Clippers Proved Their Maturity Against The Spurs


Behind the impeccable and resilient performance of Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Clippers have defeated the San Antonio Spurs and now find themselves in the second round. In doing so, they have proven that they are far more than just Lob City. They’ve shown that they aren’t just about highlight plays and regular season success anymore, but that they are truly capable of contending. And as this series revealed, they can contend against the very best that the Western Conference has to offer.

More from Clipperholics

After neither team were able to win back-to-back games in this series, the Clippers finally proved that they can close out a game. Not only did they prevail in an improbable victory in game six, they were also able to hold off the reigning champions to win consecutive games and win the series. It was the ultimate indication of just how far this team has come; from being considered a great regular season team who are almost guaranteed a first round exit, to becoming a genuine contender.

And it’s not like they silenced their doubters with a first round win against one of the West’s weakest teams either, they did so against arguably the toughest sixth seed of all time.

As the Clippers advance into the second round to take on the Houston Rockets, this postseason has already become one of the best in franchise history. Of course, this doesn’t exactly say much about their success. But more importantly it illustrates how they’re maturing and changing for the better.

Other than the blowout in game three, the Clippers handled everything the Spurs threw at them. Except for the early series struggles of Tony Parker and occasional cold shooting spell, San Antonio have been (as always) an incredibly tough team to handle. Their interchangeable stars mean that any individual can step into the limelight to lead the charge on any given night, and their depth more than outweighs that of the Clippers.

Yet, despite all that, L.A. rose to a level that most thought was out of the question.

As is the case during the playoffs, everyone overreacts after every game. If one team wins the series opener in convincing fashion, they are often dubbed as the series winner who will advance after five games. Or, if the other team suddenly bounces back with a random performance and dominates with a 20 point win, it’s claimed as their comeback and the tides have completely turned.

Similar assumptions were made about this series. Although, the only thing that was certain — other than just how formidable both sides really are — was that home court advantage was completely irrelevant.

May 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) signals a 3 point shot by guard J.J. Redick (4) in the second half of game seven of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center. Clippers won 111-109. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Neither team seemed to acquire a significant boost when playing at home throughout this series, and the Clippers overcame the vital challenge of winning back-to-back whilst being down 3-2. In game six, they went into San Antonio and won 102-96. Once again it was the play of their two superstars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, who led them to victory. With Blake recording 26 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists, and CP3 tallying 19 points and 15 assists, the Clippers put on one of the best playoff performances we’ve seen from them.

When everyone expected the Spurs to close out the series in true Spurs fashion, the Clippers proved that it wouldn’t be so easy. And in game seven, they were able to add an exclamation mark to that point.

Last night, they impressed even more. Not only did Griffin earn his second triple-double of the 2015 playoffs, but Paul played one of the grittiest and most memorable games of his entire career.

The 27 points on the box score don’t even begin to describe just how much respect Paul earned after he downed Gregg Popovich’s Spurs with only one good leg. He was forced to leave the game late in the first quarter due to a strained hamstring and didn’t return until the second period.

Once he returned, though, his injury was soon forgotten.

May 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers bench players celebrate after guard Chris Paul (3) made a basket with one second remaining in the fourth quarter of game seven of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center. Clippers won 111-109. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Before even considering the rest of Paul’s night, his level of efficiency was fundamental to the Clippers’ victory. He shot 9-of-13 from the floor, including going 5-of-6 from three point range and making all four of his free throw attempts. When you include the fact he only had one turnover as well, when he had total control of the ball in so many pivotal moments, it speaks volumes about how much Paul took over.

His poise throughout and deadly shooting already made it a performance to remember, but the fact that he did it all while battling with an injured hamstring makes you respect the pit-bull attitude of Chris Paul even more.

The three he buried in transition, after the push-off against Patty Mills with two minutes left in the first quarter, set the tone for what would follow. He knew how much his team needed him, he knew he had to make every shot count, and he knew that it was no time to let the authoritative attitude he’d displayed all series to fade away.

More than anything, he proved just how ready he is to continue his career. Not just to keep leading the league in assists and make the All-NBA first team year in and year out, but to make a mark in the playoffs that can truly define him as one of the best point guards in league history.

With the game tied at 109 apiece and time rapidly running out, Paul took control of the ball one last time.

As the seconds remaining on the clock ticked past three seconds, Paul pushed himself away from Danny Green, jumped back onto one leg and put up a one handed shot that ricocheted high off the glass and dropped through the net with just one second left.

Staples Center erupted, Matt Barnes knocked away a final pass from the Spurs, and the magnitude of the shot Paul just made began to sink in.

The Clippers had defeated the defending champions and one of the greatest dynasties in sports history, and earned the chance to make it past the second round for the first time ever.

May 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) makes the game-winning shot over San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) in the fourth quarter in game seven of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Clippers won 111-109. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The second round now offers the Clippers with an entirely different challenge. They won’t be facing the team oriented ball movement of the Spurs anymore — they’ll be facing the high octane Houston Rockets and one of the deadliest scorers in the NBA in the form of James Harden.

Their fate is obviously uncertain, but if they’re able to prevent Harden from scoring 40 points each night, the Clippers’ second round opponent are undoubtedly weaker than the Spurs.

In the first round, we’ve seen Blake Griffin establish himself as possibly the best power forward in the league (after averaging 24.1 points, 13.1 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game) and Chris Paul show that he’s now capable of playing at an even higher level when the game is on the line. Yet we’ve also seen that the Clippers still lack depth and DeAndre Jordan simply cannot shoot free throws.

However, despite a weak second unit, the Clippers have showcased what they’re really capable of. Their elite one-two-punch of Paul and Griffin were able to play 40 minutes a night during the first six games and still have gas in the tank for one of the biggest games of their lives.

What’s even more important, though, is that behind the leadership of Paul and Griffin, the Clippers proved against the Spurs how much they have matured. They aren’t just a regular season spectacle and postseason write-off anymore. They took on the juggernaut that are the San Antonio Spurs and won.

Now, we’ve seen exactly what they are capable of. So with their entrance into the second round over the defending champions, it’s time to respect the newly matured Clippers and their leaders for what they really are — true contenders.

Next: Clippers-Spurs Game 7 Recap