San Antonio 98 - Clippers 81 - New Coach, Same Old Spurs-Clippers Game

I feel like I've written this recap before.  Oh that's right, I have.

I swear, if Duncan doesn't play the fourth quarter in San Antonio in March, I'm going to scream.  I mean, don't the Clippers have a fiduciary responsibility to the rest of the league to tire out the Spurs a little?  The Lakers can't be happy about facing Tim Duncan in a couple of nights when Timmy only had to log 19 minutes in this one.

It's really not worth trying to dissect positives and negatives from this game.  The 18-0 run in that began a minute into the game essentially accounts for the final margin.  Does that mean the Clippers played them even the rest of the way?  Mathematically, maybe.  But not in reality.  When the game was 60-30 early in the second half it was over.  It's certainly not a bad thing that the Clippers finally started making some shots at that point, but it's all irrelevant.  The game was over, Duncan was on the bench, the lead was never less than 14, it was just 20 minutes of basketball that we had to get through.  Did Eric Gordon finish well around the basket?  Sure, I guess that was nice enough to see.  Did Chris Kaman make a couple of strong moves?   Yes.  But so what?

It's beginning to look more and more as if the Clippers have to have a strong game from Baron Davis to even be in a game.  They need more than that to win, that much is true.  But it pretty much has to start with Baron.  And Baron struggled mightily tonight.

On the first possession of the game he posted Tony Parker and scored.  On the second, he pushed the tempo and made a pretty assist to Kaman under the basket.  And it was all downhill from there.  In fact, he was hoist on his own petard to some extent.  The success of those first two possessions turned into a career-high tying eight turnovers.  The next time he tried to post Parker, le petit batard Francais (I think that's what they call him in France,  could be wrong) stole the ball from him.  When he tried to push the tempo, he turned it over.  He pressed the rest of the way, and he never got in sync.  He was closing in a triple double when Hughes sat him down - 8 points, 9 assists, 8 turnovers.  He'd have gotten it for sure if he'd played in the fourth.

The good news for Hughes is, as I stated in the preview, it's the Spurs so it's basically an automatic loss anyway.  I mean, no one wanted or expected it to be this ugly, but it's still just one loss in the standings. 

In his post game press conference, he was blunt.  He knew they turned the ball over way too much, and worried that they weren't ready to play transition basketball.  When Kevin asked him if he thought they had enough ball handlers to play an open court game he was honest: "Perhaps not." 

That's the dirty little secret of the MDsr era.  It may seem that a by the numbers, playbook driven offense doesn't utilize the open court talents of Baron Davis - but you need more than one player to run.  And yes, Eric Gordon and Rasual Butler and Al Thornton can fill lanes, but can they make plays in the open court?  Can they make good decisions with the ball in their hands on the fly?  And obviously they're professional basketball players and they can play in the open court better than you or me - but can they make consistent, quality plays against NBA competition?

The team's defense was acceptable in spurts, but they got lost in rotations far too frequently, leaving three point shooters wide open.  We joked in the preview about Matt Bonner hitting five threes after slumping in 2010 - well, he only made three instead of five.  George Hill was well on his way to a career-high (he scored 23 a few nights ago in Sacramento) but settled for 22 in 29 minutes.  The Spurs made eleven threes to the Clippers one. 

A chorus of boos at halftime and sprinkled throughout the second half is not what this franchise needed in the first game under a new coach after 6 and a half seasons.  But it was only the first game and it was against the Spurs.  We'll have to wait and see what happens next. 

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