Clippers power forward Blake Griffin elevates for a shot over Spurs forward… (Ronald Martinez / Getty…)
The banged-up, never-give-up Clippers are running out of time.
They played a solid game for three quarters Thursday night in San Antonio before surrendering in the fourth to the Spurs on Thursday night, losing 105-88 to fall behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.
Perhaps their biggest concern is Chris Paul, the All-Star point guard who has inspired both the team and the growing fan base with his fourth-quarter heroics. But on Thursday he was generously average, obviously hurting from a hip problem. He scored 10 points but committed eight turnovers in the game.
As you might expect Tim Duncan showed his experience and playoff savvy scoring 18 points in 32 minutes. The Clippers just couldn’t figure out how to stop him. He was nine for 14 from the field, mostly all at short range.
Unlike the Lakers, who showed they could compete with Oklahoma City in Game 2, the Clippers really showed little reason they would be able to win four games from the Spurs, arguably the best team in the NBA. With the South Beach crew falling behind Indiana, 2-1 on Thursday the real NBA Finals could be San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City.
Blake Griffin was the Clippers' leading scorer with 20 points, followed by Randy Foye with 11.
The other leader for the Spurs was Tony Parker, who had 22 points. Danny Green (13) and Manu Gnobli (10) also contributed to the balanced attack. The Spurs got some unexpected big-time play from Boris Diaw, who was seven for seven from the field, finishing with 16 points.
Spurs 78, Clippers 67 (end of third quarter)
A combination of sharp shooting by the Spurs and some flatness by the Clippers allowed the Spurs to open things up at the start of the third quarter.
The Spurs quickly built the lead to eight points and before things could settle down, a pair of Danny Green three-pointers made it an 11-point game with 8:44 to play in the quarter. The Clippers called a timeout and needed to do something before this game got out of hand.
Chris Paul, who struggled the entire first half, tried to answer with a jumper that hit the front iron. Clearly, the Clippers would need for him return to form if they were to have a chance. But after a Clippers turnover the Spurs' Kawhi Leonard drove the length of the court for a slam and it was a 13-point margin. After two Tony Parker free throws it was 15.
But the Clippers were able to chip away at the lead and with 5:00 to play in the quarter, Paul hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 11. After Parker missed a three, the Clippers were able to get it inside double figures off a pair of Caron Butler free throws. DeAndre Jordan then stole the ball and ran a lumbering breakaway for the slam.
But the Spurs, arguably the best team in the NBA, were able to quickly make it a 10-point game.
With two minutes to play in the quarter, the Spurs went back to work as Boris Diaw scored to make it 74-63. The teams traded baskets as the rest of the quarter played out.
The Clippers have a lot of points to make up and this isn’t Memphis. The Clippers could very well be looking at a 2-0 deficit coming back to Staples Center.
Griffin was the Clippers' leading scorer with 15, followed by Randy Foye with 11 and Paul with 10.
Duncan and Parker each had 16 points for the Spurs.
Spurs 46, Clippers 42 (halftime)
At one point in the first quarter it had the makings of a blow out. But the Clippers seem to be able to hang around even when people have trouble understanding why.
The Clippers were able to open the second period and cut even more into what was once a 16-point first quarter Spurs lead getting it down to four courtesy of the continuation of a 14-2 run.
With about nine minutes left to play in the first half, Chris Paul made a steal, passed the ball to Nick Young, who was fouled while shooting a three-point shot. Three free throws later the Clippers had closed their deficit to only two points, 31-29.
But Tony Parker answered with a jumper to extend the lead back to four. Parker was making his presence felt in the second quarter with eight points for the game.
Both teams were exchanging misses and baskets until there were about 6 1/2 minutes to play in the second quarter, when Mo Williams made a two, cutting the Spurs' lead to two. Clearly, the Clippers were sending a message they were here to stay in the game. At least for a little while.
The Clippers were able to cut it to one with a Randy Foye three -- his third of the game with 4:45 to play before halftime. But the Spurs were able to recover and extended to six after a Danny Green three with 3:08 to play.
What was the most troubling for the Clippers, though, was the play of Paul, who made more than his share of uncharacteristic mistakes. He even left the game with just over three minutes to play after committing his third foul. He had two points and five turnovers.