The Clippers were Texas toast nearly from the tipoff, scoring 16 points in the first quarter and somehow getting worse as things progressed during a 100-73 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series at the AT&T Center.
Here are five takeaways from a game the Clippers gave away:
1. Did anyone play well for the Clippers? The short answer: No. Chris Paul had more turnovers than assists for the first time all season. Jamal Crawford made one of 11 shots. Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick continued to go from X factors to nonfactors. Blake Griffin needed 15 shots to score 14 points. DeAndre Jordan collected eight rebounds, his first game in single digits since Feb. 6 against Toronto.
“It’s one game,” Jordan said, “but we made a lot of mistakes tonight that we have to correct in order to even this series back up.”
2. Kawhi Leonard played like an MVP. It’s amazing to think that the Spurs forward has not been an all-star in four NBA seasons despite winning most valuable player of the Finals and defensive player of the year.
He did nearly everything conceivable for his team Friday, scoring 32 points, holding Redick to seven points on two-for-seven shooting and making perhaps the dunk of the year when he corralled a wayward Danny Green lob with one of his massive hands and slammed it into the basket in the third quarter.
Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich credited Leonard’s workmanlike demeanor for his ascent to stardom. “He comes in early. He stays late," Popovich said of the former Riverside King High School standout. "He’s worked on everything since he got here. He wasn’t a three-point shooter, he was a big guy.” He was an everywhere guy in Game 3, making 13 of 18 shots, including three of five from three-point range.
3. The Clippers’ bench did little, as usual. Writing about the reserves has taken on a cut-and-paste feel, with things that were said earlier in the season about their shortcomings equally applicable now.
The Clippers bench was outscored by its Spurs counterparts, 45-30, and it was quickly apparent it was going to be a long night for the Clippers reserves once Crawford, the only capable scorer of the bunch, kept missing shots.
Glen Davis had a shot blocked by Manu Ginobili, and Spencer Hawes couldn’t even get into the game until the outcome was no longer in doubt. Even then, Hawes struggled, making one of six shots in a season gone beyond awry.
4. The Spurs won big with their Big Three barely making a peep. If someone told you that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili would combine for 12 points in a playoff game, the assumption would be the Spurs lost in a blowout. Hardly.
San Antonio’s 27-point victory with Parker scoring six points, Duncan four and Ginobili two speaks to their depth and smartly run system that allows others such as Boris Diaw (15 points) and Danny Green (11) to help carry the scoring load on a nightly basis.
5. Can the Clippers muster the mental fortitude needed to win Game 4?
Several Clippers insisted they were not suffering from a Game 2 hangover Friday -- even though they played poorly two days after giving up a lead in the final seconds of regulation in an eventual overtime loss -- but now they face an even bigger test, needing to refocus after a rout that has put their season on the brink.
“You just have to get rid of that memory and forget about it,” Griffin said. “Tonight’s game cannot dictate how we play in Game 4. We just have to forget about it and move on.”
Saying it is one thing, of course. Now the Clippers have to do it.