Welp. The Clippers were moments away from a commanding two-games-to-none lead in their first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, only to watch everything go haywire in a 111-107 overtime defeat in Game 2 on Wednesday night at Staples Center. Here are five takeaways from a game that deadlocked the series at one game apiece and sent the Clippers into soul-searching mode:
1. The Clippers are still having trouble finishing in the playoffs. They had a two-point lead and the ball with less than 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter. They had a chance to win at the end of regulation even after a brutal turnover by Blake Griffin, but Chris Paul’s 19-foot jumper missed and Griffin couldn’t connect on a tip-in. They were a three-pointer away from tying the score late in overtime. None of the scenarios worked out in the Clippers’ favor, stirring reminders of their Game 5 failures against Oklahoma City in last season’s Western Conference semifinals.
2. Some psychological repair may be required after the flurry of mistakes. Griffin lost the ball with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter while dribbling and committed another turnover in overtime. The Clippers missed 17 of 37 free throws, their inaccuracy extending beyond DeAndre Jordan making only six of 17 tries. J.J. Redick missed a technical foul free throw and Matt Barnes missed three of four in the fourth quarter. “It's difficult,” Griffin said, “but at the same time sometimes things like this kind of refocus how you go about the next couple days to prepare. You know, we said during practice [Tuesday] that when you lose that first game, that's all you think about, and so they came out like that. They came out like that's all they thought about, like they were ready to play, and I expect us to respond in the same manner.”
3. Tim Duncan never gets old. The calendar says the Spurs power forward will turn 39 on Saturday, but he delivered another vintage performance in Game 2, finishing with 28 points and 11 rebounds. “There's not a secret to it,” Duncan said of his longevity. “I'm in a great system. I'm on a great team, and I'm not asked to do what I used to do. I'm asked to play a role, and I'm happy to play a role. I'm just trying to be as consistent as I can for my teammates.” Duncan actually apologized to his teammates after a fourth quarter in which he had a shot blocked by Jordan, but there was no need. Duncan’s performance also prompted a mea culpa from Jordan. “I was pretty bad tonight defensively,” Jordan said. “I have to clean some things up.”
4. The bench discrepancy in this series became even more apparent with San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili out. The Spurs were severely short-handed once Parker departed with a left Achilles’ tendon injury and Ginobili fouled out, but it hardly seemed to matter since Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and Marco Belinelli stepped up to help them persevere. Mills scored 18 points and made a flurry of late free throws, Diaw coaxed an offensive foul from Griffin in overtime and Belinelli made a three-pointer on the way to nine points. San Antonio’s reserves outscored their Clippers counterparts, 48-17. “Hopefully the depth of our bench really helps us,” Duncan said. “You see it tonight where Patty comes in and plays great for us, and when Tony goes out, we're able to do that. That's what got us through the season and got us through a championship last year. We'll continue to rely on that, and hopefully it affects them in the other way.”
5. The Clippers will be putting their road success to the test. They won a franchise-record 26 road games during the regular season, including a triumph at San Antonio’s AT&T Center, but this will be tougher. “Totally different game in the postseason,” Paul said. “You've got to go in there and you've got to win it. You've got to go take it.”