Spurs off to a rocky start in attempt to repeat as NBA champions

Spurs off to a rocky start in attempt to repeat as NBA champions
Clippers point guard Chris Paul, left, and forward Matt Barnes, right, try to strip the ball from Spurs center Aron Baynes in Game 1. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

For all the success the San Antonio Spurs have had recently, they have never won consecutive NBA titles.

The defending NBA champion Spurs set out on a course Sunday night to change the one feat they have yet to accomplish.


But it was not a good start for the Spurs in their quest to win back-to-back championships, losing, 107-92, to the Clippers in Game 1 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series at Staples Center.

Going down, 0-1, in the best-of-seven series that resumes with Game 2 on Wednesday night only made the road tougher for the Spurs.

San Antonio finished the regular season tied as the sixth-most efficient offensive team in the league.

But the Spurs rarely resembled that team Sunday night, going down by 18 points in the third quarter and having to run uphill the rest of the way.

The Spurs shot 36.6% from the field and struggled with free throws, going 14 for 26 (53.8%) from the line. They failed to take care of the basketball, turning it over 15 times.

It was that kind of night for a Spurs team that won the first of its five championships in 1999 and followed that up with titles in 2003, '05, '07 and '14.

"All in all, we were just out of rhythm for the most part," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. "We got off a lot of decent shots that we didn't make. We had some pretty decent looks there. But give them a lot of credit because they did sustain it longer than we did."

The Spurs also had never reached the Finals in back-to-back seasons, but they finally did, losing the 2013 championship to Miami and then exacting some revenge by beating the Heat for the 2014 crown.

But Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said before Sunday's game that he has never put much emphasis on his team's failure to win back-to-back championships.

"I don't give it a whole lot of thought," Popovich said. "We tried to win again. We've never done it. I couldn't say it was because of A, B, C, or D.

"I do know it's really hard to win an NBA playoff game, let alone an NBA round or an NBA championship. So I don't get too hung up on, 'You didn't repeat.'"

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, who won his only NBA championship in 2008 when he coached the Boston Celtics, said having "players change" their approach can be a reason it has been so difficult for teams to repeat.

"Some [players] never come off the 'Trophy Tour,'" Rivers said. "And some lose their place and their role. Because usually if you won a title, you won it because everybody got their roles. And sometimes it takes all season to get everyone back in the right role."

The Spurs arrived in Los Angeles on fire, having won 21 of their last 25 games.


"And we're in sixth place," Popovich deadpanned while shaking his head. "What's the deal?"

Indeed, all that winning only got the Spurs the sixth seed in the super-tough West.