SAN ANTONIO — Tony Parker scored 22 points on his 30th birthday, Tim Duncan had 18 and the San Antonio Spurs beat the fading Los Angeles Clippers 105-88 on Thursday night, pushing their winning streak to 16 and taking a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.
Chris Paul responded to his awful Game 1 with only a slightly better encore, scoring 10 points as the Clippers now head home desperate to steer out of what’s starting to get the feel of a sweep.
Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 20 points. His plan to manage his ailing knee so the All-Star would have enough steam for the fourth quarter proved moot, as both teams emptied their benches with another Spurs blowout assured.
Game 3 is Saturday night in Los Angeles.
The All-Star matchup of Paul vs. Parker went from a Game 1 bust to a lopsided mismatch that may have proved Paul is hurting more than he’s letting on. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro says his star is still struggling with an aching hip and groin, even as Paul insists he’s OK.
He again looked anything but. While Parker — the last of the Big Three to finally hit the big 3-0 — celebrated by more than tripling his seven points and dreadful 1-for-9 shooting in Game 1, Paul shot 4 of 9 and had just five assists.
At halftime, the third-place finisher in league’s MVP voting had more personal fouls (3) than point (2), assists (2) or rebounds (2).
Duncan, on the other hand, stayed in a playoff time warp. At 36 years old and playing in his 182nd postseason game — and with no contract beyond these playoffs — Duncan turned in another solid performance that sometimes recalled the former MVP who was going for his championships in his prime rather than the old-timer who’s chasing a fifth ring now.
He scored 14 points in the first half — almost as much as the rest of the starting lineup — and finished 9-of-14 shooting. Points in the paint weren’t even close: the Spurs had 50, and the Clippers 18.
Boris Diaw added 16 points and Danny Green had 13 for the Spurs. Manu Ginobili scored 10 and was held scoreless in the second half.
Randy Foye was the Clippers’ only other player in double digits, scoring 11.
If this keeps up, a near-historic postseason for the Clippers will end this weekend unless they figure out a plan fast.
This is only the third time in the woeful 41-year history of the franchise that Los Angeles’ long-maligned “other” team has survived to the second round. Their momentum started with a stunning 27-point comeback on the road against Memphis in their playoff opener, but the Clippers haven’t made a rally stick in San Antonio.
A bumbling start had the Clippers already down by 15 in the first quarter before clawing back with a 9-2 burst. Getting to within 46-42 at halftime had the Clippers’ bench heading to the locker room clapping and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich storming off fuming.
Halfway through the third quarter, however, the lead was back to 16.
“There was a refocus of energy at halftime,” Duncan said. “We came out understanding of what we had to do to finish this game.”
It was another methodical Spurs dissection, yet they’re not just sticking to what works. They’re still tinkering. Popovich put Splitter alongside Duncan to begin the second half instead of Diaw, who won the starting job at center once the playoffs began.
As the deficit deepened, so did the Clippers’ frustration.
DeAndre Jordan seethed and slammed the ball when a missed rotation gave Green an uncontested 3-pointer that stretched San Antonio’s lead to back to double digits in the third. Less than a minute later, Foye trotted upcourt shaking his head after Paul’s fumbled dribble gave Kawhi Leonard a clear path for a breakaway dunk.
Following another 3-pointer by Green— this one pushing San Antonio’s lead to 70-60 — the turned-around Clippers looked so disjointed that Green darted back down and knocked the ball out of Paul’s hands on the ensuing inbound.