CLIPPERS HOLD SPURS AS MODEL OF CONSISTENCY

LOS ANGELES – Down three starters and playing the final legs of a nine-game road trip, separated by the All-Star break, the San Antonio Spurs did not waver Tuesday night against the Clippers.

They never do. And that’s exactly where the Clippers (37-19) aim to be.

“They run their stuff and they trust it,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “Teams that haven’t been together that’s something that they have to learn and that’s something that we’re still learning.”

On Tuesday, in the Clippers’ 113-103 loss, San Antonio got 25 points Patty Mills and 20 from Marco Belinelli despite missing Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter.

It starts with the foundation of Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili and trickles up stream to Head Coach Gregg Popovich. Four championships and one Ray Allen 3-pointer away from a fifth, and the Spurs have set the bar for the entire NBA.

“I think it’s just logical that continuity always seems to help,” Popovich said. “Whether it’s players or coaches or management or ownership, if you get in a situation where there’s a good synergy between management, coaches and owners, you’re probably going to have a better opportunity to keep a core together, understand what the system is going to be and how to add to it each year.”

The pieces of the foundation are evident for the Clippers. They have Blake Griffin, 24, and one of the best players in the league. They have Chris Paul, 28, widely considered the NBA’s best point guard. They have DeAndre Jordan, 25, one of the league’s emerging defensive forces and the league-leader in rebounds and field goal percentage. And, of course, they have Rivers, who has a championship pedigree from his continued success in Boston.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get to where they are and accomplish what they’ve accomplished,” Griffin said. “But the goal is to eventually have that core group of guys and just everybody else when you come in and you play you fall right in line.

“I think [the Spurs] kind of have the model of the NBA for how you want to run things. They can have guys sitting out, and have guys injured, and it doesn’t matter. Guys are going to come in and do exactly what they’re supposed to.”

Rivers said his group in Boston in 2007-08, with the additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, eventually got to where they trusted each other in the way Griffin referred to the Spurs, but it took time. They were a veteran-oriented team and it may have been easier, yet it took a first-round Playoff series against the Hawks that lasted seven games for it to truly sink in.

“We started out great in Boston, but I didn’t think we were together,” Rivers said. “We were just talented and won games. I thought not until the Playoffs is when we bought in and I think it took a seven-game series to get us to see that.”

The Clippers are still in the process of coming together, as witnessed Tuesday. However, according to Jamal Crawford, they have already bought in.

“There have been no excuses,” Crawford said. “We’ve been a no-excuse team no matter who was out there, who wasn’t. We’ve learned a lot about each other, so we’ll continue to keep growing.”

Crawford, who is in his second season with the Clippers, is a part of the core as well. He said for a team to truly come together they have to “go through the fire” together. Boston did that in 2007-08 in the early rounds of the postseason and Crawford thinks the Clippers did in some ways last season when they squandered a 2-0 lead over the Memphis Grizzlies in the Playoffs.

“I think going through it last year kind of helped this process,” Crawford said. “I think it will help this process because we went through that fire. We went through something that didn’t go our way.”

Still, the Clippers are a different team this year. They are more than a decade away from the continuity that has strengthened San Antonio, allowing them to shuttle in role players around the core of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.

“They just change the other guys around,” Paul said. “They have a foundation in Timmy, Manu and T.P. (Parker), so you just bring in other guys that fall in line.

“Me, Blake and D.J. are at two and a half years and they’re at what 17 or something? We’re working on it, but obviously there’s a little bit of a difference there.”