Spurs bury Clippers to take 2-0 series lead
SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has absolutely no interest in talking about his team’s winning streak, which reached 16 games Thursday with a 105-88 thrashing of the Los Angeles Clippers at the AT&T Center.
When asked to, he served up a classic Popovich response: “No.”
Point guard Tony Parker, who celebrated his 30th birthday by outplaying Clippers All-Star Chris Parker, was only slightly more verbose after the Spurs took a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
“Why do you want me to answer that question?” he joked. “Pop will be mad at me then.”
The details speak for themselves. Despite dominating the Clippers in all facets, San Antonio saw its margin of victory during the streak actually drop to 17.5 points per game.
Parker led all scorers with 22 points, and Tim Duncan continued his strong postseason with 18.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday afternoon at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Game 4 will immediately follow on Sunday.
“It’s a challenge, and we’re up for it,” Clippers forward Caron Butler said.
They certainly weren’t on Thursday. The Clippers made several modest runs but were never able to seriously challenge San Antonio as Paul struggled through another subpar outing.
Coming off a six-point, five-turnover performance in Game 1, Paul he had more fouls (three) than points (two) at halftime of Thursday’s game. He finished with 10 points and a career-worst eight turnovers.
Paul appeared to lose his composure on the third foul, deliberately lowering his shoulder into Parker’s chest.
“Just bad decisions,” said Paul, who averaged 19.8 points and 9.1 assists during the regular season. “They are shrinking the court and basically just packing it in. I just have to be more aggressive.”
It didn’t help the Clippers’ cause that power forward Blake Griffin, despite scoring a team-high 20 points, pulled down just one rebound in 37 minutes.
“Blake knows he has to do a better job on the glass, and he will,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.
The Spurs took control early, staggering the Clippers with a 14-0 run in the first quarter. Manu Ginobili hit a pair of free throws late in the period to give San Antonio its largest lead, 27-12.
Duncan had 10 points at that stage as the Spurs amassed a 14-0 edge in paint points.
The Clippers began to chip away late in the quarter, starting a 17-4 run that would whittle San Antonio’s advantage to four. Los Angeles engineered most of that stretch with Paul sitting on the bench.
Their surge continued with eight of the first 10 points in the second quarter, with Nick Young’s three free throws capping what was a 17-4 run in its entirety.
The Spurs led 33-29 at that point, and the Clippers would climb within two on multiple occasions as halftime approached. They nearly did it a third time in the final seconds, but they were forced to settle for 46-42 deficit at the break after DeAndre Jordan missed a pair of foul shots.
Griffin, hobbled by a sprained knee, sparked the Clippers’ push with eight points in the second quarter. However, his influence would wane as the game wore on.
Paul’s woes continued in the third when Kawhi Leonard intercepted his behind-the-back pass and streaked down court for a dunk. The Spurs would take a 65-49 lead later in the quarter on Parker’s mid-range jumper.
Paul finally came alive with eight points in the latter half of the third quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers, as the Clippers fought back within 67-60.
However, they could never make a decisive push, as the Spurs relied on their vaunted depth to keep Los Angeles at bay during the fourth.
Five Spurs scored in double figures, and only Parker played more than 33 minutes. Boris Diaw had 16 points, Daniel Green had 13, and Ginobili added 10 for San Antonio.
Randy Foye was the Clippers’ second-leading scorer with 11 points, while three of his teammates had nine apiece. Jordan grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
NOTES: The Spurs have won 27 of their last 29 games and 44 of their last 51. … Young had been scheduled to have a wisdom tooth removed between Games 1 and 2, but the procedure was delayed until the series shifts to Los Angeles.