NBA: Spurs win 17th in a row to put Clippers on the brink
LOS ANGELES – Tony Parker scored 23 points and Tim Duncan added 19 as the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 96-86 on Saturday for their 17th NBA victory in a row.
The Spurs, who trailed by as much as 24 points in he first quarter, rallied to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series. They can complete a sweep with a triumph in game four on Sunday in Los Angeles.
“Our backs are against the wall,” Clippers star Blake Griffin said. “If we don’t play with a sense of urgency it’s not going to be pretty. We’ve got to dig deep and find something. We can’t give up. We can’t stop working.”
No team in NBA history had ever recovered from trailing by more than 22 points to win a playoff game.
“To start the game the Clippers played very aggressively. They made their shots and got that big lead on us,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
“You have stick with the system and work at it. It either works for you or it doesn’t. We didn’t really make any changes. It just worked out for us.”
The Spurs, who have a home-court edge throughout the NBA playoffs after Chicago’s first-round elimination, won the final 10 games of the regular season and have won seven in a row in the playoffs as well.
Duncan added 13 rebounds for San Antonio and Parker contributed 10 assists as well. Kawhi Leonard scored 14 points and Argentina’s Manu Ginobili scored 13 points for the Spurs.
Griffin led the Clippers with 28 points, half of them coming in the first quarter, but the hosts went eight minutes in the third quarter without scoring as the Spurs went on a 24-0 run.
“It’s very frustrating,” Griffin said. “We have to find a way to play through that and be better. I have to find a way to help my team more in the third and fourth.
“We know we can beat them but we have to come out and really execute defensively first. We just have to be aggressive. We don’t have the luxury of sitting back and trying to create.”
The Clippers closed the first quarter with a 26-4 run to seize a 27-9 lead but could not hold on from there.
“To be up that early, you knew they were going to make a run,” Griffin said. “They are too good a team to lay back and take a loss like that. In the third quarter, we just couldn’t handle them.”
Duncan said the Spurs never lost their poise despite the first-quarter struggles and that was a key to turning the game around later.
“We understood their energy was going to be high. They were going to make a run early,” Duncan said.
“We were just lucky enough to start making some shots, making some stops, and got our confidence back. That first quarter, we were all feeling pretty low out there.”