Kevin Durant Powers OKC Past San Antonio In Game 4

Thanks to a phenomenal performance from Oklahoma City’s big men and a prolific second half from Kevin Durant, the Thunder finished their defense of their home court and evened up the Western Conference Finals. With the series tied at 2-2, the Spurs will have to defend their home court and try to snatch momentum back with a pivotal Game 5 on the line.

By halftime, the Thunder had built up a 12-point lead because of elevated play from their frontcourt. Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison were 15-for-17 in the first half and scored 33 of OKC’s 55 points. Ibaka’s performance was key and showed how deadly Oklahoma City can be when he plays at such a high level, finishing with 26 points on a ridiculous 11-of-11 shooting night. Perkins finished with 15 points and went 7-of-9 from the floor and Nick Collison added eight off the bench. But what was even most impressive about the Thunder’s first half lead was how little Kevin Durant had done up until that point: 1-for-3 from the field and just eight points in the first half. But after exploding for 28 points in the second half (18 of which came in the last seven minutes of the game), it seems he was just warming up for something special. The Thunder’s 15-point lead was cut to just four with less than seven minutes to play, but the Durantula kept his team afloat by scoring 16 straight points for the Thunder to give OKC a nine-point lead with less than two minutes left in the game.

Kevin Durant had a Jordanesque performance in Game 3, singlehandedly lifting his team past the Spurs in the fourth.

Oklahoma City should be feeling pretty good about themselves at this point. They tied the series up and defended home court; they got over the hump and proved that they can beat this high-powered offensive team; Kevin Durant is coming off a Jordanesque performance; Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka were truly impressive on the offensive end; but most important of all, they won in convincing fashion despite the fact that Russell Westbrook and James Harden had meager performances. Westbrook had only seven points and five assists while Harden finished with 11 off the bench. The fact that the Thunder are winning without Westbrook taking a ton of shots should show OKC how important it is for Durant to take the majority of the shots, especially when their role players play to well. All of this should build confidence for a critical Game 5 in San Antonio. They have all the momentum after defending their home court and not collapsing under the pressure of a 2-0 deficit supplied by this offensive juggernaut known as the Spurs. They’ve proved to the world and to themselves that Gregg Popovich’s high-flying team is vulnerable and can be beaten. The question now is whether or not they can do what no one has been able to do so far in this series by winning on the road.

The Western Conference Finals looked dire for the Thunder after the Spurs won Games 1 and 2 at home. Now the series is a best-of-three where San Antonio has home court advantage for two games. But the Thunder come into Game 5 with the knowledge that they can win if their role players and big men play at a high level, they can win the series. The Spurs have a lot of adjustments to make after Game 4. They were out-rebounded 41-31. They got 11 points out of Stephen Jackson off the bench, but Manu Ginobili only took seven shots. And most important of all, Tony Parker had only 12 points and four assists with Thabo Sefolosha once again playing phenomenal defense on him. So while it was reassuring to see Tim Duncan lead the Spurs with 21 points while Kawhi Leonard picked up his play and added 17, the Spurs need to find a way to handle the Thunder defensively. San Antonio shot 50 percent from the field, but they gave up 56 percent shooting to the Thunder. This series still remains a pick ’em, but something tells me the aging Spurs won’t have enough to overcome Oklahoma City’s youth and enthusiasm with momentum on their side, which is why I’m still standing by my prediction that the Thunder will advance in six games.

Serge Ibaka had a huge game for the Thunder. Can OKC’s role players step up again for Game 5?

Thunder Bounce Back In Game 3 Blowout

After falling down 2-0 in San Antonio, the Thunder knew they had their hands full in defending their home court for the next two games of the Western Conference Finals. With a convincing 102-82 rout of the seemingly unstoppable Spurs in Game 3, Oklahoma City pulled within one win of making this series extremely interesting again. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 22 points, but it was Thabo Sefolosha’s breakout game on both ends of the floor that turned last night’s game into a complete blowout.

