“I don’t know if the Clippers are that good. They haven’t played on the road yet. Have them play some tough games on the road and then we’ll see how good the Clippers really are.”
That became a huge talking point about the Los Angeles Clippers’ early season play. Because of scheduling, the Clippers hadn’t had as many road games as other teams, instead having seven of their first nine games of the season be at home.
Despite having won both of their road games, the Clippers had only traveled on one of those games (they played against the Lakers as the away team).
That’s why this four-gamer is going to be a great litmus test to see how good these Los Angeles Clippers really are.
It’s much easier to win when the fans are cheering for you. It’s much easier to make free throws when the fans aren’t doing all they can to have you miss.
Good teams win at home, great teams win on the road. The Clippers were out to make a statement tonight in San Antonio, with the Spurs having some early-season revenge on their mind.
After having of a rude of awakening following back-to-back losses to the Warriors and Cavaliers, the Clippers dismantled the Spurs 106-84 in their next game, spurring the Clippers on to five straight wins – four of them by double figures.
The Spurs shot 41 percent from the field, turned it over 20 times and were outrebounded by 17. The Clippers absolutely had their way with the Spurs back on November 7th and you just know the Spurs wanted to put the Clippers in their place tonight.
Early on, that looked like it would be the case.
The Spurs would jump out to a 7-2 lead, but the Clippers would respond by outscoring them 20-9 during the remainder of the first quarter.
After a sloppy first quarter (six turnovers), the Clippers found themselves trailing 28-18.
But after the opening quarter, the Clippers began to buckle down on both ends.
After Gary Neal made the Spurs’ first shot of the second quarter at the 11:18 mark, they wouldn’t score a bucket for another eight minutes and 14 seconds. You read that right.
Backed by excellent bench play yet again, the Clippers would go on a huge 25-6 run and end up outscoring the Spurs by 15 in the quarter. The Clippers were halfway through their first big road test; holding a five-point edge at 47-42 going into halftime.
Then in the second half, the game really got good.
It was physical. The refs let them play. The fans were loud and heavily invested into the game.
It was a playoff-like atmosphere in mid-November and to put it simply, the game was just plain fun to watch.
It was the Western Conference’s best team from a year ago pitted against one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
The two teams would teeter-totter back and forth in the third quarter, but right toward the end, the energy ramped up another notch on one play.
DeAndre Jordan’s priceless reaction says it all. Chris Paul never goes up for a dunk and that’s what made this play so big.
It would be the final bucket of the third quarter and would prove to be a huge momentum shift. The Clippers were more than energized after Paul’s slam.
One guy who was energized that wound up being a huge difference-maker in the game was Ronny Turiaf.
Turiaf came in for the first time in the game following Ryan Hollins’ sixth foul at the 9:47 mark. Turiaf would have back-t0-back critical put-backs for the Clippers to help salvage four points out of missed shots. They may have just been the most important four points of the game and considering Turiaf was coming off the bench stone cold, it’s incredible how big his play ended up being in the grand scheme of the game.
However, as expected, the Spurs just would not go away.
After trailing by as many as 10 in the quarter, the Spurs would cut the lead to two with two and a half minutes to go. Matt Bonner started doing what he does best, go bombs away from beyond the three-point line. The Red Rocket started launching and the Clippers didn’t have an answer at the time.
Then under two minutes still nursing a two point need, the Clippers were in need of a bucket to thwart the Spurs’ comeback bid.
So who better to give the ball to than Chris Paul?
Paul would take a 14-footer, right in his bread and butter range… but have it clang off the iron.
But lo and behold, Eric Bledsoe would come from out of nowhere to corral the miss, go up strong and lay in the second-chance bucket.
Manu Ginobili would cut the lead back to two points on a beauty of a well-defended running left-handed layup that left Matt Barnes shaking his head.
But with half a minute to go in the game, Chris Paul would hit his signature dagger shot.
Paul would start his move with six seconds on the shot clock, take two hard dribbles to the right elbow, go between his legs toward the middle of the key to create an inch of separation from Tony Parker, take one dribble with his left hand, spin right, gather himself and off two feet, nail an absolute beauty of a game-closing bucket from 12 feet away.
But words just don’t do Chris Paul’s play justice… see for yourself.
A play like that is the exact reason why the Clippers went out and traded for Chris Paul. There’s no other way to put it.
At the end of regulation, the Clippers would walk out of the AT&T Center as five-point winners, 92-87 being the final.
The Clippers have now won a half dozen games in a row and are off to a historically good 8-2 start.
Kawhi Leonard being inactive and Stephen Jackson exiting the game a few minutes into the game with a finger injury definitely helped the Clippers en route to their victory, but a win is a win, and a road win like tonight’s is huge for the team’s confidence moving forward.
All in all, as well as Chris Paul played, I wouldn’t exactly say he was the reason why the Clippers won this game.
You can make a great case that Matt Barnes was the reason.
Caron Butler decided to give his strained right shoulder a try in tonight’s game but had to leave early after it began to act up on him.
Cue in Matt Barnes.
Barnes had a ridiculously active and efficient stat line Monday night, going for 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting while grabbing nine rebounds and forcing three steals on the Spurs.
His most telling stat? He led the Clippers in individual +/- ratio, finishing as a +19 in his 35 minutes of play.
Barnes did a little bit of everything tonight, with his most memorable stretch coming in a one minute and nine second stretch halfway through the second quarter.
On three consecutive plays, Barnes would establish great post position, haul in a rebound from a missed jumper and power up strong for two.
Chris Paul even said it himself after the game on Fox Sports West that the game ball belonged to Barnes.
Who would have thought that in an offseason where Grant Hill and Lamar Odom come to town, Matt Barnes would be the one stealing all the small forward headlines for the Clippers. The man has earned 100 percent of every minute he’s played so far this year, and I can’t envision Vinny del Negro shifting away any of his minutes to another player at this point in time.
Barnes has been such a factor off the bench to start the season and he is truly beginning to emerge as an extremely important role player for the Clippers.
In short, Monday’s win was a one for the Clippers, and it starts their four-game road trip off on the right foot.
Five Clippers finished in double figures scoring the ball (Paul-19, Griffin-16, Barnes-14, Jordan-13, Crawford-11) and they again won the battle on the boards by outrebounding the Spurs 52-42.
Despite missing 11 of their 12 three-point attempts, the Clippers shot a rock-solid 47 percent from the field, while holding the Spurs to under 36 percent.
The Clippers’ bench was yet again a catalyst in a Clippers win, accounting for 42 of the team’s 92 total points.
However, the Clippers did turn the ball over a whopping 17 times. The turnovers have been a recurring theme this season, but it may be due in large part to the continual jelling that this Clippers’ roster is still working through.
The Clippers certainly passed their first true road test with flying colors tonight, but the trip will only get tougher from here.
Up next, the Clippers head to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder on Wednesday at 4:30, and end the road trip on a back-to-back with games at Brooklyn on Friday and at Atlanta on Saturday.