The big question heading into game 4 will be whether or not the huge win for the San Antonio Spurs in the previous encounter, giving them a 2-1 lead in the series, will shake up the Los Angeles Clippers or serve as a sign of things to come.
Champions lose along the way, and big time. The Spurs had a big loss to open up this series. The important thing is treating it as just one game and moving on; learning from the mistakes, adjusting and preparing for the next game. There were plenty of mistakes to learn from for the Clippers and Doc Rivers, who was slightly throwing his players under the bus, something he tends to do after frustrating defeats.
The Clippers have the talent to match up to the Spurs, but the question isn’t about talent and ability. It’s about whether or not the Clippers can eliminate the small mistakes and clean up their play. Can they be more efficient, avoid the mistakes that pile up into landslide runs and blowouts, and simply play the right, smart kind of basketball that’s going to be required of them?
Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are the worst kind of player to make these mistakes against. Green got a lot of minutes guarding Chris Paul and holding him to just 7 points and 6 turnovers, teaching Paul he needs to get rid of the ball quickly if he’s under pressure against bigger, longer guys. Leonard made the Clippers pay for every steal he got, finishing the game with 32 points.
Following his incredible performance in game 2 to avoid going down 0-2, Tim Duncan almost had like a resting day in game 3, taking just six shots and scoring only 4 points in 31 minutes. Unlike Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili who seem to be dealing each with their own set of problems, from getting older and from being unable to stay healthy, Duncan is the reliable one in the trio that might no longer be referred to as the Big Three, and he might have to carry them through certain minutes again if Parker and Ginobili aren’t up to the task.
Blake Griffin has the same kind of job to do. He is more than just a dunk and rebound monster, but it didn’t’ seem like the more all-around role was something he felt comfortable in in game 3. No one from the Clippers felt comfortable, and a big game from Griffin, especially a hot start, can force the Spurs to fold their defense and ease off the pressure on the perimeter from Green and Leonard.
DeAndre Jordan might get some relief next season from Adam Silver, possibly changing some rules regarding the hack-a-player tactics. For now, it’s completely fair and square, and he needs to make them. Game 2 not going to the Clippers is partially his fault, and if he doesn’t want the Clippers to be wondering about what if’s, he needs to stop missing 10 or more from the line each game.