For a team with a lot of recent postseason disappointment, the Los Angeles Clippers couldn’t have started the 2015 playoffs much better, beating San Antonio, 107-92, in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Sunday.
What’s been the key for the Clippers down the stretch the last couple of weeks?
“I think that they’ve just matured a lot,” Orange County Register Clippers beat writer Dan Woike said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I really do. I look at them as a team that, they were talking about (having a) business-like atmosphere and, ‘This is a business trip.’ They were doing that a month ago, and a lot of times, that’s just talk. It really is. But the way their schedule kind of broke over the last month, they played a lot of pretty bad teams actually. There’s Philadelphia, the Knicks, the Lakers twice, Denver twice. And the the thing that I really liked, they never had a game against one of those really bad teams where it was like a mental check-out game. There were games where they didn’t make shots and stuff like that. But they were always engaged.
“That just showed me that that team, at that point, they knew that everyone was going to matter down the stretch (and that) seeding was going to be critical,” Woike continued. “It ended up not working out so great because they got the Spurs, but I think that, for me, was what I liked best seeing them go into the playoffs.”
The Clippers led the Spurs 30-18 after the first quarter and outscored them 30-21 in the third to seize control of the game. San Antonio shot just 36.6 percent from the floor, 30.3 percent from three-point range and 53.8 percent from the foul line.
“(The Clippers have) been a different team since the All-Star break,” Woike said. “They were an average defense on the season; they’ve been, though, a top-10 defense since the All-Star Break and you saw that again tonight.”
Chris Paul (32) and Blake Griffin (26) combined for 58 points, while DeAndre Jordan had nine points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.
“I think DeAndre Jordan is really good,” Woike said, chuckling. “I voted for him for Defensive Player of the Year. I think you saw tonight was a big part of the reason why. He covers so much ground for their defense and he kind of erases a lot of mistakes. He’s not always in the right position and sometimes his own personal defensive metrics suffer because of the positions he’s in defensively. But he’s a guy, he’s everywhere.
“You talk to players around the league, you talk to other coaches, and a big part of the reason why I voted for him was they said he’s the best defensive player in the league because he alters so much stuff,” Woike continued. “Manu Ginobili after the game said he thought that DeAndre Jordan might be the most athletic center ever to play. You see it in games like tonight. He had a tremendous impact.
“I thin Chris Paul is also very good defensively and the two of them do enough that your other guys . . . if you kind of incorporate them into a team-defensive system, (you can have success).”
Game 2 is Wednesday in Los Angeles at 10:30 p.m. ET.