A little less than 24 hours after Chris Paul laid writhing on the American Airlines Center floor in Dallas, the Los Angeles Clippers took the court 275 miles away in San Antonio for their first game without him. We all, basically, resigned ourselves to defeat considering the circumstances -- i.e. a back-to-back and no Chris Paul. So, to steal some stuff from "Shawshank Redemption" and use it as my own, I wish I could say the Clippers fought the good fight and the Spurs let them be. I wish I could tell you that but basketball is no fairy-tale world.
Believe it or not, the Clippers actually led in this game. Yup. About 30 seconds in, DeAndre Jordan made a basket and the Clippers led 2-0. And then the real fun started. Layup after layup after layup. Missed shot after missed shot after missed shot. While the Clippers were missing shots in grand fashion, the Spurs were walking to the rim uninterrupted and dropping the ball through the net. The Spurs outscored the Clippers 37-17 in the first quarter. Of those 37 points, 28 were in the paint. Oh, and the Clippers had a lovely one rebound in the first quarter. One. Uno. Then again, that happens when the team you're playing doesn't miss.
The second quarter didn't go much better for the Clippers. They didn't get outscored by 20 like they did in the first quarter but they still got outscored by 15. While the Spurs were getting another 24 points inside the paint and racking up 33 points overall, the Clippers were struggling and only put up 18 points on 38.9% shooting. If you're keeping score at home, that's 52 points in the paint for the Spurs at halftime. The Clippers, overall, had just 35 points. And they trailed by 35. The San Antonio Spurs shot chart in the first half basically sums it all up. There was no hope in sight for the Clippers but they never gave up.
The Clippers essentially flipped the script on the Spurs in the third quarter by outscoring them 35-18 and cutting the lead from 35 to 18. They shot 66.7% (14 of 21) while the Spurs shot 38.9% (7 of 18). But the real story was their defense beyond percentages. They actually appeared engaged and rotated a lot better than they had in the first half. The Clippers were down by 26 points with 1:15 to go before they ended the quarter on an 8-0 run that was capped off by Jamal Crawford hitting a beautiful 30-footer. Speaking of Crawford, he had 15 of his game-high 24 points in the quarter.
The fourth quarter came around and the Clippers still played with heart. For the first part of the final frame, the Clippers looked like they really might get this into a range that would make the Spurs truly worry. But they didn't. The closest they got to was 13 points after Jamal Crawford split a pair of free throws. The real backbreaker was provided by Tim Duncan roughly 20 seconds after Crawford split those free throws. He took Antawn Jamison to school and got an and-one that put the Spurs up by 16 with 9:15 to go. That was all she wrote. It was the start of a 10-0 Spurs run and they never looked back.
While the Clippers looked pathetic in the first half, they did look good in the second half. They outscore the Spurs 57-46 and made the Spurs look mortal for a while. The real story of why the Clippers outscored them in the second half is that they stopped the Spurs unimpeded runs to the rim. After allowing the Spurs to get 52 points in the paint in the first half, the Spurs only got 24 in the second half. Yes, you're reading that right. Overall, the Clippers gave up 76 points in the paint. The Clippers, to their credit, did have 44 and split them up evenly over each half -- 22 apiece.
Overall, this was a reality check for the Clippers. We knew what life without Chris Paul was going to be like. It's going to be tough and a ton of work. Our offense isn't going to be able to carry us to victories. We're going to have to buckle down and get wins with defense. And we need guys like Jamal Crawford to step up. While he was superb in the second half (8 of 13, 5 assists), he was equally as terrible in the first half (2 of 9, 2 assists). He needs to be consistent.
One of the crazy things to take note of with this game is that even though we got outrebounded 16 to 1 in the first quarter, we lost the rebound battle 42-33 which means we outrebounded them 32-26 the rest of the way. So, that's a good sign. Encouraging. But the team has to play better overall. Many times there were instances where the guards just wouldn't even look at Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan on the low block. Instead, they were just jacking up jumpers and doing whatever they wanted. That's not how we're going to survive without Chris Paul. You have to ride the bigs right now, not do whatever you feel like. I hope Doc and the guys realize this.
For final lines, Blake finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds while DeAndre had his usual double digit rebounding game (10). Darren Collison also had 14 points on 6 of 9 with 6 assists and 3 steals. He wasn't that bad offensively. It was just a terrible night for everyone. A terrible night that is summed up by seeing Tiago Splitter finish with a Spurs-high 22 points. Tells you everything you probably would ever need to know.
All in all, the Clippers need to get it together and begin "Life Without Paul." Up next is the second worst team in basketball, the Orlando Magic, on Monday night. Hopefully the Clippers can get up for this game considering their previous meeting was a loss. Here's to hoping we pull a rabbit out of our hat.
For the Spurs perspective on the game, be sure to check out Pounding The Rock.