After Tony Parker lit up Russell Westbrook for 34 points in a Game 2 rout, Scott Brooks made a critical adjustment of sticking Sefolosha on him while putting Westbrook and Daniel Green. The move was extremely effective, as Sefolosha held Parker to 16 points and four assists and turned six steals into offense, finishing with 19 points, which included four 3-pointers. The Thunder’s big three showed up to play once again, but Sefolosha’s breakout performance on both ends of the floor was exactly what OKC needed to be competitive with San Antonio and breathe life into this series. In addition to Sefolosha’s big night, the Thunder also got a big lift from Serge Ibaka, who finally knocked down open looks and asserted himself on the defensive end of the floor. Ibaka finished with 14 points and three blocks, but also clogged up the middle and contested shots in a way not seen in Games 1 and 2. In fact, everyone on the Thunder got involved defensively while putting up points. Kendrick Perkins had four points and three blocks; Nick Collison pitched in six points off the bench; Derek Fisher added five; and James Harden had 15 points and helped the Thunder build up a double digit lead in the first half after going on a tear in the second quarter.

Thabo Sefolosha was huge on both ends of the floor.

But what was most revealing about how vital role players were in this victory for Oklahoma City was how mediocre Russell Westbrook played. Westbrook, who had shot nine more times than Kevin Durant in the series up to this point, finally allowed the NBA’s scoring leader more shots that him. So despite the fact that Westbrook only put up 10 points, it was his nine assists that helped the Thunder establish an offensive rhythm and get their supporting cast involved. When OKC plays like this and gets everyone involved (and when Westbrook isn’t jacking up so many shots), they are unbeatable. By picking up the defensive intensity and getting big performances out of their role players, they made the prolific Spurs look a lot more human than they’ve looked in the past month and a half. From San Antonio’s perspective, 21 turnovers is way too many. Those turnovers allowed the Thunder to get out and snag easy transition baskets. Stephen Jackson and Parker led the Spurs with 16 points each while Tim Duncan followed up with 11 points. Other than that and DeJuan Blair’s 10 points off the bench, no one reached double digits for San Antonio. Manu Ginobili only had eight, Kawhi Leonard had two and Boris Diaw only put up one as San Antonio’s depth completely disappeared. The Spurs finally looked human between the turnovers and shooting 39 percent from the floor, but it remains to be seen if this lackluster play will continue for a pivotal Game 4.

For the Thunder, Game 3 was a huge win and a great confidence booster, but their work isn’t done just yet. They built a double digit lead early and didn’t allow San Antonio any opportunities to come back, but Game 4 will be a clean slate and you can be guaranteed Gregg Popovich will have his team fired up. Oklahoma City took care of business by taking Game 3, but if they drop Game 4, they face elimination on the road. Oklahoma City needs great defense from Sefolosha on Parker again, they need role players to step up on offense and they need to control the boards. However, after a dismal start to the series for this young and talented Thunder team, it looks like there might be some light at the end of the tunnel after all.

The Thunder’s role players stepped up and OKC got the win. But can they do it again in Game 4?

Spurs Down Resilient Thunder, Take Commanding 2-0 Lead

The Oklahoma City Thunder never gave up, but a dominant Game 2 performance characterized by Tony Parker’s penetration, fantastic ball movement and prolific outside shooting helped San Antonio win their 20th game in a row and take a 2-0 lead on the series with a 120-111 victory at home. Parker annihilated Russell Westbrook and a downright lazy OKC interior defense with 34 points and eight assists while Manu Ginobili once again hit big baskets down the stretch to fend off Oklahoma City’s attempts at coming back. Ginobili finished with 20 off the bench as the Spurs led by as many as 22 until the Thunder cut the lead to six with less than six minutes to play.

