San Antonio Spurs Sweep Prepares a Title Favorite for Next Step
Falling down sans forward momentum with bodies in black jerseys surrounding him, he did his best end-of-Happy Gilmore impersonation. He threw up a prayer, and Gregg Popovich had to throw up in his mind when the ball touched the top of the backboard and rolled down through the net.
For Vinny Del Negro, the circus and-one attempt ended with a friendly roll. For Popovich, it represented one of the few Clipper scores that won't be dissected and lambasted in the next extended film session.
The Spurs will see their many mistakes in slow motion, with a coach barking at them about lethargy and ceding too many 50-50 balls. And they will sharpen up things for the Oklahoma City Thunder or L.A. Lakers.
Everything the Clippers hoisted was going in, even the junk shots Popovich was willing to allow. Eric Bledsoe tore through a lackadaisical, often porous San Antonio defense for 17 points. The Silver and Black coverage has otherwise been superb in these playoffs.
There was no stymieing Lob City this time. No more eight-minute stints for L.A. without a field goal.
Blake Griffin, for one night, looked like a lesser Kevin McHale, banking and willing in awkward post shots en route to 20 points.
Chris Paul finally looked like Chris Paul, and maybe that inspired the Spurs' furious finishing kick. After trailing 92-87, San Antonio amassed a 9-2 run and took relative command of the affair from there.
Danny Green knotted the score at 92 with a three-pointer. Manu Ginobili rolled to the rim for a layup. Tim Duncan answered a Paul floater with a jump hook.
The Big Fundamental collected 21 points and nine rebounds, but his performance was part of a team effort that swung from unacceptable to just enough. Sunday night, the garbage took out the worse garbage.
The Spurs coughed up the ball enough that Popovich may have alerted the medical staff, just in case the on-court projectile vomiting continued. While 15 turnovers may not sound like a crippling number, the miscues added up, and Paul took full advantage.
That San Antonio won Game 4 with numerous stretches of sleepwalking is a testament to perseverance and knowing what to do when it counts. Then again, the Clippers competed just the way the Jazz did when their season faced certain termination. Desperate teams are supposed to make every shot—they are supposed to play with reckless abandon.
When the buzzer sounded and the participants shook hands, the respect for Paul's competitive zest was clear. It had to sting CP3 to lose a contest in which his teammates did so much right.
The Clippers executed with more vigor and purpose. They swiped at the ball ferociously in a manner that paid rare dividends. The Spurs ranked in the top five again this season in fewest giveaways.
Bledsoe and Paul were dynamite in transition and from the perimeter. Griffin looked like a kid using the cheat code on NBA 2K12, the way he spun and contorted his upper body for finish after finish. He wouldn't have more luck if he played a round of Pop-A-Shot.
Paul's stat line after a herculean 40-minute outing: 23 points, 11 assists and six rebounds. So much went right, and the Clippers still could not beat the Spurs.
The pride of the Alamo City has not lost a game since April 11. An 18th consecutive victory, with eight of those coming in the postseason, puts this squad in select company.
The Spurs no doubt deserve a better sweep column than this. Yet, the fans, hoops writers and players deserved a better playoff schedule than one with such a ridiculous back to back. Hooray for TV money.
An expedient ending became inevitable Saturday when San Antonio rallied from 24 down and won by 10.
While Popovich has every right to gripe about the uneven performance and several quarters worth of lousy defense, he should also credit his squad for displaying the necessary tenacity in the end.
The closeout win was not going to be perfect, no matter the circumstance or venue. Green bricked one of two free throws and left the outcome in doubt. Ginobili refused to shoot at least four open triples. Parker donated the ball to his buddy Paul six times.
Yet, in the closing seconds, Green defended Paul's last-gasp heave at the rim as well as any player can. Duncan was magnificent. Parker demonstrated command in so many key moments. He did so, despite logging exhausting 36-minute and 37-minute performances on consecutive days.
The Spurs didn't do a lot right, but they did enough. The much-deserved break begins now, and a deadlier opponent, most likely the explosive Thunder, awaits. With time to rest and review game tape now imminent, Popovich will try to guide his remarkable squad to its 19th straight win.
San Antonio will look a lot better and sharper than it did at Staples Center Sunday night in a slapdash effort when it hosts the Western Conference finals opener this week.
Adios, Clippers. Next.
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