Here are five takeaways from the Clippers’ 115-107 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday at AT&T Center.
1. Fourth-quarter woes
The Spurs opened the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run to turn a three-point deficit at the top of the quarter into an eight-point lead with just over nine minutes left. The Clippers would not lead again. After the game, Chris Paul said there’s one big reason why the Clippers aren’t at the same caliber as Golden State and the Spurs right now.
Said Paul: “Finishing games.”
2. Playoff atmosphere
The last time the Clippers and the Spurs met was in the first round of the playoffs last season. It was a thrilling series that came down to the final second of Game 7, when Paul made a game-winning shot to advance the Clippers to the second round, and send the then-reigning NBA champions home. In their first game since that series, there were 15 lead changes and 10 ties.
Said Josh Smith: “It was definitely a playoff-atmosphere feel to the game.”
3. Griffin from three?
Blake Griffin made both of his three-point attempts Friday, including one with 15 seconds left to cut the Clippers’ deficit to four points, 111-107. Griffin has spent a lot of time working on his mid-range jumper, and when asked whether the star forward would be taking more from long range, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said that could be a possibility.
Said Rivers: “Yeah, he can shoot them. It’s funny, he works on them. I still think at times he doesn’t really want to shoot them, unless we draw the play up to shoot them or it’s late in the clock.”
4. Hack-a-DJ worked
The Spurs used the anything-but-crowd-pleasing method of hacking DeAndre Jordan early, sending the woeful free-throw shooter to the charity stripe 20 times. He made eight of those attempts. It’s a controversial strategy, but Rivers couldn’t help but tip his cap to Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich because, hey, the tactic worked in Friday’s game.
“It was smart,” Rivers said. “I think Pop probably does it as well as anyone. They couldn’t stop us, so it was a good way of slowing the game down. Like I’ve always said, the time to do it is when you’re behind, not when you’re ahead.”
5. Back-to-back fun
The Clippers now head to Houston to play the Rockets on the second leg of a back-to-back on Saturday. The Rockets knocked the Clippers out of the second round of the playoffs last season, becoming just the ninth team in NBA history to recover from a 3-1 series deficit to advance to the next round. The Clippers have never made it to the conference finals.