LOS ANGELES-Defense, drive and delivery summed up Game 1 of the first round NBA playoff matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs. The Clippers got all three components to hand down an easy 102-87 win against the defending world champions Spurs. The Clippers defeated the Spurs pretty much the way San Antonio kicked them out of the posteseason in 2012.
The Clippers won the game with a defense went from 19th in the league before the NBA All-Star break to No. 8 after the mid-year celebration. The Clippers also won the game because they received the type of play from their three top players with backup coming from the perimeter that coach Doc Rivers needed his team to come through with.
It was only Game 1, but the Clippers did something they did not do before and that is post a victory against the Spurs in the playoffs.
“We came out with great energy and made stops, “Blake Griffin said. “We knew that they would make a run because that is what good teams do. We just kept getting stops and easy baskets. Our guys also made plays late in the game.”
Making plays late in the game was clearly an advantage the Clippers enjoyed. And it was Griffin who got the party started for the Clippers with several poster dunks that will be replayed over and over again. Game 1 was a complete team win, but Griffin and his two other teammates in Chris Paul and center DeAndre Jordan joined in on the fun as well.
Griffin called down the thunder with three momentum-changing dunks. Jordan dropped the hammer with 14 rebounds, and Paul nailed the coffin of the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the best-of-seven-first round playoff series with the kind of energy and determination that the Clippers didn’t bring to the table the last time these two teams met up in the postseason.
Paul pumped in 32 points against the Spurs, making an efficient 13 of 20 attempts from the field. Rivers said Paul put the onus on the Spurs’ defense with his play throughout the game.
“He put a lot of pressure on the defense, and what makes Chris Paul and tony Parker both so good is if you try to take away their shots, then they beat you with the pass,” Rivers said. “If you try to take away their passes they can beat you with the shot. That’s what make them both very good players, or great players.”
What also make Griffin great is his ability to put pressure on the defense. Griffin displayed that knack when he went down low for his power dunks that revved up the fans in Staples Center.
“I tried to be aggressive,” Griffin said. “I did not want to settle for any jump shots. We tried to put pressure on them. They are a great defensive team so we had to keep attacking. We ran our offense as well as we could at times in the game. That always helps.”
Three years ago, the Clippers could not attack a hill of beans against the Spurs. If Game 1 is an indicator, the Spurs may wish they did not see the Clippers in the first round. Three years ago, the Clippers were trying to find their identity. The Spurs already knew who they were, holding the most exciting team in the league to just 91. 3 points a game while averaging 102.8 points a game themselves to best the upstart Clippers 4-0.
In Game 1, Tim Duncan was turned into Timid Tim. Manu Ginobili, for the most of the game, played like a guy on playing on his last leg. Parker was kept in check for most of the night.
This is a different, much more grizzled and hungry Clippers squad than what the Spurs faced in 2012. It was just two years ago that the Spurs wiped out the Clippers in four games in their run to the NBA Finals, sweeping “Lob City” into the summer with a lot of disappointment and something to think about.
Just about every expert out there has the Spurs beating the Clippers because of their championship pedigree. The Clippers Big Three in Griffin, Jordan and Paul said the heck with that as they bullied and punched the listless Spurs in the mouth with Mike Tyson intensity in the first and third quarters to dominate the world champions.
Basketball is a young man’s game. The long in the tooth Spurs received a little reminder of that in Game 1 of the first round. Sooner or later the age of the San Antonio Spurs is going to show up in this year’s playoffs. And it may happen in the first round against the Clippers.