By Ben Bolch
11:10 PM PST, February 18, 2014
It's not true that the San Antonio Spurs have been playing together since the Stone Age.
The Bronze Age, perhaps, but definitely not the Stone Age.
The Spurs' cohesiveness and heady play is largely a result of such familiarity.
It's why guys like Tony Parker can go down and Cory Joseph can step up and it's as if nothing has changed at all.
The Spurs gave the Clippers another lesson in togetherness Tuesday night at Staples Center throughout a 113-103 victory that revealed a template for playing through less than ideal circumstances.
San Antonio was missing Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter in addition to Parker and yet played as if it had a two-man advantage over the Clippers, who were only without J.J. Redick.
"They trust their stuff," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "They've been together longer, they know it. Trust me, I was in Boston a long time. We ran the same stuff and it worked."
The Spurs were smarter and tougher and better, even with the Clippers' Blake Griffin scoring 35 points and further debunking the myth that all he does is dunk.
The Clippers couldn't devise a way to stop Patty Mills, which is a sentence that has never been previously written. The guard came off the bench to score 25 points in 27 minutes, efficiency that would make four-time most valuable player LeBron James envious.
What the Spurs lacked in manpower they more than compensated for in other ways.
There was Tim Duncan, maneuvering around DeAndre Jordan for baskets. There was Marco Belinelli spotting up for timely three-pointers. There was Boris Diaw, occasionally out-toughing Griffin around the basket.
Rivers said his team's deficiency in the growing-as-a-group department is something that only time together can fix.
"That's where you look at teams like San Antonio and Oklahoma [City], they have such an advantage," Rivers said. "They've been together and they've been to the Finals. We haven't and I tell our guys that's something we're not going to catch up with them on, so we have to do it in other ways. For us, it's always about growth."
There's certainly some developing to do. For all his offensive brilliance, Griffin showed that he can sometimes be too cute for his own good. After he triggered a delay-of-game warning for holding the ball too long in the third quarter, Griffin received a technical foul for facetiously flipping the ball to the referee as quickly as he could on the next possession.
The Clippers also have some sprouting to do in the small forward department, with Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley and Reggie Bullock collectively adding not much of anything.
Part of the Spurs' advantage could be traced to Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili having played together for more than a decade.
"Continuity always seems to help, whether it's ownership or management or players or coaches," San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich said. "If you get into a situation where there's a good synergy between management, coaches and owners, you're probably going to have a better opportunity to keep a core together and understand what the system is going to be and how to add to it each year other than blow it up every two years or something like that."
The Spurs have supplemented their core with such valuable role players as Bruce Bowen, Gary Neal and Stephen Jackson, something Rivers will need to do better as the Clippers executive also responsible for calling the roster shots.
It's why the team with the largely lesser names was the one walking off the court a winner.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times