at San Antonio 105, L.A. Clippers 88 (San Antonio leads 2-0)
Offensive Ratings: San Antonio 119.6, L.A. Clippers 105.2
Just two games into this series, the eventual outcome has already taken on an air of finality. It's a matter of when, not if, the San Antonio Spurs will dispatch of the Los Angeles Clippers and reach the Western Conference Finals.
On Thursday, the Clippers got the kind of hot outside shooting that looked like it could enable them to steal a game or two. Led by fast-starting Randy Foye and the reserve duo of Mo Williams and Nick Young, the Clippers made nine of their 13 three-point attempts. That fueled their second-best performance of the postseason in terms of effective field goal percentage. And the Clippers still lost by 17. (The superior performance, oddly, also came in a loss, in Game 2 vs. Memphis.)
Surely, Chris Paul's health was a major issue for L.A. Their star point guard gutted out 34 minutes, but at no time did he look like himself. Shackled on the perimeter by the Spurs' traps, Paul occasionally was able to reverse the ball to the weak side, but too often coughed up the basketball--his eight turnovers were the most of his career, and the Clippers' turnover percentage as a team (19.8 percent of their plays) was higher than all but one game of their series against the Grizzlies, who forced turnovers more frequently than any NBA team in the regular season. (In something less than a coincidence, that other game was ... Game 2.)
The larger issue for the Clippers is their continuing inability to stop the Spurs, especially when the teams have their starting lineups on the floor. San Antonio made a robust 59.2 percent of its two-point attempts and got off to terrific starts to both halves. When the Clippers had their starting five intact, they were outscored by 10 points in both the first and third quarters.
While this partially has to do with the Spurs' second unit underwhelming in the playoffs, the Clippers remain at their most effective with Eric Bledsoe on the floor. The second-year guard didn't do much statistically in Game 2, finishing with as many turnovers as points (four apiece), but the Clippers were +8 in 23 minutes of action. The Bledsoe-Paul backcourt was +3 in a game the Clippers lost by 20 points otherwise. Again, Vinny Del Negro must seriously consider starting Bledsoe at shooting guard. As the Clippers return home after two lopsided outcomes, there's little for Del Negro to lose with a switch.
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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