"Bleary eyes, full hearts, didn't lose." - Spursday Morning Lights
The Spurs ultimately prevailed 111- 107 against the Clippers in Game 2, but needed overtime after a back-and-forth battle that spilled into the wee hours of Thursday morning. After a 9:30 (Spurs Time) tip, some fans may have fallen asleep before the game reached its frenetic conclusion. Down the stretch, the Spurs blew a double-digit lead in the final 6 minutes and their 1-6 overtime record certainly couldn't offer solace. Tony Parker went to the locker room with an injury, Manu Ginobili fouled out, Tim Duncan picked up his fifth foul with more than three minutes left, and the Spurs were hacking DeAndre Jordan to bring the game to a snail's pace.
But for those who stuck around to the finish (zombie-eyed though they may be the next morning), a classic win was witnessed with heroic performances; two from the Usual Suspects and one from further...Down Under.
Tim Duncan was consistent enough to set your watch by, with 28 points on 14-for-23 shooting and 11 rebounds. Though he will be turning 39 shortly after Friday's Game 3, at least one teammate isn't sure if he is aging at all.
"To me he's getting younger" said Boris Diaw.
(Tim would've "broke the internet" if that shot clock desperation 3-pointer went in)
For all of the advanced metrics and beautiful advances in offense that the Spurs have helped usher in, the most effective method in Game 2 was often to dump it into Duncan and watch in amazement. It was a bit more nuanced than "4 Down for What," but he was by far the best player on the floor for each of his 44 minutes. He had his way with Defensive Player of the Year candidate DeAndre Jordan in the post, and though the Jordan block late in the game will make the highlights, it was the exception rather than the rule (which might be a decent metaphor for the Clippers in general).
Who took the reigns as the Spurs' second best player fluctuated throughout the night nearly as much as the boxscore, but down the final stretch it was certainly Patty Mills. He scored (his first) six points in the final 34 seconds of the third quarter, came in for an injured Parker with five minutes left, and didn't do much until icing a pair of pressure-cooker free throws to send the game to overtime. He then proceeded to score 8 of the Spurs 17 overtime points, including the final four after three pointers from Chris Paul and J.J. Redick kept the Clippers in the game. It has taken the better part of a year, but Mills seems to be fully recovered and to have found his 2014 Playoff form.
Though quiet for periods, Kawhi Leonard shined at all the right moments and had the highlight-of-the night (Blake Griffin be damned).
He just missed a double-double with 23 points and 9 rebounds, but didn't play quite to the superstar level he's reached in recent weeks. He can, and in my opinion, will be better. The reassuring thing for the Spurs is that outside of Duncan and Mills, every other player can be quite a bit better. Manu and Boris had a few really solid stretches and Marco Belinelli was as determined on the defensive end as we've seen in a while, but this was Spurs at maybe 80% capacity.
The Clippers should be a bit more worried as their "Big 2 and DeAndre" played fantastic (70 points, 35 rebounds, 18 assists), but still came up short. Reddick looked better and Barnes contributed in the only way he knows how--being a troll--but this team will need either the 2nd Most Hated Blue Devil or Jamal Crawford to explode every game that they hope to compete with a competent Spurs team. If the Spurs continue to improve from their awful Game 1 performance, the Clippers may have trouble seeing this series to six games.
If Tony Parker can come back healthy and play even 75% of how he did in his better games this season, the Spurs may see it out in 5. He has been a virtually non-existent 4-of-17 while playing 58 minutes.
- This is playoff basketball; there are no more minutes restrictions. 82 games had nearly made me forget what it feels like to look up and see both Duncan and Kawhi (and Boris) on the court nearly every time (44, 39, and 37 minutes, respectively). Nonetheless, the Clippers lack of a rotation, both throughout the entire season and especially in a grueling playoff series, may spell their downfall.
- The Spurs shot much better than Game 1 (even with an improved 2nd half, it was their 12th worst playoff FG% in the Duncan era), but still have huge areas for improvement. Not only do they shoot objectively better at home, but the team shot 41% outside of Duncan, with dozens of wide open looks unconverted.
- Tiago Splitter, ever the box score anomaly, shouldn't be undervalued after Game 2. He doubled his minutes from 10 to nearly 20, and should benefit from any rest the playoff schedule affords. The Spurs are a different team when he is on the court. Though Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan combined for 49 points, most of those came on account of Boris Diaw having a more "horizontal" game to their vertical. Splitter should see his minutes continue to increase and will be ever important. Especially since the coach seems to only trust three big men at the moment.
- There is something, or really a lot of things, to be said for Gregg Popovich. Some of his in game tactics have proven to be at best mortal, if not downright puzzling, but his overall philosophy is incomparable. His dedication to developing guys 8,9,10, and so on down the bench has been just as significant as the "Big 3." Spurs role players simply continue to rotate in and out, popping up endlessly and ceaselessly. Like a whack-a-mole game that runs on whatever the thing is that will outlive electricity.
- If last night happens 15 more times in these playoffs, the Spurs will float down a river and there won’t be a single person there to celebrate. Is a city-wide epidemic of cardiac arrest worth it, Spurs? Why not just go back to blowing teams out and setting records for margin of victory. It's easier on the heart.
The playoffs will come to San Antonio on Friday. After both teams appeared to be running on fumes in the fourth quarter and overtime, the two-day layoff with travel may favor the home team (who happen to be the significantly deeper team as well).
For the opponent's perspective, visit our friends over at Clips Nation.