Wednesday, May 16, 2012
5/16/2012 12:18:00 PM | Posted by James Bucklin | Edit Post
(REUTERS-Mike Stone - Edited by: Payton Wales)The LA Clippers stayed with the San Antonio Spurs for much of last night's Game 1, and even had a lead mid-way through the second quarter, but the Spurs pulled away in the third and never looked back, winning with a convincing score of 108-92. Here are a few notable happenings from the game that some of you early to bed folks may have missed.
The point guards that were supposed to be headlining this series each had forgettable nights. Tony Parker probably had a slightly better night, if you can even say that about someone who shot 1-for-9 from the floor. But when a guy gets a win after holding Chris Paul to six points and 10 assists, you can't really say he was bad that night. The Spurs were trying to double Paul as early as his first dribble, preventing him from utilizing the pick-and-roll like he did when he beat Memphis, and clearly it worked. San Antonio is going to make LA's wings beat them, and in their defense, Caron Butler, Nick Young and Eric Bledsoe had great games shooting the basketball.
Blake Griffin started off hot, but got quiet quick. He ended with a very pedestrian 15 points and nine rebounds on 7-for-17 shooting. Griffin soared for a couple early dunks in the first half, but was slowed by the Spurs as the game went on and they shut down his pick-and-roll opportunities with Chris Paul. In doing so, the Spurs exposed Blake's lackluster one-on-one face up and post game. If the Spurs are going to continue to completely take CP3 out of this series, Blake will have to learn to score by himself.
Late in the first quarter Tiago Splitter stepped up to the free throw line and short-armed both attempts resulting in two embarrassing air-balls (Which he has done before). This was a trend in the NBA this season, believe it or not, and I'm not sure what that says about the state of the league. Links to some others: Blake's blunders; Diop's slop; poor Magloire.
Bledsoe can ball
Eric Bledsoe stuffed the box score in his 26 minutes for the Clippers shooting 10-for-16 resulting in 23 points to go with his five rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block. LA will need that kind of production off the bench if they plan to hang with San Antonio's bench that includes Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson. Bledsoe was impressive and he'll need to continue to be to beat the Spurs, but he will also need to be accompanied by some production from the team's superstars.
Kawhi Leonard was a steal
And he had three of them last night in a great defensive performance. He also had three three-pointers on three attempts. Not bad for a rookie who was drafted with the 15th overall pick in last summer's NBA Draft. Leonard is the only rookie left still contributing big time production for a playoff team, and is anyone surprised? He was fantastic at San Diego State, turning a previously no-name school into a national story, and was a classic "tweener" slip that Popovich took advantage of in the draft, which is also no surprise. Danny Green, a Cavalier cast-off, is another great pick-up for Pop who continues to start and play stifling defense, earning him 29 minutes last night and three threes of his own.
Timmy turns back the clock
It probably shouldn't have taken this post along as it did to mention Tim Duncan's dazzling game, but that is the story of his career. A quiet killer, Duncan shredded the Clippers last night with 26 points and 10 boards to go with two steals and two blocks. He was also a +26 in the game if you're into plus/minus. With Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan still fairly new to defending NBA big men in the post, The Big Fundamental ought to be able to use those base skills to take advantage of the Clips' inexperience. The Spurs offense should run through Duncan in this series and if he keeps up this pace it might be a quick one. Timmy also dropped a "good guy shot" on Blake Griffin, accidentally whacking Blake in the head as he backtracked up the court, but then followed it up with an immediate apology and head tap. If things were a bit more chippy, that probably wouldn't have gone so smoothly.
Game 2 will be Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. EST on ESPN. For further conversation in this series, tweet me @James_Bucklin.