FINAL | March 29, 2013 | AT&T Center | San Antonio, TX















SAN ANTONIO – The Clippers were a possession away from corralling their third win of the year against the San Antonio Spurs.

But Tim Duncan converted a 3-point play with 2.2 seconds left and Chris Paul missed a turnaround jumper through contact with Tony Parker and the Clippers fell, 104-102, at AT&T Center Friday night.

The loss prevented the Clippers (49-24) from maintaining their lead over Denver and Memphis for third place in the congested Western Conference standings and evened the season series with San Antonio (55-17).

“It’s not easy to let it go,” said Paul, who scored 14 points with 12 assists and five rebounds. “But keep it in the back of our mind that we should have won this game.”

Duncan scored a season-high 34 points with 11 rebounds and two blocks and was 10-for-10 from the foul line. Blake Griffin scored 18 for L.A. adding seven boards and four assists, while Jamal Crawford, who tied the game at 99 with a 3-pointer, tallied 16 points and three assists off the bench.  

For the Clippers, who have seemingly had questions raised for the last two months about a perceived lack of ability to compete with the NBA’s top three teams, Friday’s game may have served as a barometer. The game was there for the taking in a building where San Antonio has lost only twice since November 19 when the Clippers grinded out a five-point victory.

“Hopefully, we’ll see them down the line,” Griffin said of the Spurs. “I mean, we can learn from this. We can see what we did well, see what we didn’t do well and hopefully learn from our mistakes, but this isn’t the time in the season to try take that and make it a positive.”

Paul knocked down a free throw to give the Clippers a one-point lead following an off-ball foul by Tony Parker with 31 seconds left. He then drained the clock to near expiration after the ensuing inbounds play but was stripped on his way to the basket. Duncan wheeled around a pair of pin-down screens on the next possession and drilled a jumper over Willie Green, drawing a foul in the process.

He made the free throw and with 2.2 seconds to go, Paul received a direct pass to the post with Parker behind him, but missed the potential tying turnaround.

“The game is such a game of inches,” Crawford said. “For us, I think we just have to look at possessions and how we can tighten up a little bit.”

As Paul sat with a dejected look in front of his locker he lamented the possession prior, when the clock was milked, he got Spurs forward Boris Diaw on a switch in the pick and roll and failed to get a shot off, resulting in a 24-second violation.

“I take a lot of responsibility today,” Paul said. “I thrive in those last minutes, last few moments of games and that one right there is going to hurt the most because I got Boris Diaw on me and didn’t even get a shot up. I might not make the shot, but I’ve at least got to get a shot up.”

Before that, though, Paul and Crawford combined for back-to-back clutch baskets in the final minute to give the Clippers a two-point lead. Crawford drilled an open corner 3-pointer to tie it and after a well-played defensive possession that ended with Paul swatting away a layup attempt by Tiago Splitter, Paul raced down the center of the floor for a tough runner over Danny Green.

But a lay in by Duncan and his 3-point play won it for the Spurs.

“Just look at his line and just be amazed that he’s doing what he’s doing,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said of the 37-year-old Duncan. “You couldn’t be more proud of the guy and what he did out there.”

The Clippers shot 50.6% from the floor, held San Antonio to 19 points in the fourth quarter and got several key stops in the final six minutes. But it wasn’t enough to withstand Duncan and Parker. The All-Star duo combined for 58 points and made 15 of the Spurs 20 free throws.

And free throws would play a significant role in the outcome.

With the game tied at 77 late in the third quarter, Popovich elected to intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan. The strategy worked. As Jordan missed four free throws on consecutive possessions, the Clippers offensive rhythm was disrupted enough to allow a 14-5 run by the Spurs that extended into the fourth quarter.

Jordan finished with nine points and eight rebounds, but went just 1-for-8 from the foul line, including 1-for-6 in intentional foul situations.

“It changes the flow of the game,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “And then if you’re able to knock some free throws down, it changes the complexion again. It’s just something we’ve got to work through and manage it as best as possible”

While the second half took on a grind-it-out playoff-type feel, the first 24 minutes looked like a bout between a heavyweight champion and an invigorated top challenger. They traded haymakers through much of the early going via high-caliber offensive execution. The teams combined for just seven turnovers, shot better than 59%, had four 3-pointers apiece and while Duncan (19) and Parker (17) combined for 36 of San Antonio’s 61 points, the Clippers got five or more points from nine players.

The evenly-matched first half statistically showed up on the scoreboard with the Clippers leading, 62-61. The Spurs, however, made just enough plays down the stretch to win.

“We had a tough loss on the first game of this road trip, battled back and we’ve got to do the same tomorrow [in Houston],” Del Negro said, alluding to his team’s overtime defeat in Dallas on Tuesday. “I’m proud of the guys the way they battled tonight. They gave us an opportunity to win a game on the road. We weren’t able to convert when we needed to, but you’ve got to keep working.”



Chauncey Billups (groin) did not play… Spurs guard Manu Ginobili left the game with 3:26 left in the first quarter after experiencing right hamstring tightness. He did not return… The Clippers bench outscored San Antonio’s, 40-22… The Spurs went 6-for-15 (40.0%) from 3-point range… Willie Green scored 10 points for his 12th double-digit scoring outing of the year. He’s made 12 of his last 19 3-point attempts as well… The Clippers have not won a season series against the Spurs in the Duncan era, last doing so in 1996-97 the year before the future Hall of Famer was drafted….


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