The San Antonio Spurs kept up their perfect record in the playoffs and posted a 18 game winning streak as they swept the Los Angeles Clippers. Winning 102-99 in LA, the Spurs were led by none other than Tim Duncan. Seemingly hell bent on adding another ring to his collection, Duncan scored 21 points and added 9 rebounds. Tony Parker filled out the usual suspects alongside Manu Ginobli who had 17 and 11 points respectively.
Chris Paul had a big game with 23 points and 11 assists, as well as 6 rebounds. Blake Griffin also had 21 points.
A 24-0 run from the veteran Spurs left the Clippers faithful wondering what could of been as the Spurs topped the Clips yet again to take a more than likely insurmountable 3-0 lead. 28 points from Blake Griffin however was a reassuring sight for the future. For now however, Tim Duncans 19 points and 13 rebound game, complimented by 4 assists, will come out on top. Still youthful guard Tony Parker added 23 points and 10 assists.
“We did not plan on being down that much in the first quarter, but we understood that they were going to make a run early, and we needed to sustain. We’ve been through enough of them to understand that’s how it goes. It was great poise by our entire team.”
– Spurs forward Tim Duncan
Whilst it looks likely that the Clippers will be leaving these playoffs in a sweep, this can be nothing but a positive season for this young team. Griffin playing against the master himself in Tim Duncan, in playoff time, is a huge learning experience for the young man.
Tony Parker’s MVP level play and a sprightly Tim Duncan continued to power the San Antonio Spurs over the Utah Jazz as they took a commanding and near insurmountable 3-0 lead heading into the final game in Utah. With Parker scoring 27 along with Duncan adding in 17 and running the floor like a much younger man, the Spurs were rarely challenged in what ended up being a fairly routine win.
The Jazz were led by a 21 point double from Al Jefferson and Devin Harris who both reached the mark. But it was a mediocre 9 points from usually high scoring power forward Paul Millsap that really let the Jazz down in the long run. Young Gordon Hayward struggled all night, missing 9 of his 10 shots to score only 4 points. Whilst the effort has been there for the Jazz, it is difficult to see anything else than a sweep now.
The San Antonio Spurs used double digit scoring from 7 players to lift them to a huge Game Two win over the Utah Jazz. Heading into Utah after this game, the Spurs certainly gave themselves the best chance to close out the series in Utah with the big win. No doubt this will certainly be hugely demoralizing for the Jazz. The gap between the number one seed and the eighth is certainly evident on the Western side of the conference.
“We were aggressive and we wanted to make sure we matched their energy,”
Spurs guard; Tony Parker
From a simple stats view, starting ‘center’ Boris Diaw only had 11 points, but was a preposterous +41 in the plus/minus column. Tony Parker also pushed a double double, scoring 18 points and dishing out 9 assists. Rookie Kawhi Leonard had 17 points while Tim Duncan kept up his ageless play with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
In a miserable game for the Jazz, only Al Jefferson and Josh Howard were the only ones to crack double digits, both scoring 10 points apiece. Enes Kanter’s play was the only slight positive for the Jazz, scoring 8 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in around 15 minutes of play.
Coach of the Year Greg Popovich also accepted his award for his work in getting an older Spurs list to where it is today.
Ramon Sessions/Kobe Bryant-Los Angeles Lakers
A trade deadline union, Kobe and Sessions form a dangerous pair going into the playoffs. Whilst they haven’t seemed to gel as easily as Jennings and Ellis, Sessions has energised the previously sluggish Laker offense. Although Kobe seems to want Fisher back, that could only be for personal relationships, as Sessions has brought a palpable improvement to the Lakers. The Lakers are scoring at a much greater rate and Sessions is establishing himself as one of the better point guards in the NBA on the big stage.
As for Kobe Bryant, there’s not a lot to say. He is the best player at his position in the league, he is scoring at an astronomical rate and despite the supposed issues between him and coach Mike Brown, the Lakers are winning. They currently hold the 3rd seed in the West, behind only San Antonio and OKC. Bryant’s leadership through the coaching rumours and issues were vital, not letting it get out of hand and never suggesting that the locker room had turned on Brown. Sessions and Bryant are turning into one of the more dynamic backcourts in the league.
