What Young L.A. Clippers Can Learn from Seasoned San Antonio Spurs
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During the regular season, the Spurs led the NBA in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage at 47.8 and 39.3 percent respectively.
Against a Clippers team that had defensively shut down the Memphis Grizzlies for long stretches in the first round, the Spurs not only matched their regular-season numbers, they exceeded them. By far.
San Antonio shot a blistering 50.2 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from three in round two, and the Clippers' defense was powerless to stop them.
If there's one thing that the Clippers take away from their sweep at the hands of the Spurs, it should be how to run a supremely effective and deadly efficient offense.
For the Clippers, their ultimate downfall was their stagnant half-court offense that relied almost completely on Chris Paul. When he was in the game, the Clippers' offensive game plan seemed to be "Hey Chris, here's the ball. Go make something happen!"
The fact that L.A. posted their best-ever regular season winning percentage and won a playoff series for just the second time in 35 years by running that type of offense speaks to Paul's immense talent.
No player in the NBA is leaned upon as heavily on offense as CP3, whose duty it is to not only set up all of his teammates, but also to take over games when needed. The Spurs exposed the Clippers by taking away most of Paul's penetration (though you have to wonder how much of that was due to the injury Paul suffered in round one) and forcing his teammates to make plays.
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Apart from one nice performance from Blake Griffin and two pleasant outbursts by Eric Bledsoe, there wasn't much the Clippers could do without Paul's heroics.
Meanwhile, the Spurs' offense was legitimately frightening, despite only having one player average at least 18 points per game (Tim Duncan).
San Antonio carved up the Clippers offensively through superior ball movement and an intricate understanding of where to be and what to do.
It seemed like no matter what the Spurs ran on offense, they always got a good look at the basket because they made the right pass and were always in proper position. On practically every pick-and-roll, either Tony Parker had space to get his runner off, Tim Duncan had plenty of room to fire a jumper or take it to the basket, or one of San Antonio's myriad shooters ended up with a wide open three-pointer.
The way the Spurs kept the ball humming around the court left a trail of Clippers defenders in their wake as they put up good shot after good shot. San Antonio's surgically precise ball movement was the key.
Despite having only one player average at least five assists a game and no one even getting to eight in a night's work, the Spurs as a team averaged close to 27 assists per contest. That's nearly three assists per game more than the NBA's No. 1 team in assists during the regular season.
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While the Clippers tallied assists on 52 percent of their made field goals in the series, the Spurs recorded assists on a whopping 70 percent of their hoops. That number right there sums up the difference between these two offenses.
In order for the Clippers to take the next step, they must learn to move ball and man with the precision of the well-oiled Spurs.
Some of the responsibility falls on the coach, who needs to draw up some more creative and versatile sets. But the players must also wean themselves off the dependency on Paul and be more assertive on the offensive end. The front office needs to pitch in too, and find players to fill specific roles the way San Antonio does.
If the Clippers use the Spurs as a model, they too can compete for championships year in and year out.
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