CLIPPERS SHORE UP 3 KEY AREAS AGAINST SPURS
Rebounding, turnovers, first-quarter energy. Call them concerns, call them points of emphasis. Either way they were three areas of significance for Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro prior to Wednesday’s resounding, 106-84, win over the San Antonio Spurs.
And for the most part the Clippers (3-2) executed.
DeAndre Jordan, who had yet to resemble the confident and relatively dominant player he was in the preseason, set the tone, not so much with his early statistics, but his energy and activity. Chris Paul, who took personal onus after the team committed 25 turnovers two nights earlier against the Warriors, tallied five assists before his first miscue, and the Clippers had just six first-half turnovers. And Jordan and Blake Griffin combined to grab 21 of the team’s 46 rebounds, keeping San Antonio off the offensive glass.
“The point of emphasis is getting stops,” said Matt Barnes, who has 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals off the bench. “When we control the glass and limit teams to one shot, we’re a tough team to slow down in transition.”
Through five games, Del Negro’s preseason emphasis on pushing the pace has come to fruition. The Clippers are fourth in the NBA (behind Miami, New York and Dallas) in points per 100 possessions (106). And it was none more evident than Wednesday when the Clippers were deadly, converting 10 of their 11 field goal attempts in transition for 24 fast-break points.
Two days ago Del Negro quipped: “You can’t run if you don’t get stops.” On Wednesday the Spurs shot a season-low 41.1% from the field. On the flip side, the Clippers prevented the Spurs from getting out on the break and according to Del Negro, that’s where managing turnovers played a factor.
“The Spurs are so efficient, and if you give them any daylight with Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili], they get in the middle of the court but we did a good job limiting them as much as possible,” Del Negro said. “Our rebounding and turnovers were better tonight. We still made some terrible mistakes at times in terms of coverage and what we’re trying to do but I thought it was a solid performance.”
The Clippers committed 15 turnovers in the game, with four coming in the fourth quarter when the game was all but decided. Two other turnovers came before the Clippers scored their first points, some 3 minutes into the opening quarter.
After Danny Green’s 3-pointer and Boris Diaw’s layup two possessions later, the Spurs led 5-0, but it hardly felt like the previous two games when Cleveland and Golden State bombarded the Clippers in the early going. In those games, the focus and energy picked up in the fourth quarter when the Cavaliers and Warriors already believed they could win. On Wednesday the Clippers sustained it through much of the 48 minutes.
“They played with a lot more energy and they shot the ball very well,” Parker said. “We just couldn’t get our offense going tonight. We couldn’t match their energy.”
And more than any other factor, that’s likely the thing Del Negro wanted most.