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T.J. SIMERS

Chris Paul is limited, and so are the Clippers

He commits eight turnovers and his team suffers a lopsided loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

May 17, 2012|T.J. Simers

SAN ANTONIO — So what do you want, the feel-good, feisty yarn about how the Clippers never give up?

Or maybe an uplifting reminder how the Clippers came from 27 down to win before, pronounced dead in the last series after six games, only to triumph?

Do you believe in more than one miracle?

Or maybe something to lessen the sting a little with a cute little exchange between father and son:

"Bad shot again, Daddy?" says Chris Paul's 2-year-old son, Chris, while walking through the locker room.

"Don't put my business on the street," jokes Daddy, probably thrilled the child can't count high enough yet to keep track of his number of turnovers.

But who is kidding whom here?

I've got one word for you after this 105-88 defeat: "Fore!"

I've been invited to play in the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment annual golf tournament at Riviera on Monday and I don't see a trip back to San Antonio for Game 5 interfering with those plans.

This is a total mismatch, the Clippers just happy to be in the playoffs but not for long, with Paul limited and the Spurs so complete as a team.

Paul won't talk about it, won't admit it, while emphatically declaring, "no excuses."

But he's not the same player who changed the way folks regard the Clippers. His mind might be as sharp as ever, but eight turnovers — the most he's ever been charged in his professional career — suggest his body is betraying his competitiveness.

"My body is going to let me," insists Paul with emphasis. "My body is going to be just fine. We're going to go into Game 3 ready to rock 'n' roll."

Ever the wishful thinker he says the home-court advantage might make the difference, and I suppose the alignment of the moon and stars.

"I'm just missing," he says, while ever the dreamer. "I just have to play better. In order for us to make this a series, I personally have to play better."

We agree, but it's doubtful he will be able to recover sufficiently to do so. Throw in back-to-back assignments in Los Angeles this weekend and there will be no time for recovery.

"If you can't do it…," I say, and before finishing the question, Paul interrupts.

"I'm good to go," he says. "I'm good to go. We're going to get it right."

Then he turns to his son and says, "Ain't that right, Chris. Chris? We're going to get it right? We don't have any choice, do we, Chris?"

That prompts young Chris to ask if Daddy has had a bad shooting night. And who knew Chris Paul's child looks like he might grow up one day to be a reporter?

None of this is the Clippers' fault. They are who they are, a team in the making with Caron Butler playing with a broken hand and Blake Griffin trying to deal with a sore knee.

They certainly haven't rolled over, the bench outplaying the starters again and at least making the Spurs work up a sweat at times.

The Clippers hung tough for a quarter in Game 1, two quarters in Game 2 and that's something to look forward to when they return to Staples: Maybe a close game to begin the fourth quarter.

But as gutty as the Clippers might want to be, it's the Spurs who have the look of a winner, a real possibility they will end season with their fifth NBA title in the last 14 years.

They have become a machine under the league's top coach, Gregg Popovich. They began Game 2 with 15-straight wins and 17.6-point average margin of victory.

Make it 16 straight, the Clippers stubbornly digging in, though, to lose by only 17 and hurt the Spurs' average margin of victory. As small a moral victory as a team might record.

As if the Spurs needed any more incentive, they were trying to win Game 2 for a middle school kid who had been suspended for carving the face of Matt Bonner into his hair.

The kid attended Game 2, and folks around here were outraged the school would do such a thing. A school administrator called the haircut a "distraction," and said the student would have to shave his head to return to school.

Amen to that. I know I'd keep my eye on any kid who shunned Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan in favor of Matt Bonner?

As for the Clippers, they are probably down to their last gasp, the hometown crowd doing nothing for them when they played Memphis in Game 6.

They aren't getting the same run to the rim from Griffin, who has settled for more jump shots since injuring his knee.

He's also become increasingly frustrated while going hard to the rim and almost never getting a whistle.

Take away Paul's effectiveness in probing the defense and Griffin's inside power and the Clippers really have no run to throw a scare into the Spurs.

"They have not played as many games in [Staples] and hopefully they don't make as many shots," says Paul, while steadfastly refusing to admit the Spurs are just the better team. "You don't ever do that."

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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