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Clippers battle back, but fall to Spurs 125-118

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Tony Parker returned to San Antonio's lineup tonight and showed no signs of rust as the hot-shooting Spurs handled the Clippers in the Alamo City.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

If I were to tell you that an NBA team was shooting 80% from the field midway through the second quarter, would you imagine that it was the team with the alarming amount of gray hair and glaring example of male pattern baldness on the roster?

You probably would. Because you'd know I was talking about the Spurs.

Things started off well enough for the Clippers, who jumped out to an eight-point lead in the first quarter. J.J. Redick started the game off with a three ball, and would score 10 more points in the first four and a half minutes of play. He wound up with 16 points in the first quarter, but (spoiler alert!) would not score another field goal until the fourth quarter.

After missing the last five games with a funky hamstring, Tony Parker weaseled his way back into the starting lineup for the Spurs. Almost up until tipoff, it looked like Parker was set to miss his sixth straight, but alas, no such luck tonight for the Clippers. The Spurs rattled off an 11-2 run to end the first quarter, taking the lead in the process. They were aided by their scorching 75% field goal shooting.

You might say that the Spurs remained hot in the second quarter, because as I mentioned above, they peaked at 80% shooting for the game about midway through. They cooled off well enough, as teams often do, and settled back in at a nice, practical 75% (again!) shooting for the half. Tony Parker had 19 points on 8-10 shooting.

This kind of hot, hot heat from the Spurs was more than enough to put the Clippers away for the night, but they managed only a 12-point deficit at the half, 72-60. The Clips shot 48% and made six of 12 three point attempts--so all things considered, the outlook at halftime could've been much, much worse.

In the third, the Clippers were able to bring San Antonio back to earth a little bit, and cut the lead to four. But Doc Rivers played the starters nearly every minute in the quarter, so the guys got gassed and the Spurs pushed the lead back to nine. But never fear, this sounds like a job for the bench!

Jamal Crawford and Glen Davis added a little defensive oomph (yes same Jamal Crawford) after the starters left the floor by pestering the Spurs with a couple of crafty steals and defensive stops. That, along with a well-timed three by Reggie Bullock, had the Clippers within five going into the fourth--and behind nine points from Big Baby, seven from Jordan Farmar and 18 from Crawford, the bench was able to even the score at 102 in the early minutes of the fourth quarter.

Let it be known that the Spurs were first to the finish line when they beat the Clippers to 100 and put Lawler's Law into effect. But with 10 minutes still remaining in the game, the Clippers were sure to at least challenge--and perhaps break--the law. In the end, the Clippers remembered that they were playing in the great state of Texas, and breaking the law there can be downright terrifying. So they opted to lose this game for safety reasons, at least, I think so.

When the Spurs starters returned in the fourth, they immediately poured it on the Clippers, and our guys just couldn't find an answer to that hearty and efficient dinosaur, Tim Duncan, who finished with 21 points. Just when the Clippers found themselves in a "it's a now or never" moment, Danny Green hit a corner three that essentially buried the Clippers. Good job, good effort, blouses, or whatever you want to say.

There was a scary moment for Clipper fans there in the fourth quarter as well, when Chris Paul dove for a loose ball and immediately grabbed his elbow and writhed in pain on the floor for just enough time to sufficiently worry me. But thank goodness the Clippers have a medical professional in Mike Smith as a commentator, who assured viewers that it looked like the injury was just a stinger, and Chris must've just hit his funny bone.

As it turned out, Mike Smith was right. Chris returned and finished the game with seemingly little to no discomfort, and totaled a team-high 25 points and nine assists in the losing effort.

There are no moral victories here, especially since the "offensively average" Spurs put up 125 on the Clippers, but it was the kind of game that could've (and perhaps should've) been an easy 20-point win for San Antonio. The Clippers played like professionals and turned it into a tough loss, and have a chance to get it right tomorrow night in Atlanta. And worth noting: the Clippers are 5-1 this season on the second game of a back-to-back.