SAN ANTONIO — Playing in only his eighth playoff game, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan had his first shot blocked Tuesday by veteran power forward Tim Duncan.
Undeterred, Jordan responded by snatching the offensive rebound and slamming home a dunk that no one, including Duncan, could defend.
It's not unusual to see Jordan throw down thunderous slams as a part of the Clippers' "Lob City." But Tuesday night against the San Antonio Spurs, the dunk was the start to an unusually productive quarter for Jordan that his team can only hope signals the beginning of a breakout series.
Jordan came out aggressively Tuesday, nabbing eight rebounds and scoring seven points in the first quarter. In the Clippers' first-round series against Memphis, the starting center averaged just 3.5 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. Jordan particularly struggled in Game 5, scoring one point without a rebound.
"In the first series, it was tough," Jordan said Wednesday after the Clippers' practice. "I don't know if I was nervous or whatever it was, I can't have any excuses.
"I'm looking to provide anything I can to help us win because last series, I feel like I could have played better. Things weren't going my way. But that series is over with."
Jordan played so well in Game 1 that Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro conceded Wednesday that Jordan "probably should have played a little bit more." Del Negro subbed Reggie Evans for Jordan with 45 seconds left in the first quarter and Jordan remained on the bench until the third quarter of the Spurs' 108-92 victory.
"We had to go small," Del Negro said. "We could only play one big in the second half. We tried to space the court a little bit. We got down, and we tried to open up the court for some of our shooters. … But I thought DJ was much better yesterday at both ends of the court."
The Clippers will need another strong performance from Jordan as forward Blake Griffin continues to nurse a sprained left knee. Griffin, who played only 28 minutes Tuesday, said he thinks that Jordan has favorable matchups in the paint and can use his speed and athleticism to his advantage.
And if Jordan needs any extra motivation for Game 2, he can look down at the rubber bracelet he wears around his wrist or the tattoo on his arm of the number "35."
Wednesday marked the two-year anniversary of the death of his friend Tobi Oyedeji, a high school player who wore No. 35 and was headed for Jordan's alma mater, Texas A&M. Oyedeji fell asleep at the wheel driving home from prom night in 2010 and died after a head-on car collision.
"I kind of dedicate not only this past season, but my whole career to him," Jordan said.
It's just one more reason to believe the Clippers center when he says he will be ready when his own number is called.