The Los Angeles Clippers earned their best victory of the season defeating the San Antonio Spurs 116-92 on the strength of Blake Griffin’s 28 points.
The Clippers got off to their most difficult start of the season, allowing 8 points in 80 seconds without scoring themselves, taking a super quick time out to gather themselves. Los Angeles recovered smartly and went on a 14-2 run to establish a four point lead midway through the first quarter. The Spurs went to their reserve unit early as the Clippers continued to push, eventually finishing the first quarter leading the Spurs 39-24, while shooting 54% from the field.
San Antonio battled back to within six points only a few minutes into the second quarter, mostly as a result of Leonard getting in the lane against the Clipper’s second unit. The Clippers padded their lead by 18 to lead 73-55 going into halftime, mostly on the strength of a ridiculous 26 first half points by Blake Griffin.
To start the third quarter, San Antonio looked very solid, but they didn’t manage to chip away at their deficit significantly, still trailing by 15 half way through the third. LaMarcus Aldridge looked to get more involved in the second half, but the Clippers forced a lot of turnovers, and appeared to force San Antonio into a pace outside of their comfort zone. The Clippers maintained an 89-72 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and the Clippers’ victory never appeared in serious jeopardy late in the game, eventually handling the Spurs by a 24 point margin of victory.
The Clippers are trying to rediscover the offensive sets that have provided them with one of the league’s most efficient offenses over the last two seasons. Blake Griffin has historically been very effective against the Spurs, finding chinks in the armor of their defense, and using his quickness to maneuver around and above San Antonio’s more traditional, less athletically inclined big men. Blake Griffin has also been particularly high flying when matched up with Pau Gasol, going back to Gasol’s final few seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. Therefore, Gasol + Spurs = Griffin dunking. Search YouTube for “blake griffin dunks on pau gasol bynum reaction”. Classic. Griffin didn’t posterize Gasol per se in this game, but Chris Paul did Nutmeg Gasol, who looked a bit like the big awkward kid getting picked on by the cool little guy. Griffin’s 26 points in the first half really seem to suggest that the Spurs--great as they are--just don’t seem to matchup well with Blake.
JJ Redick looked the best he has all season, finishing with 14 points. Redick is obviously a source of stress for opposing teams. After posting one of the highest three point percentages in NBA history last season (minimum 200 attempts), opponents are aggressively closing out on him. This is surely frustrating for Redick, but it’s actually quite a compliment. Teams know that when JJ scores at least 20 points, the Clippers have won over 90% of their games over the last three seasons with Redick on the team. Redick is one of the few shooters in the league who has a genuine ability to shoot contested shots with a similar efficiency to uncontested shots, and at around 5:25 in the first quarter he made a fantastic corner three under heavy closeout pressure from Gasol, then about a minute later he completed a four point play, connecting on a three point attempt, absorbing contact, and finishing the play with a free throw.
In general, the Clippers offense looks to be shaping up amazingly well, especially considering the Spurs entered this game allowing the third fewest points per game of any team in the NBA (The Clippers entered the game allowing the fewest). As Doc Rivers has reminded us frequently over the last few weeks, each season is different, and it’s natural for teams to continually rediscover the best parts of their game. What we’re seeing could be the Clippers evolving away from the Blake Griffin high usage at the elbow format. Where this offense goes remains to be seen, but any direction which takes the team to a 24 point victory against a top 3 defense is the right direction.
A fantastic win for the Clippers who now rank first in the Western Conference. The Clippers host the Detroit Pistons on Monday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.