For the majority of the night, this was a complete blowout. The Thunder mounted a comeback to gap the third and fourth quarters as the Spurs missed 12 of 15 shots during one stretch, but it was too little too late for the OKC after playing so poorly in the first half. Ever since Gregg Popovich gave his “I Want Some Nasty!” speech in Game 1, the Spurs have been completely unstoppable. Parker torched Westbrook on the offensive end, shooting 16-of-21 from the floor. Ginobili hit six of his eleven shots and made a big difference down the stretch to help stave off the Thunder’s late comeback. Kawhi Leonard was a killer, going 7-of-12 to finish with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Tim Duncan shot only 2-of-11 and finished with just 11 points and 12 rebounds, but San Antonio still shot a staggering 55 percent from the floor to put up 120 points. Westbrook couldn’t keep Parker out of the lane, and that penetration got him easy looks and freed up teammates as well. The Thunder’s help-side defenders didn’t help matters either, as they were forced to play off their man to help with the penetration off the pick-and-roll, giving the Spurs wide open 3-point looks. San Antonio hit 11 3-pointers thanks to Parker’s penetration and prolific ball movement that left the Thunder’s defense dazed and confused. Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks switched strategies in the third quarter to try and minimize the Spurs’ offense by using a “Hack-a-Splitter” tactic. However, it only gained them one point as Tiago Splitter hit 6-of-12 free throws.

Tony Parker torched Russell Westbrook for 34 points and gave the Spurs a commanding 2-0 lead.

Scott Brooks will likely catch a lot of heat for that “Hack-a-Splitter” strategy, but he should hear a lot more criticism for his poor substitutions and overall coaching in this series so far. Popovich has his entire rotation system completely figured out, while Brooks has left key players on the bench for extended periods of time. In Game 1, it was Serge Ibaka who sat out for the game’s final 16 minutes. In Game 2, Derek Fisher was left on the floor late into the fourth quarter while Thabo Sefolosha, who offers nothing on the offensive end but could have helped get stops and rebounds to aid OKC’s comeback, sat on the bench. Fisher finished with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting, so Brooks’ decision to leave him in the game so late seriously hindered the Thunder’s improbable comeback. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 31 points, five rebounds and five assists while James Harden played much more like the Sixth Man of the Year, finishing with 30 points and seven rebounds. However, Russell Westbrook let his team down once again by being completely exploited by Tony Parker on the defensive end. He ended up with 27 points, but shot just 10-of-24. Durant, in contrast, shot 10-of-17 from the floor. To summarize, Westbrook took seven more shots than the NBA’s scoring leader this season. That cannot and should not happen in Game 3 if the Thunder want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

For the Thunder, this game almost certainly means elimination. Unless they win both games at home and build massive momentum in the process, OKC will fail to reach the NBA Finals for the second year in a row. The Thunder have monumental problems on the defensive end: In Game 1, they gave up 39 points in the fourth quarter; in Game 2, they gave up 37 in the third. And the trouble isn’t just Westbrook trying to guard Parker, but Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are another massive problem area as well. Ibaka and Perkins were bad enough on the offensive end (they combined for just 11 points), but their defense on the interior was borderline laughable at times. Granted, it wasn’t their fault Westbrook was getting burned on the pick-and-roll, but they played too far off of shooters, gave up easy buckets on the inside and did little to prevent the Spurs from completely spreading the floor on every possession. San Antonio put on a show in Game 2, but the Thunder’s ability to compete in this series has been nothing short of disappointing up to this point. Westbrook has been inefficient and is taking too many shots away from Durant; Ibaka and Perkins have had no impact on either side of the floor; OKC’s role players have given them nothing; and to top it all off, Scott Brooks has been completely out-coached by Gregg Popovich. The Thunder still have a chance if they take care of business at home, but only 14 teams have ever come back to win a series after facing a 2-0 deficit. At this point, Oklahoma City would need a complete defensive overhaul to win the next two at home, where they went 26-7 during the regular season. I’d like to say the Thunder are good enough to do so, but all the Spurs need to do is steal one of the next two games in OKC to close this series up at home. That might be too much pressure for anyone to handle against this offensive juggernaut.

