Saturday night’s competition presented the Clippers with a litmus test of sorts.
They were playing their fifth game of the week and were facing the mighty San Antonio Spurs on the road at the AT&T Center. They were finishing the five games in seven nights by playing back-to-back games, as were the Spurs.
But this test of endurance and mental fortitude was not an issue for Blake Griffin, who looked as fresh and strong-willed as ever in powering the Clippers to a 116-92 victory over the Spurs.
Griffin seemed to toy with the Spurs, taking his time, looking totally under control in scoring 28 points. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter, and did the bulk of his damage in the first half by scoring 26 of his points.
While making 12 of his 16 shots in the first half when he looked unstoppable, Griffin would look over at his teammates on the Clippers bench and shake his head. In turn, the Clippers sitting on the bench would stand and acknowledge his scoring feats by pointing at Griffin, who completed his night going 13 for 19 from the field.
Luc Mbah a Moute did more than just play his stellar defense against San Antonio’s top player, Kawhi Leonard, who had just 14 points on three-for-13 shooting.
Mbah a Moute had 13 points on five-for-nine shooting.
J.J. Redick provided 14 points and Chris Paul had nine points and 10 assists.
DeAndre Jordan controlled the interior with his defensive presence. He blocked three shots and altered many more.
So it was a game in which the Clippers offense finally matched its league-best defense.
They shot a season-high 51.1% from the field.
When the Clippers had their other “quote-unquote” exam against Oklahoma City at Staples Center last Wednesday night, Coach Doc Rivers said his team “had failed that test” because they didn’t match the Thunder’s physicality.
The Clippers knew that even though the Spurs were playing without their starting backcourt — Tony Parker [right knee soreness] and Danny Green [left quad strain] — San Antonio is not to be underestimated.
Clearly, the Clippers did not.
They torched the Spurs in the first half, scoring a season-high 73 points, which according to ESPN stats, were the most points in a first half against San Antonio in the Coach Gregg Popovich era.
The Clippers shot a season-best 56.9% from the field in the first half, 54.5% from three-point range.
They took advantage of nine Spurs first-half turnovers, the Clippers turning those miscues into 21 points.
And while the Clippers were doing all this, they had another player step into the NBA history books.
Jamal Crawford [16 points] now has 17,178 points over his 17-year NBA career, pushing him past Grant Hill [17,137 points] for No. 88 on the league’s all-time scoring list.