When the San Antonio Spurs lost on the final day of the regular season, it knocked them from the #2 seed in the Western Conference all the way down to #6. Thanks to the NBA’s dumb rule that grants division winners a Top 4 seed — even though home court advantage is still based on record — the Spurs were forced to play their first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Two games in, it’s the only series tied 1-1, and after Wednesday night’s barn burner, the league, much like it did in 2006, will have to seriously reconsider playoff seeding.
After a blowout loss in Game 1, the Spurs weren’t necessarily in a must-win situation, but going down 0-2 and needing to win four of the next five games is as daunting a task as there is in the NBA. Especially against these Clippers. And, especially after Game 1, when it looked like the young Clips were just going to run all over the creaky Spurs. Then, Tim Duncan happened.
Duncan was magnificent in a throwback performance of 28 points and 11 rebounds, all the while making some peoples’ pick for Defensive Player of the Year, DeAndre Jordan, look silly. Well, silly except for one play late, where Jordan managed a clutch block. But, for the most part, Ol’ Timmy was unstoppable.
The game was really tremendous until the fourth quarter, when both teams hit a brick wall and couldn’t hit anything from the field. Also, Gregg Popovich turned the game into a hack-a-thon on Jordan. The plan failed, as the Spurs’ lead dissipated due to their failure to muster up any sort of offense in response, and the Clippers found themselves up two late in the fourth quarter. Then, the wheels fell off. Blake Griffin committed a ghastly turnover leading to a Patty Mills drive on the other end. Mills missed the layup but was fouled and sank two free throws to tie the game.
Perhaps it was fatigue, but the Clippers wilted in overtime — Griffin had another costly turnover, the entire team slept on Mills streaking down court for a wide open layup — and the Spurs escaped with a narrow victory. More importantly, the Spurs stole home court advantage.
Now, we should say that doesn’t even begin to cover all the insanity of this game. It featured everything:
Joey Crawford being Joey Crawford.
Clippers temper tantrums.
The death of JJ Reddick…
…and revival of JJ Reddick. A Blake Griffin Eurostep dunk.
Speaking of Blake, he tossed up the only postseason triple-double — 29 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists — of the last two years by someone not named Russell Westbrook.
In addition to the series heading to San Antonio for Games 3 and 4, there’s another dynamic shift set to take place: Games 3 through 7 (if necessary) are played every other day, starting on Friday. The Clippers, with their nearly non-existent bench, had the luxury of two days off between Games 1 and 2. They no longer have that luxury, and the series will hinge on the resiliency of their starters versus the depth of the Spurs. It’s just a shame one of these teams is going home before the conference semifinals.