OKC’s back is up against the wall. Do the Thunder have what it takes to come back in this series?

Spurs Rally In Fourth To Take Game 1

It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t convincing, but Manu Ginobili and the Spurs edged Oklahoma City in a 101-98 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. San Antonio extended their winning streak to 19 and took a 1-0 lead on the series, but the Thunder played uncharacteristically lackluster down the stretch and still ended up within one basket of what could have been a crucial road victory to start the series.

Ginobili led the Spurs with 26 points off the bench, hitting big baskets down the stretch to help San Antonio come back from a nine point deficit to start the fourth quarter. Tim Duncan finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Tony Parker had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The Thunder were outscored 39-27 in the game’s final period after allowing just 62 points through three quarters. Gary Neal pitched in 12 points and Stephen Jackson, who ended up with only five points, hit a back-breaking 3-pointer down the stretch to stop the rolling Thunder from stealing Game 1 on the road. But despite getting the victory in the series opener, I still like OKC in this series. In a highly competitive game in San Antonio, the Thunder only lost by three points after Ginobili played out of his mind and James Harden and Russell Westbrook had awful performances. The likelihood of all three of these things happening at once in a single game again is extremely little. Harden, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, was completely outplayed by Ginobili, who shot 9-of-14 from the field and played an outstanding game. Not that Ginobili isn’t capable of doing so again, but Harden won’t shoot 7-of-17 again (two 3-pointers came him garbage time) while committing four turnovers and five fouls. Russell Westbrook was even worse, finishing with 17 points on an appalling 7-of-21 shooting. That shouldn’t happen again. Tony Parker is a solid defender, but Westbrook has nowhere to go but up after such a disappointing Game 1 performance.

Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with a huge performance off the bench.

The series opener between these two high-octane teams revealed a few things to keep an eye on in the next few games. First of all, role players will be a deciding factor throughout this series. James Harden failed to make an impact until the game’s waning seconds, which the Thunder cannot afford to happen in Game 2. On the plus side though, Derek Fisher made a huge and unexpected impact with 13 points off the bench. For the Spurs, Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal also made an impact off the bench, but Stephen Jackson’s defense swayed momentum in San Antonio’s favor. Meanwhile, Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka all failed to have significant impacts on the offensive end. The big three on each team is the biggest factor, but how the role players perform on each side will make the difference. Another key factor will be how each team performs down the stretch. Last night, the Spurs got the best of the Thunder in the fourth quarter, which is entirely uncharacteristic of how the Thunder have played so far in the postseason. Defense another key point of impact in this series; the Thunder held the Spurs to just 62 points after three quarters but San Antonio still ended up getting to 100 points. For Oklahoma City, or any team with a nine-point lead entering the final quarter of a huge Game 1, getting outscored like that to lose this very winnable game is completely unacceptable.

Despite the fact that the Spurs pulled out the win, all of these factors lead me to believe that the Thunder will be just fine in this series. Barring that fourth quarter meltdown by the Thunder and Manu Ginobili’s prolific night, Oklahoma City was in good position to win on the road. However, they still have Game 2 to improve and steal a game on the road before the series shits back to OKC. All the Thunder really need to improve is getting more out of Westbrook and Harden, playing defense for a full four quarters, and hoping that Ginobili doesn’t have such an incredible performance again. I think that all three of these things are entirely possible and the Spurs’ Game 1 victory doesn’t fully impress me just yet. Credit San Antonio for taking care of business at home, but if the Thunder can sneak in a win in Game 2, this series is still completely wide open. We could be looking at a long series and despite the fact that neither team played particularly well in the series opener, the Thunder have more upside after this loss than the Spurs despite playing so poorly.

I still like the Thunder in this series, but James Harden and Russell Westbrook will need to pick it up offensively.

