Well, pretty much all of the good mojo the Los Angeles Clippers built coming out of the All-Star break came crashing into a brick wall called the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night at Staples. How bad was it? The Spurs reserves extended the 30 point early 4th quarter lead to almost 40 at one point. Heck, the Sacramento Kings played a more competitive contest two nights earlier, only losing by 6, and Cleveland lost to the Spurs on a last second shot before the break by a single point! If the Clippers believe they belong with the elite teams in the NBA, they certainly have not earned it on the court, losing in embarrassing fashion to Miami and San Antonio over the last two weeks, showing they have lost ground in the respectability department. the Clippers will now play Utah at Staples on Saturday with a chance to put this loss in the trash and start a stretch of games against weaker opponents. They shouldn’t let success against this weaker schedule fool them into thinking they can cruise into games with the Thunder and Spurs so cavalierly. So, without further ado, here’s our anatomy of a severe ass-whooping by a superior team.
No energy, no heart, no defense, no contest.
Right away, the Clippers came out flat, with little ball movement and a sieve-like defense. San Antonio scored on almost every first quarter possession, launching wide open shots from virtually any spot, any time they pleased. After the Clippers tied the game at 17, they would get only 4 more points the rest of the period, while San Antonio ran their total to 34. The team’s defense was practically non-existent and bringing in the team’s vaunted bench did little to stop the onslaught. On offense, the ball barely moved and the Spurs’ defense challenged every shot and pass, running out on every shot, diving for every loose ball, and snatching rebounds as if they were hungry dogs after raw steaks. At one point, Danny Green ran full speed all the way across the court to block a Caron Butler 3-pointer, symbolizing the kind of defense and hustle that defines champions. The Clippers allowed wide open shooters and backdoor layups as if inviting the Spurs to run up the score; indeed, baskets came so easy via the Spurs rapid ball movement and crisp passing that they couldn’t have let up if they tried.
Too much Parker.
Tony Parker must be tired of constantly hearing how great Chris Paul is, because he is now making a strong case that HE is the best point guard currently playing in the NBA. His 31 points (on 12-16 shooting), 7 assists, and ZERO turnovers was a tour-de-force performance that left the crowd – literally – speechless. His constant darting around to open spots for high percentage shots and knack for finding teammates open confounded the Clippers all night long. Parker has now scored over 60 points in his last 7 quarters and has been carrying out his coach’s game plan to deadly perfection. Which brings us to…
Not enough Chris Paul.
Maybe Paul was a little too spent from his busy All-Star weekend (insert sarcasm here), but his dud of a performance in one of the biggest games of the Clippers season has to rank among his career low points. Paul scored only four points on 1-6 shooting, tallying a mere 6 assists, offset by the same number of turnovers. Give credit to San Antonio’s defense, which continually threw different looks and hounded him every time he touched the ball, but this is nothing Paul hasn’t seen on a regular basis before. Paul also committed five fouls and was visibly frustrated and angry all game long. Defensively, San Antonio made sure to hit Paul hard with plenty of screens and he only managed one steal. There’s no doubt Paul will take most of the responsibility for the loss and he usually bounces back well from his (rare) bad performances. Utah would be a great time opportunity to rebound with a strong showing.
A tribe called ineffective.
So much for the Clippers second unit, which was underwhelming at best and horrid at least. Eric Bledsoe was back to his turnover-prone ways as he failed to play under control and attempted to force his way into the teeth of the Spurs defense, time and again being stripped or just plain losing the ball. Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes were decent enough, scoring 15 and 18, respectively, but only Barnes seemed to play with any urgency – especially on defense. Lamar Odom was particularly bad, being pushed around inside and out rebounded by smaller Spurs players and scoring only 4 points. The rest of the bench was, well, merely forgettable.
Coaching? What coaching?
Some of this bad lost has to fall directly on coach Vinnie Del Negro, no? With an entire week to prepare, one would think his team would be at least a little prepared. Instead, there seemed little to indicate the squad cared. The Spurs have been on their annual “rodeo trip,” which is to say the equivalent of the LA “Grammy trip” that both the Lakers and Clippers embark upon each year. Their record thus far? 6-1 with two left (at Golden State and at Phoenix. The Spurs play with the precision of a Rolex watch and Greg Popovich is showing the league why he is by far the best coach in the entire league. Vinnie Del Negro will need to evolve beyond his “Chris Paul” offense if this team is to ascend into the championship conversation once again.