Culture of Hoops

Clippers vs. Spurs Game 1: Who’s the Underdog, Again?

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers entered Game 1 of with an underdog mentality. Yes, they are facing the defending champions in the San Antonio Spurs and they have essentially touted their superiority throughout the regular season all while whining about calls and flopping during the process, but they’re sticking with that mindset.

Nevertheless, the idea that the Clippers are indomitably paralyzed against the built-for-the-playoffs San Antonio roster is laughable. Sunday’s game proved  just that, and it also gave viewers glimpses of nostalgic playoff basketball—the aggressive rough-and-tumble goings on that revealed a true sense of urgency in playoff teams of the past decades. Simply put, these two teams in this series are not giving up without a fight.

One of the primary complaints for the Clippers going into the series was the lack of roster depth. Throughout the season, the Clippers toyed with improving their frontcourt rotation by signing players who have had productive runs as starters for other teams in Glen Davis and Spencer Hawes. That, however, played a minimal factor in Game 1 as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan clocked 42:44 and 38:23 minutes, respectively. And this method was effective. Griffin and Jordan dominated the glass as they grabbed 26 of the team’s 46 rebounds in the 107-92 win at home.

For the Spurs, the health of Tony Parker has to be a concern for the rest of the series. Parker tweaked his ankle early in the game. He went back to the locker room, but only missed a few minutes as he re-entered the game shortly after. Despite the good news, Parker never really got into rhythm and is arguably the primary reason the San Antonio offense never got going. Parker ended his night shooting 4-of-11 field goal, 0-3 from three-point land, and just one assist.

While Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had stellar performances that showed they were ready for the playoffs, the determining factor in this game was the support from Jamal Crawford. Despite missing a slew of games due to a calf injury, Crawford shook any rust off and scorched the Spurs with his 17 points off the bench, and maintained the insurmountable lead that the starters created during the middle of the first quarter.

The following quarters reinforced the idea that, in a playoffs that feature many high-profile matchups, Clippers-Spurs is the pièce de résistance of the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers’ defensive prowess resulted in more aggressive plays throughout. Clippers guard Matt Barnes and Spurs forward Aron Baynes were caught in a scramble for the ball that had both of them stumbling out of bounds and onto the nearby photographers. Neither seemed to give up possession even after the play was over. The aggression was reminiscent of a scuffle but lacked any real fighting; these two players, and their respective teams, are simply willing to be as aggressive as it takes for every possession.  And it’s only Game 1.

“They’re playing well and making some shots,” said San Antonio Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich after the first quarter. 

Considering how the rest of the game went, that was a definite understatement. With the win in their grasp, the Clippers even provided some film for the highlight reel, especially Blake Griffin who posterized Baynes thrice.

This Spurs loss was the first Game-1 loss for the franchise in 12 series. Clipper nation can celebrate a decisive win but, given the high energy and the even large amount of minutes from their starters, that may not last very long.

Game 2 will take place at the Staples Center on Wednesday, April 22, 9:30 PM and will air on TNT.

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