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Spurs 115- Clippers 90- That Did Not Go So Well

Well, following a disappointing loss to the San Antonio Spurs, I set out to write my first official game recap for Clips Nation. About an hour and a half later, I had completed a lengthy, in depth, and dare I say damn good game recap. All that was left to do was to spell check and add a photo. Thanks to the handy manual and auto save features on the SB Nation editor, I decided there was no need to save a copy of the recap to notepad or Word. This would ultimately be my demise. Scrolling back up the page after selecting my photo, I found there were no words left in the editor. And, even better, the editor auto-saved over the blank page. I have recently come down from a level of anger usually reserved for foreign dictators funding terrorism. As such, the following recap will likely be shorter and less thorough (not to mention a little later) than I had originally set out. For this I apologize.

I thought about naming this post "Nightmare on the Riverwalk, Part 17." The Clippers troubles with San Antonio are well documented. But then, that could be said for most NBA teams. For a decade, the Spurs have been an NBA Power, surrounding Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker with an ever changing cast of sharpshooters, defensive specialists, gritty rebounders, and smart players in general. Under the guidance of the great Greg Popovich, the Spurs have maintained an efficient offense and a stifling, miserly defense. They seem to game plan for teams better than anyone else. They have been labeled a boring team by many, but in my opinion this is the byproduct of basketball fans watching games where the Spurs opposition has been unable to score points, and commonly lose by large margins. One sided basketball is rarely good television. Although clearly not the same team that was contending for titles in recent years, the Spurs still managed to have the best record in the Western Conference last season. Normally, a matchup with the Spurs would not be a game that the citizens of Clips Nation would be anxious for, but after coming away with a win in Staples Center last December, and adding Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, And the great Chris Paul, there was optimism among Clipper fans. We had found a way to turn an ugly game on the road in Golden State into a double digit victory in the season opener. Tonight was a chance for this Clipper team to show just how talented they are, and to let teams like San Antonio know that the days of walking over the Clippers are over. Unfortunately, Greg Popovich and the Spurs had other plans.

After a quick 3 point play by Caron Butler and a dunk by Blake Griffin, what looked like a good start for the Clippers turned ugly. Manu Ginobli (already in mid season form) got hot. The Clippers defense was scattered and lost, unable to get stops and thus unable to get anything going in transition. The half court offense was not much better. The Spurs shot lights out in the first half (7 of 14 from three, as well as earning three free throws on 2 occasions), and took a 14 point lead. In fact, they missed a couple of good looks from deep that could have extended the lead. At a point where the game could have gotten away from them, the Clippers countered with a run of their own, digging in and getting a few stops, and hitting a number of big threes, most notably two big ones back to back by Chauncey Billups. Going into the half, the Spurs lead was down to four, and the new look Clippers looked poised to compete. They had figured out that they need to play defense at a high level to open up their offense. They would head into the second half with a chance to win in an arena where they have been denied so many times in the past.

But things didn't turn out that way. The defensive intensity that helped get the Clippers back into the game was nowhere to be found. Dejuan Blair, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, everyone seemed to have their way on the court. Rotations were slow on defense. There were poor closeouts on shooters, if any at all. To adequately describe how bad the Clippers defense was, I would have to violate several of the SB Nation terms of use which I just agreed to. Offensively, outside of a monster effort from Blake Griffin, the Clippers had nothing going, and the frustration was apparent (39% shooting as a team). The Clippers failed to mount any more comebacks in the second half. When red hot shooting meets porous defense, the result is, well, a 115-90 loss.

Some observations from the game:

Chris Paul/Blake Griffin pick and roll/pop:
Early in the game, the Clippers were looking to run this and got Blake Griffin open at the free throw line/ free throw line extended (with mixed results). This is going to have to become a major part of the Clippers offense going forward, and I am confident that it can and will be effective. These guys will develop chemistry sooner than later. Meanwhile, Chris Paul has to get in shape. The guy is so talented and crafty that he is already extremely effective, but he doesn't have his full quickness yet. He has shown flashes, but its apparent that he will improve. This will make the pick and roll/pop game that much more difficult to guard. And Blake needs to improve as well. Right now, teams are trying to take away the roll to the basket (San Antonio did a great job of this tonight). Blake has the ability to be a knockdown shooter from mid range. It seems that most of his problem is that he has an extremely annoying habit of fading backwards on his shot (even when uncontested). I don't have any stats to back it up, but from my own observations he shoots a much higher percentage when he goes straight up

Ryan Gomes:
Outside of a three minute stretch in the second quarter where he made a couple of shots and had a nice interior pass to Deandre Jordan, Ryan Gomes was awful in this game. Completely lost on defense, incapable of guarding threes or fours, and unable to hit the corner three. His release looks awful. Ryan Gomes needs to play better..

Chauncey Billups:
A tough game for Billups. Manu Ginobli is a tough cover for anyone, and with a significant size advantage on Chauncey, he was pretty much able to do as he pleased. The Clippers overall lack of offensive flow meant Chauncey didn't get a lot of great looks from deep or anywhere else for that matter. Like most of the Clippers, he seemed slow tonight.

Brian Cook:
I love Cookies. Brian cook being referred to as "cookie" is unacceptable. A stretch four who can knock down the three sounds like something you want, but once he is in you realize you don't want him in there. He is the basketball equivalent of an an oatmeal raisin cookie. Henceforth, I shall refer to him as "Oatmeal Raisin.

This game was a buzz-kill, to quote fellow citizen Michael White. But it's not the end of the world. The Clippers are going to have growing pains as they learn to play together and develop chemistry. Against weaker opponents, they may be able to simply "out-talent" them and earn some wins. The Spurs, however, are a well oiled machine, and you have to have a game plan and execute it to beat them. The Clippers will get better. A win is always better than a loss, but sometimes a loss is exactly what a team needs to realize what needs to be done and to get back on track. Hopefully, this loss will do exactly that for the Clippers.