In a game that was dominated by a wily old coach taking advantage of his opponent's most glaring weakness you could have missed a great performance from Tim Duncan, who filled the stat sheet with 30 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and unbridled awesomeness.
There will probably be some talk about the the Spurs' extensive use of the Hack-a-Jordan strategy which sent DeAndre Jordan to the line about a million times. Jordan only made 10 of his 28 free throws, so the strategy worked well, and even forced Doc Rivers to take Jordan out late in the 4th until he returned at the two-minute mark. While the Hack-a-Jordan strategy was effective in keeping the Clippers from scoring, the Spurs couldn't take advantage, missing several opportunities to close the game at the end, while Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul made big shots for the Clippers in the closing minutes.
The game started pretty well for the Spurs with Tim Duncan hitting his first jumper, and then a few plays later he came open in the corner and drained a three-pointer with such a fluid stroke that it didn't look like it came from the same guy that's been plagued by that herky-jerky-flat-trajectory-shot for the past couple of seasons.
Unfortunately, Kawhi wasn't in the same zone, and he missed open shot after open shot. He missed all six of his shots in the quarter and turned the ball over twice. It was just a bad game for Kawhi Leonard, he played poorly all game and despite Coach Popovich continuing to call plays for him, he never got out of his offensive funk and even his defense seemed to be a step slow tonight. As the night wore on, he never broke out, and mercifully, Pop limited his minutes in the second half. Hopefully the kid can have a bounce-back game tomorrow night against the Warriors in Oakland.
While Kawhi had his worst game of the season, Tony Parker had one of his better games of the year. He displayed breakaway speed on a few plays, and while he's not back being the elite finisher at the basket that we've come to expect, he was able to create separation and get open shots in this game and made enough of them to be an offensive threat and create space for Aron Baynes to get some open shots at the basket. Aron is continuing to improve as a player and he's proving to be a legitimate NBA big man. I expected him to be just be a big body when the Spurs signed him, but he's proven that he has good skills on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
The first half of the game was well-contested as both teams made shots and kept the game close, and the Spurs led 55-52 at the break.
The third quarter of the game was looking good for the Spurs as they outplayed the Clippers for the first six minutes and pushed their lead out to nine. In the space of just 37 seconds, Jamal Crawford hit a three and then J.J. Redick hit another, and the Spurs held a slim three point advantage. The rest of the quarter went poorly for the good guys as they continued to leave Clippers sharpshooters open and Jamal Crawford and even Glen Davis made their shots. The Spurs ended up giving up 38 points in what has become a problem quarter.
The fourth quarter was a very close affair. The stars of both teams showed up, but Jamal Crawford continued his hot shooting and that made the difference. Pop kept the game close by employing Hack-a-Jordan again, and with four minutes left, Doc Rivers gave in and pulled DeAndre out of the game and went with a small lineup. The strategy of intentionally fouling Jordan limited the scoring chances of the Clippers but the Spurs were not able to take advantage and did not hit shots down the stretch.
The Spurs were still in the game when Danny Green hit a layup with 54 seconds left to bring the Spurs to within one point, but Jamal Crawford drained another three pointer to extend the lead to 115-11 with 32 seconds left. Marco Belinelli hit a quick three to cut the deficit to one with 30 seconds left but the Clippers ran down the shot clock and Chris Paul hit a dagger to increase the lead to 3 with 6 seconds left.
The Clippers fouled Manu Ginobili on the inbounds play, giving him two free throws with no timeouts and 6 seconds left. Manu hit the first, and intentionally missed the second off the back iron. It was well-executed but it just went a little too far out and J.J. Redick corralled the rebound, hit his free throws, and the Spurs lost the game, 119-115.
- Jamal Crawford gets a lot of mileage from kicking his legs out while hoisting up a shot from outside. It's the old Reggie Miller move, and I thought it was not supposed to be legal any more, but he uses it to create space and draw fouls, so I guess it works.
- Glen Davis [Big Baby] really celebrates like crazy whenever he makes any kind of play. When he knocked the ball out of bounds off of Kawhi it was as if he had just won a championship. I suppose a guy who hardly ever gets off the bench when everyone is healthy has to enjoy his time in the sun whenever it happens.
- The move where a dunker extends the knee forward to move a guy out of the way to dunk the ball sure looks like a foul to me. Maybe I just don't understand the rule.
- DeAndre Jordan just shoved Tiago Splitter to the ground because he impeded his path getting back on offense. I fail to understand how that could have been called a double foul, but it was.
- As good as Duncan is, Kawhi is the best player on the Spurs now. The Spurs aren't going to win many games when he plays as badly as he did tonight. I sincerely hope this was an aberration.
- Certain key players that stepped up in last year's title run aren't performing well on this year's Spurs. I'm looking at you, Boris Diaw. And Patty, I know you're coming off an injury, but we really need you to get your shooting stroke back.
The Spurs record is now 34-20, they are still 7th in the Western Conference and they are 2-2 on the 2015 Rodeo Road Trip. The Spurs head to Oakland to play the Golden State Warriors at 9:30 pm [Spurs time] in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN.