This is the time of year when the San Antonio Spurs start to tune up for the playoffs, when their defense starts to really hone in on how to shut teams down.
Mission accomplished Monday night — the Clippers shot 36.8% for the game, 20% in the decisive second quarter and go on to get routed by San Antonio 106-78. And it probably wasn’t that close.
Against the shorthanded Clippers, shutting them down meant shutting down the pick-and-roll, particularly when Baron Davis and Al Thornton are running it. In the first half, that pair combines to go 2-18 as the Spurs took away the driving lanes and dared those two to beat them with contested jumpers.
For the first quarter the game remains close because of Steve Novak and Marcus Camby, who combine to shoot 5 for 7 and are the only ones hitting. But when the Spurs tightened up their defense as the game headed to the second quarter, they took away the pick-and-roll, leaving Novak few chances. And Camby could never handle that much of an offensive load. At that point the Clippers really missed two guys who are efficient scorers on the team, Zach Randolph and Eric Gordon, both out injured.
The Clippers bench fared worse than the starters, couldn’t find the bottom of the net in the second quarter, and that gave the Spurs room to go on runs of 9-0 and 10-1 and open up a lead they would never give up. Or even really be threatened to give up.
In fact in the third, the Clippers went cold for a stretch and that allowed the Spurs to go on a 15-2 run and stretch their lead out to 28.
Mike Taylor was the one Clipper playing with a lot of energy, but he was given the near impossible task of slowing Spurs star point guard Tony Parker. The veteran attacked Taylor with the ball and got him into first half foul trouble. Taylor never really got significant minutes until the game was out of reach.
Fred Jones came in to replace Taylor and gave the Clippers their one big highlight of the night — as the first quarter expired he hit a three-quarters court shot. Nothing but net.
Jones finished the night with 14, tied with Thornton for the team lead. Davis added 10 points and 8 assists in a fairly lackluster effort on both ends of the floor — without the pick-and-roll working and with his shots contested, Davis did not try to fight through it. None of the Clippers really did.
And that says as much about the team’s season as this game.
Kurt Helin can't defend Tony Parker either, which is why he stuck to writing a Lakers focused basketball blog.