The San Antonio Spurs got to bust out their brooms again, finishing off their sweep of the Los Angeles Clippers with a 102-99 victory last night. The Spurs have to be very proud of their effort because, aside from the first quarter of Game 3, this was the best the Clippers played all series.
The Clippers looked like they were really fighting hard to squeak out one win for pride’s sake, but San Antonio just wasn’t having it. With some clutch play from the Big 3 down the stretch, the Spurs now get to wait to see who they’ll be playing in the Western Conference Finals.
What went right
The Clippers’ 3-point percentage was a big reason they were even able to stay close at times throughout the series. In game 2, they went 9-13 from behind the arc, but it’s clear the Spurs were really working to make sure that didn’t happen again. They were closing out really well on the Clippers’ shooters and doing a great job of getting a hand in their faces. The Clippers only shot 4-16 from long range, and that was a big reason the Spurs were able to pull out a close win.
I’m becoming a broken record on this but I can’t say enough how big Tim Duncan was in this series. He’s clearly a smart enough guy to know that he could take advantage of his matchups because no one on the Clippers could guard him. Duncan shot 9-14 from the floor for 21 points and he added 9 rebounds. What really impressed me in this game though was his ability to step out and hit the jump shot. I know that’s always been in his arsenal, but he seemed like he was showing off and taunting Blake Griffin, saying “look what I can do and you can’t.”
The Spurs’ bench is going to be a big part of their success and in Game 4 they came up big. The bench scored 43 of the Spurs’ 102 points including 14 points from a sharp-shooting Gary Neal and 11 from Tiago Splitter. Splitter had some rough points in the game, but if he’s going to put up 11 points and 7 rebounds, the Spurs will be happy with that.
Lastly, I have to tip my hat to Coach Popovich. The guy is one of the best of all time and he made Vinny Del Negro look silly. Some might look down on Pop’s strategy of intentionally fouling the Clipper big men, but until they change the rule, it was the smart play. Pop’s decision to foul Reggie Evans in the 4th quarter forced Del Negro to take out his big men with about 4 minutes to go and play a small lineup with Caron Butler. The Spurs then scored 8 points in a row inside of 6 feet to go up 100-97 and they would hold that lead until the end.
What went wrong
The Spurs are a very disciplined team that plays smart basketball. They thrive on taking care of the ball and limiting turnovers. Last night they got a little careless. The Spurs turned the ball over 16 times and the Clippers scored 24 points off those turnovers. That means a quarter of the Clippers’ points came off Spurs mistakes. They can’t let that happen against Oklahoma City (or the Lakers if they can pull off a miracle) because they thrive on capitalizing on turnovers.
All series the Spurs have done a great job of keeping the Clipper big men on the ground. The Clippers weren’t really able to get “Lob City” going and, for the most part, the dunks were few and far between. Last night the Spurs got a little lax in their rotations and the Clippers were able to get a few alley-oops and a couple of big dunks from Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Like they say, it’s all 2 points in the books, but I know that was something the Spurs were very focused on and it looked like they let their guard down a few times last night.
Now it’s time to get ready for the Conference Finals. The Spurs will undoubtedly have to play their best basketball of the season if they want to make it to the NBA Finals. As long as they can keep their momentum going, playing at their best should be no problem.