fix, but the Clippers biggest weakness is not; they have no bench. Their bench had a +/- of -7, but that stat does not tell the whole story. Jamal Crawford had 17 points and shot 7-10 from the field, which gave him a plus/minus of +8. So without Crawford in the stat, the rest of the Clippers bench was a combined -15. The Spurs are going to take advantage of the Clippers' weak bench play in game 2, guaranteed.
Throughout all of the Spurs troubles, Kawhi Leonard was solid as a rock. He finished with 18 points and was one of the only positive things to takeaway from this ugly game one loss.
Even though the Clippers put a whooping on the Spurs in game one, game two is going to be different. It is going to be a close game because the Spurs can easily improve their game. They need to do a few things better; fix their defensive rotations, clean up their play, slow down the Clippers' stars, and learn how to score in the paint against DeAndre Jordan. Although the last point may be impossible, the Spurs offensive cannot be stagnant in game two, neither can the rest of their play. If the Spurs don't want to end their era of success in the first round of the playoffs, they must clean up their game for the rest of the series. But Los Angeles is going to make this tough on them, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan is one of the best front lines in the NBA. Wednesday night will surely be a must watch, as will the rest of the NBA's best 1st round series.