The best player on the floor turns 39 on Saturday.
The Spurs most effective defender on Blake Griffin in the clutch was Marco Belinelli.
San Antonio got one point in 30 minutes from Tony Parker, while his Hall-of-Fame backcourt mate Manu Ginobili fouled out with 3:52 to go in regulation after a meh 22 minutes.
The Spurs shot an underwhelming 32.0 percent from three.
The clutch player of the night was Patty Mills, a fellow who shot 38.1 percent on the season and lost his backup job to Cory Joseph.
The Spurs won in overtime, where they were 1-6 in the regular season.
They scored as many points in that overtime --17-- as they did the entire fourth quarter.
It was the first time all season that DeAndre Jordan attempted over 15 free-throws in a loss.
Mr. Griffin, your thoughts on the game?
I'm not quite sure if Chris Paul felt some fatigue, or the Spurs started figuring him out a bit, or some combination of the two, but generally the visitors had more success getting in his jersey on those fadeaway jumpers and disrupting his pick-and-rolls. Instead of transcendent, Paul was merely awesome, which San Antonio will gladly take.
For much of the game both teams appeared to have the same game plan: switch up top and force the power forward at the high post to play quarterback. Both Griffin and Tim Duncan had tremendous success against this tactic, with a free run to the hoop for the former, and plenty of room to launch a series of uncanny pop-a-shots for the latter. That Griffin (11 assists) and Duncan (4) are two of the best passing big men in the game also was evident throughout as time and again they found open shooters when defenders rotated over.
It was by no means a perfect defensive game plan for either team. Mistakes were made, my friends. Oodles of them. Griffin and DeAndre Jordan combined for eight dunks, after all, but fortunately Aron Baynes (DNP-CD), perhaps suffering from posterization traumatic stress syndrome, wasn't victimized by any of them.
The Spurs were soft on the glass (16 offensive rebounds allowed), allowed too many open looks to J.J. Redick, and were completely ineffective on Griffin no matter who they threw at him, even trying Kawhi Leonard at times. Still, they took the ball out of Paul's hands and held the Clippers to 42.4 percent, so I shouldn't complain too much. At least they allowed fewer open looks for star sixth-man Jamal Crawford, so that's something.
By now, San Antonio is well used to the scheme the Clippers threw at them. It's similar to what Miami did the last two seasons. They hedge hard and trap the pick-and-roll, especially with Ginobili. The only pass available is the one back o to the screener, either at the three-point line or the high post, depending on what Boris Diaw wants to do. From there it's his show, to either drive, bounce it over to the other big at the rim or kick it out to the corner for open guys. It's all-you-can-eat for Mills, Belinelli and Danny Green. With offenses these good you have to pick your poison, though it's liable to get the Clippers blown out in the AT&T Center, where the Spurs shoot much better.
The glitch in the matrix, of course, was Duncan, who simply destroyed Jordan (Doc Rivers' unanimous choice for Defensive Player of the Year) with a series of flick shots before he could react and turnaround bankers when he overplayed too much to one shoulder or the other. Every time the Spurs offense fell into a rut, there was Duncan to bail them out, even with the occasional "four down" in the low post. He only played 44 minutes though, so he should be fresh as a daisy for Game 3 on Friday.
As good as Duncan was, it was Mills who saved the game, scoring all 18 of his points from the final 34 seconds of the third quarter on. It was a performance reminiscent of Robert Horry's Game 5 of the 2005 Finals, but without the "Big Shot Bob" heroics at the end. I really don't know how many Spurs I would've trusted to make both free throws down two with eight seconds to go after Griffin turned it over. Mills swished both, and then iced the game at the line in overtime for good measure. I imagine Gregg Popovich will use him in these situations going forward.
In retrospect, it makes sense to use Mills over Joseph in this match-up. Not only do the Clippers allow a ton of threes, but whatever defensive upgrade Joseph provides is negated by the picks Paul relies on. If he can shake Leonard and Green, then he can surely shake Joseph --and did, repeatedly in Game 1.
Mr. Paul, a comment about Mills' play?
One thing Pop has to give serious thought to is ditching the Hack-a-Jordan maneuver, which nearly cost the Spurs the game. In all possessions involving HAJ, the Spurs were outscored 6-2, allowing two offensive rebounds, going 0-of-4 from the field when they did secure the board and adding a turnover, which wound up costing Ginobili his sixth foul. Even when it "works," the Spurs don't get to play with their preferred pace on offense and it winds up bogging them down.
It's something to try in desperation if they're trailing by 15 or whatever, but not when they're leading or it's a tight game, especially with Duncan and Leonard in there. Trust the guys who've been defensive stalwarts for you all season long. Besides, it confuses the players and costs them fouls. Not only did Ginobili wind up fouling out largely due to HAJ, but Duncan nearly did too.
There's going to be games every other day the rest of the way and after the game, Rivers admitted that he'll have to use his bench more as a result. (Whether he actually sticks to that in the heat of battle remains to be seen.) Parker's Achilles problem continues to be a concern, though I thought he played better defensively and as a floor general than in Game 1. I expect Ginobili, who was furious at himself for fouling out, to bring out the best of whatever he has left in these next two games.
The Spurs just need to win their home games to beat these guys.
Might want to use Leonard more down the stretch too. He's pretty good.
(h/t to Chris Itz as always for the GIFs)