Wait, wasn’t MVP favorite Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors supposed to be the best point guard in the NBA?
Not so fast, Chris Paul showed the world Sunday as his Los Angeles Clippers defeated the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in convincing fashion, 107-92. Paul scored 32 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists.
The Clippers delivered the first blow of the contest, going up 30-18 at the end of the first quarter. The cold-shooting Spurs let Los Angeles dictate the pace of the game, allowing several transition and semi-transition hoops to the more athletic Clippers.
San Antonio, however, responded with a 19-5 run of its own as the shots started to fall and its reserves predictably outplayed the Clippers’ bench. Hack-a-Jordan also dominated much of the quarter. But by halftime, the Spurs had fallen back behind by six points, 49-43.
Then the third quarter happened.
DeAndre Jordan intimidated any and every Spur who dared venture into his paint, Matt Barnes‘s aggressive, scrappy play ignited the home crowd and Blake Griffin baptized Aron Baynes with a posterizing dunk. And then he did it again:
By the end of the third quarter, Los Angeles had built a commanding 79-64 lead.
If Jordan, Griffin and Barnes weren’t doing the damage in the second half, it was Paul. The superstar point guard closed the third and opened the fourth with a vengeance, effectively telling the Spurs “better luck next game.” It didn’t matter who was guarding him—Tony Parker, Cory Joseph, Danny Green or even The Claw himself, Kawhi Leonard—CP3 made mincemeat of every one of his covers. The All-Star floor general hit shots from all angles and of all difficulties, ending with 23 second-half points.
Throughout the game, sixth man Jamal Crawford (17 points on 7-of-10 shooting) also chipped in with some amazing shots that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Another big story from this contest was the Clippers’ defense. We all knew the Clippers’ No. 1-ranked offense was going to be potent. But did you see their stellar play on the other side of the ball coming?
The Spurs did have an uncharacteristically cold night from three (10-of-33) and couldn’t hit much from mid-range, either. However, Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jordan was a deterrent in the paint all night long, sending back four shots and preventing countless others from even going up.
For the game, San Antonio shot just 36.6 percent from the field and made a Clippers-esque 14-of-25 from the free-throw line.
Leonard was the lone bright spot for the Spurs, with 18 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals. His timely baskets helped rein in the Clippers’ lead several times, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Looking forward to Game 2 on Wednesday, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has to be thinking about how he can counteract Jordan’s defensive presence in the paint, especially if his team has another bad outside shooting night.
Additionally, Coach Pop has to figure out some way to limit Paul’s effectiveness and get the ball out of his hands as much as possible.
Both things are easier said than done, I know. But if anyone can do them, it’s Pop.