Spurs finish off Clippers with 102-99 victory
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers said before Sunday’s Game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs that they’d need to play desperately in order to pull off the upset and extend the series to a fifth game in San Antonio.
And, down 3-0 in the series and facing elimination, they did play with desperation, fighting back from a double-digit deficit to take a late lead and push the Spurs to the brink of their first loss in more than a month.
But, in the end, the Spurs’ savvy and veteran know-how was too much for the young Clippers, and San Antonio finished off the four-game series sweep with a 102-99 victory at Staples Center.
“Their experience showed with their execution,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said after the game. “We couldn’t execute a little bit down the stretch to convert things and they did.
“Their experience showed, there’s no question about that.”
Tim Duncan had 21 points and nine rebounds to lead the Spurs. He scored at least 18 points in all four games of the series. Tony Parker had 17 points and five assists and four other Spurs finished with at least 11 points.
“We were fortunate that we could get through this one tonight,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It looked unlikely at different points in the game, but down the stretch, we finally got some loose balls that they got most of the game.”
For the Clippers, forward Blake Griffin was the focal point of his team’s offense all night long, attempting 20 shots and converting nine of them to finish with 21 points. He added five rebounds and two assists.
But it was Chris Paul who had the game-high 23 points and 11 assists in by far his best game of the Western Conference semifinal series. Reserve guard Eric Bledsoe added 17 in 22 dynamic minutes.
“I think this was Chris Paul’s best game of the series,” Spurs guard Stephen Jackson said. “We knew he wasn’t just going to lay down or the rest of them lay down, which makes this win sweeter than blowing teams out.”
Facing a win-or-go-home situation, the Clippers started Sunday’s game on a quick 9-4 run before San Antonio rattled off 14 straight points to regain control.
The Spurs held that lead throughout the first half, taking a 51-47 advantage into the locker room.
San Antonio got balanced early scoring from its entire rotation, with seven Spurs scoring at least four points in the first 24 minutes. Of that group, guard Danny Green tied for the team high with seven points and three assists. Manu Ginobili also had seven points on 3-of-5 shooting.
Duncan, Parker, Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal all had six points at the break as the Spurs shot 54 percent as a team. The 36-year-old Duncan played only 11 first-half minutes.
“We had a lot of guys contribute, and that is what we’ve been able to do most of the year,” Popovich said. “Hopefully we can continue to do that because it just keeps getting tougher, as we all know.”
The Spurs now await the winner of the Oklahoma City Thunder-Los Angeles Lakers series for their Western Conference final opponent.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan led the team with a playoff-high eight points and six rebounds in the first half. Paul didn’t jump out of his offensive funk entirely but did have seven early points and five assists.
Griffin finished the first half with seven points and two rebounds. He exited the game with two-plus minutes to go in the second quarter and headed to the locker room after taking a blow to the lip from Parker.
NOTES: Had the Los Angeles Kings-Phoenix Coyotes hockey game at Staples Center lasted past 4 p.m. Sunday, tip-off of the Clippers-Spurs game would have been delayed because of the time needed to change over the court. Had it lasted past 4:30, the Clippers and Spurs wouldn’t have played until Monday, NBA officials said. … The Clippers sold out every one of their 38 home games this season, counting postseason play and the regular season. … Griffin received four stitches on the inside and outside of his lip following the incident with Parker.