Five Takeaways: Clippers’ Reserves Finish Off Spurs, 106-101
LOS ANGELES – With Blake Griffin already down and the Clippers (22-8) sustaining another loss to a superstar in the third quarter, they still found a way to snap San Antonio’s five-game winning streak, as the backups stepped up and finished off the Spurs.
Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers’ 106-101 win.
1) Better in the backcourt again – Before the game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said he expected Chris Paul to take a lot more on himself, whether scoring or motivating his team. That’s exactly what happened, with Paul putting together 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists through three quarters, while the Spurs’ starting backcourt of Tony Parker and Danny Green combined for 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists on 5-for-16 shooting on the night. Paul and J.J. Redick combined for 30 points, and it was a repeat of what happened the first time the Clippers played the Spurs this season, when the Clippers held Patty Mills and Kyle Anderson – then San Antonio’s starting backcourt – to a combined four points.
2) But Paul leaves with injury – Unfortunately for the Clippers, Paul’s night ended early. In the third quarter, going around a screen while chasing Tony Parker, Paul grabbed at his left hamstring – the same one, coincidentally, he hurt against the Spurs in a first-round Game 7 two years ago. Paul left with a hamstring strain, and though questionable to return, never did. The Clippers relied on their reserves down the stretch with Paul and Blake Griffin (knee procedure) both out, and the backups closed out the win, but Paul’s health will be something to watch with Griffin already out another four to six weeks.
3) Pierce starts again – The last time the Clippers played the Spurs, it was Griffin leading the way with a team-high 28 points. They didn’t have that luxury this time around, and head coach Doc Rivers went with Paul Pierce as the starter for a second straight game. Rivers said he thought there was some cohesion with that group after the experiences they had together last year and in their last game against Denver, and in this particular matchup he liked the way Pierce could spread the floor. Pierce only played 10 minutes, with Wesley Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Marreese Speights and Raymond Felton all getting at least 24 minutes off the bench, but Pierce still ended up passing Robert Parish for No. 15 all-time in minutes played in the game.
4) Speights, second unit roll – The early minutes of the second half were crucial for the backups to keep the lead with the Clippers taking a five-point advantage into the quarter, and they not only did that, but added to it. Crawford and Speights had seven points apiece, while Felton attacked the paint on his way to four first-half points. By halftime, the Clippers were in control with a 12-point advantage, and it was the backups doing much of the same down the stretch. Speights was huge in the fourth quarter on both ends, finishing the night with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, drawing a charge in the fourth quarter and hitting a huge 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:51 left to put the Clippers’ lead at 13.
5) Spreading the scoring – With Paul down, the Clippers could use help elsewhere, and they got it from just about everyone off the bench. The Clippers’ reserves combined for 58 points, and five of the six reserves to enter the game scored at least eight points. In total, nine different Clippers finished the night with at least seven points, and they prohibited San Antonio from doing much at the other end, holding the Spurs to 40.2 percent shooting.
What’s Next? – The Clippers host the Mavericks on Friday in the second game of a back-to-back.