For all you hear that good basketball boils down to the basics -- the idea that if you do the little things right, everything else will fall into place -- it can be damn complicated, too.
The Spurs went into Game 4 with a proven gameplan and did a lot of things right: they gave up just six offensive boards, got back on transition D, and guarded the three-point line as well as they could've.
Unfortunately San Antonio's players lacked the discipline needed to put it all together. Free throws have been an ongoing problem this series (they left another 10 points on the floor Sunday afternoon), but it was a comedy of mental errors and missed three-pointers that led to their undoing and the missed opportunity of heading back to LA with the chance to put the series away.
The Clippers showed no signs of fatigue after an anemic performance in Game 3, and they got an added boost from their maligned reserve unit. Doc Rivers really only played eight guys (Hedo was on the floor for just one minute), but it's all he needed: Big Baby shoved his weight around; Jamal Crawford made Jamal Crawford-type shots, and Austin Rivers evolved into a Re-Animator hybrid of Brandon Roy and Sam Cassell, bullying smaller guards (well, Patty Mills mostly) on his way to 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
Add to that the fact that Chris Paul put on a mid-range clinic and turned fishing for fouls in the backcourt into some sort of sick game (Clips fans might see it as a karmic counter to Pop's Hack-a-DJ) and you get a result that felt much like the blow Blake Griffin took to the lower body from Manu Ginobili. Like Griffin, San Antonio must now take a few breaths, collect itself and soldier on.
Tonight's not quite a can't-lose game -- more of a please-please-win -- and it'll take a sense of urgency that was absent until the last minutes of Game 4 to pull out the W.
The Clippers still can't rotate well defensively, and it leaves the Spurs in an interesting tactical position given Kawhi's sustained moon leap in offensive play. On the one hand, ball movement will almost certainly find an open man; on the other, that open man has not hit on as many shots as he should, while Whi has been so lethal in his own surgical, self-contained attack. Trying to strike that balance is one of the things that makes this year's team different from last year's.
With a series as close as this one, either team can come away with the win tonight. I still like the Spurs to advance, but I'm leaning towards an L tonight and them doing it in seven. I'd prefer to be wrong on the last point.
Matchup to watch: The shooting guard position. Getting very little out of Danny Green and Manu Ginobili makes my eyes rain. Green's now turned in two horrible shooting nights (0 for 6 and 1 for 7 from three), which just so happen to have corresponded with the two Spurs losses. Meanwhile Manu has been as erratic as ever. When the production is as lopsided as it was compared to what J.J. Redick and Crawford did in Game 4, LA's lack of depth becomes less of an issue.
|Game 5, Western Conference 1st Round, 2015 NBA Playoffs|
|April 28, 2015|
|Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA|
|9:30 pm CST|
|TV: TNT - Radio: 1200 WOAI|
|Tony Parker||PG||Chris Paul|
|Danny Green||SG||J.J. Redick|
|Kawhi Leonard||SF||Matt Barnes|
|Tiago Splitter||PF||Blake Griffin|
|Tim Duncan||C||DeAndre Jordan|
|93.8 (17th)||Pace||94.7 (10th)|
|108.5 (7th)||ORtg||112.4 (1st)|
|102.4 (2nd)||DRtg||105.5 (15th)|
The perspective of Clippers fans can be found here: Clips Nation.
Game Prediction: Clippers by 6.
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