LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul was running and dishing. Blake Griffin was jumping and slamming. Clipper Nation was screaming and believing.
The Spurs were just playing.
When the home team ran out to a brunch-time 40-16 lead and had the boys from San Antonio wearing huevos rancheros on their faces, some even began to wonder if head coach Gregg Popovich would pull his starters at halftime and save them for Part II of the back-to-back on Sunday.
If nothing else, it looked like the Clippers would finally earn a measure of respect in the series.
But that’s the problem. The Spurs make you earn everything. They don’t panic. They don’t roll over. They just keep coming.
Tim Duncan finally gets a couple of inside moves to roll in and then Tony Parker drops in a floater and Manu Ginobili slings in a 3-pointer from just outside Buenos Aires and that great sucking sound that came from inside the Staples Center was all of the life coming out of Clipper Nation. They had seen it all before, too many times, long before this season of rebirth and hope.
Before long Griffin was dragging his sore right knee around the floor and Paul was back to looking life a do-it-all All-Star point guard who couldn’t do any of the things he wanted to do.
In the end it was 96-86 Spurs, who now have a 3-0 stranglehold lead in the series and must have the Clippers wondering why they have to come back and bang their hands against the wall on Sunday night.
It was nice while it lasted in Clipper Nation.
The Spurs just last longer.