Well, I guess we have a series now. Seeing that the Los Angeles Clippers could not get out of their own way in Game 2 of the best-of-seven first round playoffs series against the San Antonio Spurs, the Clippers now face the task of heading to Texas of winning at least one of the two games played there to stay in control of the series.
The Clippers unraveled Wednesday night against the Spurs, and so to did their home-court advantage after a tough, grind-it-out 111-107 overtime defeat to San Antonio. And they have only themselves to blame for the situation they are now in. The Clippers, staring down the possibility of going down 3-1 in the series, lost the ballgame because they failed to execute on a couple of fronts.
Let’s start with defense. In Game 1, the Clippers held the Spurs to 37 percent shooting from the field and limited San Antonio to two sub-20 point quarters. Instead of running out of the gate with energy from handing the world champions their rear ends in Game 1, the Clippers let old man Tim Duncan pretend that he was 25 again as he got off to a hot start on his way to scoring a game-high 28 points.
That simply cannot happen if you’re DeAndre Jordan.
Yes, Duncan is a future Hall of Famer. Yes, Duncan is arguably the greatest power to play in the NBA. But he’s still 38 years old. Jordan, who has been racking up rave reviews as a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate for several years, has to make Duncan look his age. Now is not the time for Jordan to play Duncan with respect. This is the time for Jordan to emphatically push Duncan into retirement with more consistent dominant play as he displayed in Game 1.
And while we’re at it, let’s stay here with Jordan and point No. 2 on why the Clippers let a Game 2 victory slip out of their hands. Basketball is a simple game. To win a championship, you have to play defense and make free throws. It’s that simple. The Clippers couldn’t do either in Game 2.
When the Clippers decided to lock in and play defense the way did in the fourth quarter where they held San Antonio to just 17 points, the home team could not hit the other side of the barn at the free throw line, and it wound up costing them.
Shooting just 54 percent from the charity stripe, as the Clippers did in Game 2, won’t get it done. It sure as heck won’t help you win a title. Jordan, in particular, struggled from the free throw line, going making six of 17 free throw attempts. As a team, the Clippers made 20 out of 37 FT attempts. That’s your ballgame right there, folks. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that is a 11-point difference in determining who won or lost the game.
With all of that being said, the Clippers are still in pretty good shape moving forward. Duncan is not going to go for 28 points again in this series. A player Duncan’s age is not going give you that kind of production game in and game out in a physical, grueling series.
The Spurs, in this writer’s opinion, played their most desperate game of the season. I call it the survivor’s game. And yet, San Antonio came within less than a minute of going down 0-2 in the series, even when the Clippers failed at the free throw line, put up an awful shooting night from the field and couldn’t stop water on the defensive end. Everything the Clippers seemed to do right in Game 1, they did wrong in Game 2. But that’s the nature of the playoffs. One game you’re up, the next game you’re humbled.
The Clippers can’t go wishing on a star in order to beat the Spurs. They have to take this series by force and enforce their will on San Antonio. Otherwise, we’ll be looking at another disappointing finish to a promising season.