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2nd-Half Efforts of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin Help Clippers Force Game 7

Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports

So you thought the series between the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers was over after the Spurs’ supposedly momentum-shifting win in Game 5? Wrong.

In Thursday night’s Game 6 in San Antonio, Chris Paul (19 points, 15 assists) and Blake Griffin (26 points, 12 rebounds, six assists) showed why they’re two of the best players in the NBA with big-time performances, especially in the second half, knotting the series at three games apiece. The Clippers ended up winning a close one, 102-96, to force a winner-take-all Game 7 back in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

The tight, back-and-forth nature of the contest was fitting for a series that has been hard to predict and extremely close to call. At the end of the first quarter and the first half, the score was tied, because of course it was. But the Clippers’ superstar duo turned in big play after big play after the intermission to help their team gradually build a lead.

In the second half alone, Griffin scored 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists. Paul also added 15 points, two rebounds and seven assists in the final 24 minutes. Their pick-and-roll action was nearly impossible for the Spurs to stop. Sometimes Paul would pull up at the elbow for a jumper, and other times he’d find Griffin at the very last millisecond for a layup.

The game of “can you top this?” between the Clippers’ starters and the Spurs’ bench also continued in Game 6. Los Angeles’ five regulars combined for 87 points, versus just 48 for the Spurs. But the reserves were nearly as lopsided going the other way—San Antonio’s bench scored 48 points (23 for the red-hot Marco Belinelli), while the Clippers got just 15 from their much-maligned bench:

The Spurs’ trio of Tony Parker, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter, three of the team’s starters, are continuing to disappoint. They combined for 24 points on just 10-of-27 shooting on Thursday night. Parker has been slowed by injuries all series, while Green is 2-of-16 from three over the last three games. Splitter had his most productive game of the series, but his 3-of-8 mark from the free throw line hurt.

Another key starter, Kawhi Leonard, also played like a member of that unfortunate group. In maybe his worst playoff game ever, Leonard scored 12 points on 3-of-15 shooting while also committing four turnovers. His defense on Paul in the second half wasn’t excellent, either. Over the past couple of months, Leonard has emerged as the Spurs’ best offensive option, so he’ll definitely need to forget about this bad game moving forward.

Unlike the Spurs, the Clippers’ supporting starters were a huge boost. J.J. Redick scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, DeAndre Jordan contributed 15 points and 14 rebounds and Matt Barnes made 3-of-3 shots and both of his three-point attempts.

Under normal circumstances, I would say the Clippers should be favored to win at home in Game 7 and take the series on Saturday. But rarely anything about this series has been normal. Momentum hasn’t carried over from game-to-game, and players on both sides are putting forth randomly good and bad performances.

I will say this—don’t bet your life savings on the result of Game 7.

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