A couple of days ago I got into a discussion about the top 5 point guards in basketball. It was a minute or two before I even mentioned Tony Parker, who by all means is having an MVP type season and should have been an immediate mention in such a conversation.
Boy, I won't make that mistake again.
Tony Parker and the Spurs blitzed the Clippers from the onset tonight, with a commanding 116-90 start-to-finish W. The game was lost for the Clips in the first and then in the third, being outscored in both quarters by identical 34-21 marks. Parker absolutely dominated a matchup that was suppose to be a showdown between two MVP candidates and two elite point guards. Parker more than made up for his mediocre showings way back during the infancy of this regular season in the previous two matchups against the Clippers, not coincidentally games that the Clippers won relatively easily. Tonight he went a relatively easy 12-16 from the field and had 7 assists to go along with his 31 points. He was a +31, Paul was a -31. Tim Duncan hardly broke a sweat and played just 16 minutes. Manu played 17 minutes. No other Spur really stands out on the box score, Parker simply set the tone early and the Spurs rode him to an easy victory.
This game played out as most citizens feared it could have after watching our last postseason series against this team. The Spurs looked every bit a contender, with crisp half-court sets where it seemed like all of their players were either constantly moving or finding their spots on the perimeter. Danny Green is one of the latest scrubs turned role playing cog for the Spurs, and he had another solid night tonight with good defense and great perimeter shooting. Green also had 7 assists which isn't so much a testament to him being an exceptional passer as it is a testament to the Spurs running an offense where passing to find a better shot is mandatory. The Clippers, on the other hand, often run an offense where 4 players are watching one use exceptional talent to create a shot. Kenny Smith made a good point tonight at halftime, (after Chuck rambled for about 10 minutes while making no points) the Clips often settle for tough shots in halfcourt sets from their tough shot makers, ie Paul, Griffin, and Crawford. Yes, Chris Paul is an awesome playmaker and every bit worth all the MVP talk that has surrounded him, but there's only so much one true playmaker can create for his teammates in the postseason when elite defenses get heavy in crunch time. The Spurs, on the other hand, are always always moving. That's something I noticed now, last year during our series with them, and almost all the time. They're such a committee in halfcourt sets, they make everything look so easy. Multiple screens, movement off the ball, just clean crisp basketball. The Clippers look like they're constantly improvising in comparison. There was a stretch to end the first half and through most of the third quarter where it felt like the Clippers weren't ever going to score from the field.
The guard play from the starters was awful tonight. Blake Griffin got shots up but didn't really have a good game. Matt Barnes soaked up some stats during quarters where the rest of the team just looked deflated. There aren't any real nice things to say about this game. Just going to have to chuck it up to being unprepared against a great team that is constantly prepared. Let's just hope that isn't also a theme if we run into these guys into the postseason. The Clippers no doubt have the talent to match the Spurs, but without Vinny getting closer to Pop in terms of adjusting and our stars coming out with a sense of urgency from tipoff, the end of our season might look closer to last season than we expect
Kudos to the Spurs. They've been doing this for a long time, and we were bound to get some of their best after our early success with them this season. Time to get ready for the next game against the Jazz.
For the Spurs perspective, check out Pounding the Rock.