Western Conference Finals Preview: San Antonio Spurs Vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The streaking San Antonio Spurs and the formidable Oklahoma City Thunder tip off tonight in Game 1 of what is sure to be an exciting and enjoyable series. These two teams are coming off convincing victories and certainly earned their appearance in the Western Conference Finals. But with two seemingly unstoppable, high-scoring teams heading on a crash course to get to the NBA Finals, who’s got the edge?

The San Antonio Spurs have silenced critics who wrote them off, calling them old, boring and irrelevant. They’ve won 18 games straight and swept the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers in dominant and convincing fashion. Tony Parker has been involved in MVP talks all year, Tim Duncan has found the fountain of youth that allows him to continue producing at a high level despite being way beyond his prime and Manu Ginobili is starting to warm up on the offensive end again after missing significant time with an injury. Ginobili’s absence during that stretch strengthened the Spurs’ supporting cast and his return only boosted this high-scoring team’s offensive totals. The Spurs are averaging 102.5 ppg in their eight playoff games and haven’t lost in a month. However, they did face a rather weak Jazz team in the first round, followed by an inexperienced and pretty banged up Clippers squad. Now we’ll get to see just how deep this team is against a team that has a prolific starting five and the bench depth and defense to back them up.

The Oklahoma City Thunder convincingly swept the defending champion Dallas Mavericks in the first round and then made the Lakers look like an eight seed by finishing them off in five games. OKC is a jump shooting team that can play quality defense, has decent depth and can get out and run. They are the only other team in the playoffs averaging at least 100 ppg (by averaging exactly 100.0 ppg in their nine games so far), so we can certainly look forward to a high-scoring and exciting series. The Thunder’s games were much closer than the Spurs’ and unlike San Antonio, they’ve lost a game, but these two teams are pretty evenly matched. Each side has a big three. Each side has a great coach. Each side knows how to score and how to win. So who’s going to come out on top? The experienced, streaking Spurs? Or the young, white-hot Thunder?

Which big three will lead their team to victory? Durant, Westbrook and Harden? Or Parker, Duncan and Ginobili?

This series is basically a pick ’em, but the outcome will be decided by a few key factors. First of all, whichever big three outperforms the other will give their team a huge advantage in this series. Parker, Duncan and Ginobili have been great in the postseason so far, but because of San Antonio’s depth, they haven’t had to carry the load or even play extended minutes. The Thunder can’t afford for the Spurs’ big three to outplay Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. I don’t think that will happen, but the Thunder’s big three have got to squeeze every ounce out of what little advantage they have in their big three. In a which-octane matchup like this, the Thunder’s big three have got to come to play every single night and outshine the Spurs’ best three players. The second major factor will be the role players. The Spurs are able to put up so many points because of how many guys they have that consistently put up solid numbers. Their bench is fully capable of piling on the points by knocking down 3-pointers with good ball movement and they’re a big reason why the Spurs tack on so many points every night. The Thunder can’t afford for guys like Gary Neal, Daniel Green, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Jackson and Matt Bonner to knock down open looks.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City’s supporting cast is more defensively inclined (we’re not counting Harden as supporting cast since he’s OKC’s third-best player), but they’ve shown they can provide solid offensive contributions from time to time. If OKC’s big three puts up big numbers, the Thunder will have an advantage, but they’ll still need to score a decent amount of points to balance out how many points San Antonio’s bench will pile on. Guys like Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison, Nazr Mohammed and especially Derek Fisher, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins have to be ready to step in and knock down a few shots in addition to locking down the Spurs’ prolific offense. The Thunder have an advantage in their starting five, but if their bench isn’t capable of putting up points, San Antonio will be extremely tough to beat. The final factor is defense. With such high scoring teams on the court, whoever can get a few stops, especially down the stretch, will come out on top. The Thunder need to limit Duncan’s production with their defensive specialists, Ibaka and Perkins. Duncan has the fundamentals and post skills to put up points, but if Ibaka and Perkins’ physicality and length can bother him, the Thunder will have a big advantage. On the defensive end, Oklahoma City will also need to limit Tony Parker’s penetration. But because Russell Westbrook is so quick, I think the Thunder can slow him down and limit the Spurs’ wide open looks on the perimeter.

