LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers spent the majority of their offseason putting together a team that would be better suited to beating the San Antonio Spurs if they ever met in the playoffs again.
After Los Angeles was swept by the Spurs in the playoffs last season, San Antonio was in the back of the Clippers' minds as they made move after move this summer. On Thursday, none of it seemed to matter as the Clippers were thoroughly outclassed and outmatched in a 116-90 drubbing that was easily L.A.’s most embarrassing loss of the season.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
If the Clippers are going to have any success against the Spurs or have a chance of going far in the playoffs, they’re going to need their backcourt of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups to shine. On Thursday, they were a no-show. Paul finished with four points on 1-of-4 shooting to go along with five turnovers, three assists and two rebounds. Billups wasn’t much better, as he finished with six points on 0-of-2 shooting, getting all his points from the free throw line. Neither player was able to get into any kind of a rhythm, while Paul looked rusty even after his 20-point, 15-assist MVP performance in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game. They were outplayed by Tony Parker, who had 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting with seven assists and two rebounds.
The Clippers played poorly across the board, but their ineptitude hit its depths in the third quarter, as Los Angeles hit just five of 14 shots and didn’t hit a field goal until nearly midway through the quarter. The Clippers not only hit 35.7 percent of their shots in the quarter, but allowed the Spurs to score 34 points and hit 60 percent of their shots. Whatever halftime adjustments Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro made clearly didn’t work, or fell on deaf ears, as the Clippers quickly found themselves down by 34 points in the second half.
If this is a preview of things to come, the Clippers could be looking at another quick series against the Spurs if the two teams end up facing each other. The Clippers know Paul and Billups won’t combine for 10 points and five assists many times, and if they do, they fully expect to be on the losing end. The problem for the Clippers is this isn’t really an aberration because they were blown out by the Miami Heat recently when Paul and Billups had off nights as well. If the Clippers want to be considered one of the top teams in the NBA, they can’t get blown out and fall behind by 30 or more points in the second half to teams such as the Heat and the Spurs. The Clippers likely will recover from this loss and finish with the third seed in the West, but their confidence going into a playoff rematch against San Antonio can’t be high given how badly they looked against the Spurs on Thursday with a fully healthy roster.