Rested Spurs cruise past Clippers in Game 1
SAN ANTONIO — Here’s a scary possibility for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Despite a dominant 108-92 victory Tuesday at the AT&T Center in Game 1 of their second-round Western Conference playoff series, Manu Ginobili said the San Antonio Spurs were far from their best.
“It was hard to start,” said Ginobili, referring to his team’s eight-day layoff after sweeping Utah in the first round. “The rust, you never know where it comes from. Hopefully we’ll get rid of it and play better in Game 2.”
Ginobili’s assertion of sluggishness did not match the stat sheet, which credited the Spurs with 13 3-pointers to tie a postseason franchise record and 29 assists on 39 field goals.
Tim Duncan, in search of his fifth championship ring, led all scorers with 26 points. Reserve guard Eric Bledsoe scored a team-high 23 for the Clippers.
It was San Antonio’s 15th consecutive victory, 29th in 32 games dating back to March 12, and 43rd in 50 dating back to Jan. 30. Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Thursday in San Antonio.
In contrast to the well-rested Spurs, the Clippers looked very much like a team playing its sixth game in 11 days, including a grueling Game 7 victory over Memphis on Sunday.
Though Bledsoe downplayed any concerns about fatigue — “We have to suck it up and play,” he said — it didn’t help that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were both hobbled by injury.
A potential duel between All-Star point guards never materialized as Paul and San Antonio’s Tony Parker both struggled. Paul scored six points on 3-for-13 shooting, and Parker missed eight of nine shots en route to seven points.
But while the Clippers gradually withered, the Spurs thrived despite an off night from their floor general.
San Antonio used a pair of big runs to take control in the third quarter. They led 69-58 after scoring eight straight, then 83-64 with a 12-3 burst.
The latter stretch was marked by a string of beautiful passes, including Stephen Jackson’s feed to Boris Diaw for an uncontested layup. Such team play more than made up for Caron Butler’s 13-point outburst in the third.
“That’s who we are,” said Ginobili, who scored 22 off the bench. “Sometimes it’s not going to be (Parker), it’s not going to be Tim. But if we move the ball and find our open teammates … we really don’t care (who scores).”
Seeking a comeback similar to their epic Game 1 victory against Memphis, in which they rallied from 27 down in the fourth quarter, the Clippers scored 10 unanswered to pull within 90-82.
But the red-hot Spurs steadied themselves and were soon back up by 12 after Duncan dug a loose ball off the floor and flipped in a layup. The Clippers would get no closer than 10 over the final six minutes.
“We weren’t able to slow them down,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I thought the tempo was in their favor. We missed a lot of easy shots which got them into the open court.”
The Clippers did fight the Spurs to a 29-29 standstill in the first quarter, the first time in five playoff games San Antonio didn’t hold the lead at the end of a period.
Center DeAndre Jordan did much of the work for Los Angeles, registering seven points and eight rebounds in the quarter. His breakaway dunk capped a 6-0 run that tied the game at 25.
Parker put the Spurs ahead 29-27 with a late three-point play before Clippers counterpart Paul raced down court to beat the buzzer with a contested floater.
The second quarter opened with a wild flurry in which the lead traded hands six times in the first six minutes.
The Spurs then scored nine unanswered points to take a 50-42 lead. Danny Green’s 3-pointer capped the run.
Los Angeles climbed back within 52-49 on Griffin’s alley-oop dunk off a towering assist from Eric Bledsoe.
But the Spurs again pulled away with the final five points of the half, with another 3-pointer by Green giving them a 57-49 advantage.
NOTES: Del Negro spent six of his 12 NBA seasons with the Spurs, starting 331 games from 1992-98. … The Spurs have won 27 of 29 home games against the Clippers in the Duncan era.