All in all, this is going to be a close series between two unstoppable teams. Whoever advances from this matchup and on to the NBA Finals is an automatic favorite to win a championship just because of how good these two teams in. Whoever wins have all the momentum coming off such a monumental series and I can’t say the Heat or the Celtics will pose much of a threat to either the Spurs or the Thunder. So even though San Antonio is 2-1 against the Thunder during the regular season and has home court advantage, when all is said and done, I think the Thunder are too much for anyone to handle when they hit their jump shots. They have a tendency to fall in love with jumpers, even when they’re not falling, but with everything on the line, I think this OKC is too young and too hot to stop. This is their year to advance to the Finals and win an NBA championship. Keep in mind that the last two teams to sweep their first two playoff series didn’t advance to the NBA Finals, and the Spurs fit that category perfectly up against the formidable Thunder.

Prediction: Oklahoma City over San Antonio in six games

If Westbrook can keep Parker out of the paint, the Spurs won’t get so many open looks.

Spurs Sweep Clippers, Advance To Western Conference Finals

San Antonio was down late, on the road, against a Clippers team that was finally enjoying a quality performance from Chris Paul. But Tim Duncan and the Spurs would not be denied and swept Lob City in Game 4 with a 102-99 win. The victory marked their second sweep of the playoffs this year and their 18th win in a row, a streak extending back to the regular season.

The Clippers battled, Chris Paul dropped 23 points and 11 dimes and still the Spurs came out on top to finish Lob City off. Blake Griffin added 21 and Eric Bledsoe had 17 off the bench, but there was no answer for the Spurs’ execution in the game’s final two minutes. The Clippers fought hard, got decent scoring off the bench and DeAndre Jordan even pitched in 10, but San Antonio proved to be a little too much for this team in only their first year together. Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 21 points and nine rebounds and Tony Parker had 17 points. Daniel Green had 14, Gary Neal matched that number off the bench and Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter added 11 apiece. As has been the case throughout the series and the playoffs so far, the Spurs’ depth and incredibly balanced scoring overpowered San Antonio’s opponent and their execution under Greg Popovich has been flawless up to this point. The Clippers gave the Spurs everything they could handle at home but San Antonio is playing the best basketball in the NBA right now.

Say what you want about his age, but Tim Duncan is still getting it done.

The Spurs really are the complete package right now, despite the fact that one of their best three players has been aging ever so steadily over the past few years. Even so, Tim Duncan hasn’t slowed down. His athleticism and defense on skilled post players leaves a little to be desired, but his offensive technique, rebounding and passing ability and his sheer experience and knowledge on how to win games makes the Spurs a big contender. Tony Parker is playing great basketball on both ends of the floor, Manu Ginobili is scoring off the bench again and almost all of the Spurs’ role players and reserves are fully capable of scoring, knocking down 3-pointers and playing defense. It was nice to see Chris Paul play well, but down the stretch, Daniel Green was able to shut him down and keep the Spurs on top at the end. This is just one of many examples of how this well-oiled machine functions as parts of a complete team and will provide a huge challenge to either the Thunder or the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

As I mentioned before, Clippers fans shouldn’t hang their heads after their team won its third playoff series in 35 years. The result was disappointing, but Lob City was only in its first year and if the Clips can get Chauncey Billups back, replace Vinny Del Negro with somebody better (almost anyone applies here) and maybe improve at center and small forward, they could be dangerous next year. This year was a learning process and LAC still accomplished so much; unfortunately, they got the difficult task of matching up with the San Antonio Spurs juggernaut in the second round. Although they have a lot of unrestricted free agents at the end of this year, if they can sign the majority back and make improvements where necessary, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin could be a force in the playoffs next year. As for the Spurs, this sweep just highlighted how dangerous this “old” team really is. Whoever gets them in the Western Conference Finals will certainly have their hands full.

