The Clippers are the best pick-up team in the world. They are incredibly athletic, play best at a fast pace, thrive off turnovers and only play defense if there is a possibility of blocking someone's shot. The only offensive play they seem to enjoy is the alley-oop. The problem that the Spurs had is that they played them so early in the season. The Spurs have been winning, but not with ease. The Spurs' offense has looked unrefined and their defense is no-where close to where it will be at the end of the season. The Spurs are not yet ready to play Spurs basketball.
The Spurs swept the Clippers out of the playoffs last year by playing smart, team basketball. The Clippers are helpless when they face a disciplined team. They only have one style of play and it can best be described as pick-up basketball. The formula for beating the Clippers is fairly simple, as the Spurs proved last season. Do not turn the ball over, control the pace of the game, keep the crowd quiet and execute offensively. The Spurs failed in all of those aspects last night as they were blown-out, 84-106.
The Spurs were so committed to playing a pick-up game, they lost their composure several times,which is normally an impossibility. It seriously was an all-out pick-up game. The only force keeping the teams from escalating into a full 'we're going to punk you, talk about your mom and pretend like we can't remember the score so we can steal a few points' White Men Can't Jump type affair was Gregg Popovich. Vinny Del Negro was all for it. Well, to be more accurate, Vinny coached as he always does. He's basically nonexistent. The Clippers play as they want to and Vinny stands there somewhere between confused and disinterested.
The actual game is really not worth reviewing. As I've made clear, the Spurs failed to play Spurs basketball. They played Clippers pick-up basketball and were destroyed. All you need to know is that the Spurs turned the ball over 20 times and that the Clippers had 13 steals, 8 blocks and shot 55% from the field.
I mentioned that the pick-up game became chippy several times. Guess which Spur took center stage and reveled in it? Stephen Jackson is always ready for a brawl. In the fourth, a play after receiving a cheap shot from the notoriously dirty Matt Barnes, Manu grabbed Chris Paul's arm and took him to the ground. Blake Griffin, who isn't crazy but probably has been watching too much Inside the NBA where Charles Barkley preaches that Big Men have to protect their point guard, went after Manu.
Stephen Jackson jumped in between them and looked legitimately ready to throw-down. Blake gave a, "Hey man, I thought we could just square-off and get separated" look to Stephen. Jackson yelled at him while looking completely unstable, and that was the end of that conflict. I love having Captain Jack back on the Spurs. Not only did he defuse the situation with his willingness to take it to the next level, but the Clippers did not take another cheap shot the rest of the night.
Tony played very poorly. The point guard should control the game and he obviously did not. Tony had four turnovers in 24 minutes but more than that, he failed to set the tone for the Spurs. The Spurs began the game poorly and were never able to recover, and I think Parker is most to blame.
Understandably, Manu is still trying to shake the rust off. His back doesn't seem to be bothering his play, but his game relies so much on timing that missing games takes a greater toll on his productivity than it does other players. He'll improve as he plays more games and soon enough, we'll see All Star level play out of him.
The Clippers pressured the Spurs' backup point guard, Gary Neal, all over the court. It clearly bothered him, as he is not a point guard, and our second unit simply could not get into their sets. I am hopeful that this will become overt at some point soon and forces Popovich to play one of our true point guards, Patty Mills or Nando De Colo.
Your Three Stars
Danny Green played well. His defense was the only thing that seemed to slow Chris Paul and Danny's shot was finding the bottom of the net. He was one of the few Spurs that showed up tonight.
The other was Boris Diaw. While his stat-line may not jump out at you, Diaw played very well. He's simply a smart player and smart players do well against the Clippers. This is why the Clippers normally do not give the Spurs much trouble. Diaw makes many intelligent plays each game. Next time the Spurs play, watch what he does off the ball. Every movement he makes has a purpose. He is always working for position or attempting to manipulate the opposition so they are out of position. It really is quite incredible.
Gregg Popovich earns a spot on this list for realizing this game was a lost cause early on and resting his stars. In my opinion, Vinny played his stars too many minutes in what was a blow-out. Although the Spurs managed to cut it to 11 in the fourth, the quick 5-0 response from the Clippers should have sent their stars to the bench. Instead, they played another five minutes. Tony played 24 minutes and Tim played 23 while Blake played 30 and Paul played 29. It doesn't seem like much, but these extra minutes represent needless wear and tear and more critically, opportunities for injury.
The Spurs did not follow their game-plan and we saw the results. My bet is that they take it out on the Sacramento Kings this Friday.