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Spurs Grind Down Clippers In Overtime, Win Game 2, 111-107

It took an overtime period and an interminable three hours, but Tim Duncan and the Spurs outlasted the Clippers to even the series at 1-1.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I'm out of breath, nerves frayed, ready for bed, and I only watched this game. Imagine how these teams must feel.

No lone sentence can adequately provide the narrative. Pick a lede, any lede:

  • Tim Duncan schooled the Clippers in the post with his footwork and deft touch, scoring 28 points on 14-23 shooting and allowing me to write a sentence that wouldn't look out of place in 2001 if you replaced "Clippers" with "Lakers". Even DeAndre Jordan, with 20, 15, and continued excellence on defense, was powerless to stop the San Antonio legend for most of the night. Duncan exceeded 20 and 10 for the 100th playoff game of his decorated career. He also played 44 minutes, an unfathomable number for a man who is 7-feet tall and 38 years old.
  • Blake Griffin was mad-lib good (fill in the adjective: unstoppable, transformational, sensational) right up until he wasn't, obscuring a 29-12-11 triple-double with a number of turnovers in critical late moments. Blake will need to show some mental toughness to recover from this one. In the first half, he unsheathed every weapon he's developed over his career and put each to devastating use against a Spurs team with few options to even slow him. But it only took a handful of gaffes, one of which came with 11 seconds remaining and the Clippers up 2, to undo a night of spectacular work. He looked tired, and he had every right to be after headlining the Clippers offense for the majority of the game, but that will probably come as little consolation to a team that added another heartbreaking playoff loss to its growing collection.
  • Patty Mills, pride of St. Mary's, stepped in for Tony Parker, who left the game with a sore achilles in the fourth quarter, and converted in clutch moments to seal the deal. The Australian point guard scored 12 of his 18 points after the third quarter, calmly sinking two free throws to tie the game late in the fourth, and four more in overtime to ice the victory and the series tie.
  • Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich was nearly burned when his Hack-A-DJ led to the expulsion of Manu Ginobili after six fouls and pushed Duncan to the brink with five of his own. At one point, DeAndre made four straight free throws as the Clippers clawed back into contention late in the fourth quarter.
  • The referees angered many with calls that ranged from somewhat questionable to completely puzzling, further drawing out a game that lasted three hours and moved at an excruciating pace thanks to the Spurs' intentional fouling strategy.
  • The Clippers regained control of the boards, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds, five each by DeAndre, Blake, and Matt Barnes. These extra chances almost singlehandedly kept them in this game as they fought back to even in the fourth quarter.
Overall, the Clippers looked largely unable to rediscover their ferocity from Game 1. It was most obvious on the defensive side, where they reverted to pretty good after being REALLY F****** GOOD on Sunday night. Doc Rivers continually called them out for their late rotations, and there were times in the fourth quarter when the Clippers simply gave up on possessions. I wondered when the well of superhuman energy would run dry, and it's possible that it already did.

That's not to dismiss what the Spurs did offensively. In no surprise to anybody, Popovich adjusted his game plan to counter the athletic Clippers aggressive traps. The Spurs' ball movement was, well, Spursian. That is to say it was impeccable. Tony Parker beat the Clipper traps with early and accurate passes, and his targets forwarded the ball faster than the Clippers could help and recover. San Antonio still shot just 8 of 25 from three-point range, but their misses were more of the wide-open variety, as opposed to the sorta-open variety from Game 1. They also upped their overall field goal rate to 46.2%. If the Clippers show them the same quality looks in Game 3, that number will climb higher.

Parker keyed the early Spurs offense with quickness and penetration, taking handoffs off multiple screens, a ploy that eviscerated the Clippers in their last playoff go-round. He finished the night with just a single point, missing all six of his field goals, but it was his deep forays into the paint that contorted the Clipper defense and set the Spurs offense into motion from the opening tip.

At the other end of the court, Coach Popovich stuck Parker on Matt Barnes, trusting that the Clipper forward would fail to capitalize against the smaller defender. Showing great respect for J.J. Redick, Pop saddled the Clippers' ace shooter with Kawhi Leonard, who tugged and hassled Redick all night. Redick managed 16 points and made 4 of 9 threes, but had to convert shots with an extreme level of difficulty. Leonard was allowed to wrangle and hold the smaller Redick for much of the night, and if that's the way the games will be called, the Clippers would be wise to return the favor to hold the similarly mobile Parker at bay.

Chris Paul was checked by larger and longer defenders as well, but still worked his way to 21, 8 and 7. With Jamal Crawford cold and Redick struggling to break free, Paul and Griffin took on the bulk of the Clippers' offensive load. Either through score or assist, the two were responsible for 41 of the Clippers 47 points in the first half.

Paul is clearly on a mission, playing with aggression and fire forged from playoff failures of the past. When the Clippers blew their assignments and allowed Patty Mills to leak down the floor for a backbreaking layup in overtime, Paul slammed the ball against the floor and let out an animalistic scream, easily audible through the television over the quieted crowd. Given the frustrations of the night, he probably wasn't the only one.

If you're the superstitious sort, you may have guessed that the Clippers would lose when the TNT announcers noted that had the Spurs lost, all eight playoff series would stand at 2-0, an NBA first. Instead, it's 1-1 and heading back to San Antonio. It's a series now, and one that has the potential to go the distance. A long, tiring distance.