Don’t hang your heads, Clippers fans. Lob City got a tough matchup and will be back next year.

Spurs Rally From 24 Point Deficit, Build 3-0 Lead On Clippers

The Clippers were already down 2-0 and needed to play desperate. They had been dominated on their opponent’s court but now had the chance to play at home to try and gain some momentum back. For awhile, it looked like Los Angeles was going to shorten the series deficit to 2-1 after they jumped out to an immediate 33-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. They even built their lead up to 24 in the second. But even with all of that going their way, the Clippers still couldn’t overcome the resilient and offensively charged San Antonio Spurs, who used a 24-0 run in the third quarter to battle back and snag a 3-0 series lead with a 96-86 victory in Game 3.

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 23 points and 10 assists and Tim Duncan finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks after a prolific third quarter. Kawhi Leonard had 14 and Manu Ginobili added 13 off the bench. Despite San Antonio’s incredibly slow start, Greg Popovich’s squad picked it up after a dreadful first quarter and outscored the Clippers in each of the following three. The Spurs cut Los Angeles’ lead to 10 at halftime and then took a commanding lead in the third by outscoring Lob City 26-8 in the period. The Clippers’ awful shooting and numerous turnovers gave San Antonio the edge in the third and facing an eight point deficit entering the final period, LAC wasn’t able to regroup and challenge the Spurs’ lead the rest of the way.

Blake Griffin had a fantastic game, but the Clippers are still waiting for Chris Paul to show up in this series.

Blake Griffin had a phenomenal game for Los Angeles, finishing with 28 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Unfortunately, he received little help from his teammates other than Mo Williams, who had 19. Caron Butler failed to score, Randy Foye only put up seven and Nick Young couldn’t make up for either of them with just nine. But the biggest disappointment, once again, was Chris Paul. Paul has a reputation for his indomitable will and his ability to turn any team into a contender during the playoffs. Against the San Antonio Spurs, however, he has been completely and unequivocally outplayed by Tony Parker. Paul finished with 12 points and 10 assists, which isn’t a shameful stat line by any means, but for CP3? That’s nowhere near enough. The Clippers have only had one consistent scorer in this series (Griffin) while their role player/bench guards alternate having good games (Foye, Williams and Young). Without Chris Paul scoring 20+ a game, it’s amazing Lob City has been within reach in a few of these games. The Spurs are certainly looking like the toughest team in the Western Conference and, based on what I’ve seen from around the league in the past few days, are my heavy favorites to win the NBA Finals at the moment. However, they’ve definitely benefitted from Paul’s disappearance during this series.

There really is no hope for the Clippers this season any more. On the one hand, it’s impressive they were able to make it this far in their first year together after some major roster improvements and upheavals. Lob City should be commended for entertaining us all year long with YouTube highlights, for reaching the second round with such a terrible coach as Vinny Del Negro and for doing all of this without Chauncey Billups or a quality offensive center (sorry, DeAndre Jordan, you just haven’t panned out like we hoped). It will be interesting to see how good this team can be with Billups back, especially if LAC can find a way to improve at the small forward and center positions. We should all definitely keep an eye on this team next year. But in the end, losing Game 3 was pretty much the nail in the coffin and after such a monumental/demoralizing comeback/collapse, I’m predicting a sweep. Tony Parker has continued his postseason dominance, outplaying one of the best point guards in NBA history. Tim Duncan has found a way through stellar technique and perseverance to outplay younger and more athletic power forwards and centers. And the Spurs’ bench is just too much for any defense to handle right now. So at the end of the day, the outcome of Game 4 doesn’t really matter. The Spurs would certainly like to win and get more rest, but even if Chris Paul finally does show up and the Clippers get a W at home, San Antonio has this series in the bag already.

The Clippers have had a great year, but Tony Parker and the Spurs will advance convincingly.