Brandon Jennings/Monta Ellis-Milwaukee Bucks
When it comes to the Milwaukee Bucks-speed kills. With both Jennings and Ellis, the Bucks have one of the fastest backcourts in the NBA. These guys can get up and down the floor rapidly and are great scorers on the fast break. Jennings also appears to be rejuvenated by his new backcourt mate and they have formed one of the best guard tandems after the trade. Their continued success is vital to the Bucks’ push towards taking that 8th seed in the East off the New York Knicks. Whether or not they can make any kind of upset against the Heat or Bulls is unlikely, but they very well could steal a game off them.
They both play the passing lanes to the highest level, putting their speed to good use. Whilst Monta Ellis especially is quite undersized for his position, he fights hard on defence, especially after being united with defensive minded Scott Skiles.
Ray Allen/Rajon Rondo-Boston Celtics
One can barely shoot and the other is the greatest three point shooter the game has seen, yet these polar opposites complement each other wonderfully to form one of the best backcourt pairs. Like most of the Boston Celtics, they seem to be on the same wavelength, always seem to know where each other are going to go. Rondo will always know where Ray will be going on the fast break, and just as, if not more, important will always put the ball perfectly in Rays shooting pocket. This helps a shooter to no end, the very art of shooting based around repetition. Getting the ball in the same place every time means there is one less thing for Ray to worry about. He only has to worry about taking the shot. Rondos passing is one of the big reasons why Allen is still shooting at a high level.
Tony Parker/Manu Ginobli-San Antonio Spurs
Whilst Ginobli has been unhealthy for most of the year, the veteran championship pair is still amongst the best. Parker has been playing at an MVP level and is now the heart of the team. Ginobli fights for every step on defence and is still one of the most dynamic scorers in the NBA. You have to respect his deadly jump shot, but if you close out poorly he will get around you and find a way to the hoop. Parker is playing close to career best basketball and is keeping the Spurs and Tim Duncan relevant. The Spurs contention this year rests on his shoulders.
How do the Spurs always manage to fly under the radar? Every year, Pop figures a way out to get his team to win, and yet nobody really pays much attention to them. Tony Parker is playing nigh on MVP basketball, yet few would put him in the top ten of candidates. Tim Duncan is still doing his thing, and unlike many aging superstars, is willing to take a back seat, is actually able to acknowledge that his powers are in decline. Few players ever of his calibre have been able to do that. The one thing that has been holding them back is their health, but they appear to have gotten over that hump. They were active at the deadline, yet like usual they were largely ignored. Boris Diaw is no poor pickup and if anyone can get Stephen Jackson but to work Popovich can. Then they went ahead and signed promising young guard Patty Mills. Still they attracted little attention, with many preferring the young guns in Oklahoma over the veterans in San Antonio.
Now with Manu Ginobli back in the line-up, the Spurs are healthy. If they were able to win without their All-Star guard, one struggles to imagine that his return will be anything other than positive. And they run deep, once again something that is often ignored. People talk about the likes of Chicago and Philadelphia when they are talking about teams that run deep down the bench, yet rarely are the Spurs mentioned. With Bonner, Diaw, Mills, Jackson, Neal and Splitter are all quality players, all able to step up on a given night.
Also, somehow, despite remaining at the top of the standings for many years, they have managed to acquire some great youth. Tiago Splitter will be a great player one day, and Kawhi Leonard is starting in his rookie season. Patty Mills can also play and is a great backup off the bench. DeJuan Blair is starting at the center. Their stocks of young players are stronger than many teams who have had multiple high lottery picks. The Spurs haven’t missed the playoffs since Tim Duncan’s drafting 14 years ago and have won 3 championships with essentially this core. Don’t be surprised if they go deep into the playoffs this year and are right in the mix to win it all.