CLIPPERS

Clippers aim to match the model San Antonio Spurs are built on

Clippers have the NBA's most efficient offense, but the Spurs have refined their technique in the playoffs

There's a word for it, whenever DeAndre Jordan is ducking under the basket and J.J. Redick is circling the court and the Clippers are zipping the ball from player to player in search of the best possible scoring option.

Spurs-ian.

That's right, whenever the Clippers' offense is functioning optimally it is reminiscent of the San Antonio Spurs, the team they will play in the first round of the playoffs beginning with the series opener Sunday night at Staples Center.

"Ball movement," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said Friday, "is hard to guard."

The Clippers have the NBA's second-highest-scoring and most efficient offense while the Spurs rank seventh in both points and efficiency, but there's no debating which team has been the model for playoff performance in recent years.

San Antonio made the Miami Heat resemble a cat chasing a ball on a string in the 2014 Finals, constantly getting yanked from spot to spot to spot to the point of exhaustion.

"They figure if they move the ball around long enough," Clippers forward Matt Barnes said, "then someone will eventually make a mistake on the defensive end."

It's the same story with the Clippers, whose success goes far beyond the playmaking of point guard Chris Paul. Forward Blake Griffin is one of the league's best passing big men and three-point specialists Redick and Matt Barnes help space the floor to create lanes for player and ball movement.

The Clippers are more athletic than San Antonio, but the Spurs historically have been more disciplined and patient.

"They have things that we don't have," Rivers said. "We probably have things that they don't have and that's all we can focus on. They're going to take away what you do well or at least your first couple of options on every set.

"Where they've been great over the years is they keep trusting their third and fourth [options] and other teams eventually break down. What we've done, as you can see through the year, is get better and better at it."

Jordan said he wanted the responsibility of guarding Spurs power forward Tim Duncan, the 15-time NBA All-Star known as The Big Fundamental because of his ability to continually make plays that serve as fodder for coaching clinics.

Equally confounding could be San Antonio's balance. Five players average double figures in scoring, led by forward Kawhi Leonard (16.5 points per game), point guard Tony Parker (14.4) and Duncan (13.9).

Secondary options Boris Diaw and Marco Belinelli are also capable of the occasional scoring splurge with the way the Spurs move the ball.

"You know who their key offensive guys are," Rivers said, "but they make it very difficult to key on those key offensive guys because they're willing to pass."

The Clippers badly failed their last playoff test against the Spurs in 2012, losing four games by an average of 11.5 points while getting swept in the Western Conference semifinals.

Jordan said the Clippers have grown since then and are better prepared for the challenges that await.

"A lot of it is mental toughness," Jordan said. "Not splintering as a team when things don't go right and even when things do go right and we're up 10 we don't want to stop playing defense because that's not the way we play games here. We try to get stops and keep going."

Easier said than done, of course. Especially against the Spurs.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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