The Clippers couldn’t have scripted a much better outcome than their 107-92 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night at Staples Center in their playoff opener. The Clippers were as supercharged as their fans, using their effort, energy and focus to dismantle the defending NBA champions.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers thought his team's defense could have played better. The Clippers held the Spurs to 36.6% shooting, including 30.3% from three-point range, but Rivers said only part of it had to do with the way his team played. “We had a good defensive night," he said, "but we had a lot of mistakes. They missed some shots and some of those shots should have been defended. So I can’t wait actually to watch the film to see it and then I can’t wait for us to see our film.”
2. Expect the Spurs to play much better in Game 2. They will probably make more shots and probably won’t miss 12 free throws or commit 15 turnovers like they did in Game 1. Tony Parker tweaked an ankle and was kneed in the thigh, but Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said he expected his point guard to be fine. Popovich had a lengthy list of improvements for his team to make. “We have to shoot free throws better,” he said. “We have to shoot from three better. We can’t turn it over as much. We have to get back in transition better.”
3. Jamal Crawford regained his rhythm at the right time. The Clippers sixth man had made 27.8% of his shots in his final few regular-season games after returning from a five-week layoff caused by a bruised right calf, but he was plenty accurate against the Spurs. Crawford made seven of 10 shots, including three of four three-pointers, on the way to 17 points that accounted for most of the bench’s 22 points. “The way he played tonight was unbelievable, and it looks like he hasn’t even lost a step,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “He worked hard to get back, and I think it showed.”
4. Rivers used all five reserves at once in the first half after saying he wouldn’t. The lineup of Spencer Hawes, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Austin Rivers and Crawford worked for a brief stretch as Crawford’s nine-foot jumper gave the Clippers a 30-18 lead near the end of the first quarter. But most of that advantage evaporated in the first two minutes of the second quarter as San Antonio scored 10 consecutive points, forcing Rivers to go back to his starters. “I thought that was more confidence than who they are,” Rivers said of his reserves’ struggles. “I thought when they made a couple [of] shots, we stopped playing at pace offensively. That’s something I think they will see as a group and be able to fix.”
5. Two days off between games should help the Clippers starters continue to play big minutes. Griffin played 42 minutes, DeAndre Jordan 38 and Chris Paul 37. By comparison, no Spur played more than Kawhi Leonard’s 33 minutes. Can the Clippers starters replicate those big minutes the rest of the series? “Yeah, I think so,” Griffin said. “We’ve got two days of rest coming up. As long as we’re smart with our bodies and making sure that we’re prepared mentally and physically as far as getting rest and all that, I would like to think so, yeah. I missed a lot of games this season, so my legs are a little bit fresher than maybe everybody else’s are. Hopefully we can sustain that."
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