Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Spurs sweep Clippers, 4-0, but it was close.

The defending champions found themselves in a close game with the Los Angeles Clippers to kick off the semi-finals of the western conference playoffs. They had to wait until the 4th quarter, but take a 37-21 scoring advantage they did and win well ahead, 125-103 at home.

SA fed off the home crowd as Danny Green ignited for another huge game with 31 points from 8 three-pointers. Kawhi Leonard was close behind with 24 points and 2 blocks. Tony Parker had 19 points with 6 assists, running the offense.

In the losing effort, Chris Paul had 13 assists but only 10 points (4-12 shooting). In general the Clippers did not score well, as Jamaal Crawford struggled (4-10) and so did Josh Smith (5-14). Only Paul Pierce, a bonafide scorer, had a good game with 21 points. Also, the team was without Blake Griffin, who is nursing an injury.

Blake Griffin also missed Game 2, which went to San Antonio as well, winning 115-106. But Chris Paul distributed more heartily with 16 assists, as the Spurs defense allowed way too many alley oops inside. Paul Pierce had another 21 points, Smith & DeAndre Jordan both had 19 points (off those oops), combining for 23 rebounds. This, plus some shooting woes by SA's stars, made for a close affair.

Tony Parker was on fire in the 3rd quarter, however, and Kawhi made shots in the clutch when it mattered. A ballsy 3 by Tony Parker claimed the lead, who was fouled by CP3 afterward and made the free throws. This was capped by a 3 for Danny Green off a Tim Duncan screen, putting the Spurs up by 8 in the final minute. Parker had 30 points, Kawhi had 24 and Green nailed 4 from deep.

The Spurs won a considerably closer Game 3, with a returning Blake Griffin, who got early points off alley oops, but it was too late to recover. The champs won 112-107, to take a 3-0 lead. Kawhi Leonard had 31 points, Manu Ginobili had 21, as did Tony Parker but also with 8 assists. Tyrus Thomas played strong off the bench with 9 points and a clutch block on Chris Paul (15 points/8 assists/9 turnovers).
Blake Griffin did play well, though, with 25 points and 8 rebounds. Paul Pierce also had 25 points, but went 0-3 from distance, including a shot late that killed LA's hopes of a comeback. The Spurs went on a 10-0 run, led at halftime and beat the Clippers with savvy team play, using pick and rolls and nailing the long ball.

In the final Game 4, Tyrus Thomas started at Center for the Spurs but Tony Parker scored its first 11 points. Boris Diaw took note and had 11 early points from three long balls. The Clippers managed to take a lead, but Spurs responded with a 15-6 run. Then Danny Green did his thing: totaling 6 three-pointers.

Chris Paul made a shot from very deep to make it a two point game, but too many mistakes had led to easy points for San Antonio and a harder path for LA to overcome. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul both had 5 fouls in the final minutes, and despite Tim Duncan missing a shot over Griffin in the post, it was Paul that got whistled for a foul on Parker. Without its leader, Paul Pierce nailed a clutch 3 over Kirilenko to make it just a one point contest, but Manu Ginobili made two free throws and Lance Stephenson (who played hero in LA's victory over the Spurs for SA's first home loss earlier this season) missed a 3 at the buzzer that would've won the game.

 Both teams were separated by only 4 points in this game per quarter scoring, epitomizing how contentious and unpredictable this series was and how it might've easily had a different outcome.

 [ 32-30 (SA) | 29-28 (SA) | 31-31 | 28-28]

Danny Green had 24 points, Parker had 18 points, Manu had 14 with 5 assists as did Kawhi Leonard. Tyrus Thomas had 11 points and 8 rebounds (earning that starting role), and Duncan had 10&9.

In the defeat, Stephenson had 22 points, Griffin had 16 points with 11 rebounds and Chris Paul had 11 assists with 15 points. DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and a primal 20 rebounds and Paul Pierce had 10 points with 6 rebounds.

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