The Los Angeles Clippers' season ended Sunday night, as the San Antonio Spurs completed a 4-0 sweep of the Clippers to advance to the Western Conference finals. The Spurs eeked out a 102-99 win, overcoming a spirited effort from the banged-up Clippers.
The Clippers had the ball in Chris Paul's hands twice with a chance to take the lead and tie in the final seconds but were unable to convert, leading to the Spurs victory.
The Clippers chances of the winning the series against the Spurs took a hit before the series even started with their two best players, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, battling injuries. The Spurs, however, proved without a doubt that healthy or not, they are the superior team; displaying more experience, more continuity, and better coaching.
"Their experience showed with their execution," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Tim (Duncan) looks great and the rest of the guys are feeding off that."
Tim Duncan continued to turn back the clock, leading the Spurs with 21 points and nine rebounds. Duncan was one of six Spurs' players to score in double figures, as the Clippers could simply not figure out the Spurs offense. Whenever Duncan was double teamed the Spurs role players would drill three pointers, and whenever he went one on one he would score. It proved to be a formula that Clippers could not solve.
In the defeat, the Clippers did get their best performance of the series from Chris Paul, who finally appeared to be recovering from his strained groin and hip flexor. Paul finished with 23 points and 11 assists, but turned the ball over with the Clippers down 100-99 with under 20 seconds to play and missed again with the Clippers down 101-99 seconds later.
"I messed up, bad decisions," Paul said "I should have shot it and I missed the shot, all on me. To let my team down in that situation is probably the toughest part of the season," Paul said. "We scrapped, we played hard. At the end of the day, playing hard isn't always enough. You got to execute. On that last play, at least we could have gotten a shot off and I turned the ball over."
Blake Griffin rebounded from a nasty cut over his lip to score 21 points. The final bright spot for the Clippers was Eric Bledsoe who continues to impress with his phenomenal play. Bledsoe finished with 17 points on 8-10 shooting.
The Clippers, while disappointed with the result of the series, can take pride in a tremendous season filled with twists and turns. The Clippers were quickly constructed just a week before the start of a rushed training camp and shortened season due to the NBA Lockout and lost one of their best players, Chauncey Billups, early in the season due to a Torn ACL. Despite these obstacles the Clippers finished with a record of 40-26 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and just the second time in the team's history in Los Angeles.
With the core of Paul, Griffin, Butler, Jordan, and Bledsoe, as well as several others coming back next season, the Clippers can look forward to continued success if all goes according to plan.
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