Paul leads Clippers into San Antonio
The San Antonio Spurs will try to bring the Los Angeles Clippers back to earth when the two Western Conference inhabitants go at it tonight from the AT&T Center.
The Spurs opened their season on the right foot with a 95-82 triumph versus the Memphis Grizzlies at home Monday. Manu Ginobili led the way with 24 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Tony Parker finished with 15 points, seven assists and four steals for the Spurs, who were upset by the eighth-seeded Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs last season and took advantage of Memphis' 24 turnovers.
"We got our hands on a lot of balls, a lot of deflections, a few steals. We did a good job of that and it fueled the break the other way," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said.
Tim Duncan was hampered by foul trouble in the first half and logged just 21 minutes, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds. Richard Jefferson netted 14 points in the win. San Antonio remains without backup guard Gary Neal, who had his appendix removed during training camp, and will play nine of its first 13 games at home.
Over the past 35 years, San Antonio owns a 25-11 record on opening night, while having an 18-5 record at home. The Spurs are 14-1 in season-openers under Popovich. Parker and LeBron James were the only two players in the NBA last season to average at least 15.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, while shooting at least 50.0 percent.
Los Angeles got its much-anticipated season off to a good start with a 105-86 victory at Golden State on Christmas.
Newly-acquired point guard Chris Paul had 20 points and nine assists in his debut with the Clippers, who received a game-best 22 points and seven rebounds from reigning Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin.
"The ball is going to be in his [Paul's] hands, Chauncey's hands and Blake's hands," said Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, who improved to 3-1 on Opening Night. "It was a team effort tonight, but Chris took the game over when he had to."
Chauncey Billups, also playing his first game as a Clipper, posted 21 points despite missing 13-of-19 shots. Caron Butler made his LA debut with 11 points and 10 boards, while DeAndre Jordan posted a career-best eight blocks to go along with six points and five rebounds in a winning cause. It was the most blocks by a Clipper since Chris Kaman swatted nine shots on Jan. 19, 2008 vs. New Jersey. Kaman was a part of the Paul deal with New Orleans.
Before Sunday, the Clippers franchise last won on Christmas 33 years ago, when the San Diego Clippers defeated the Seattle Sonics 123-118 on December 25, 1978 in the Pacific Northwest. After tonight's game, the Clippers will play four straight and 10 of their next 12 games at home.
The Clippers snapped an 18-game losing streak to the Spurs with a 90-85 victory last Dec. 1 thanks to 31 points and 13 rebounds from Griffin. LA's previous win in the series was a 98-85 triumph on March 7, 2006. San Antonio has still won 26 of the past 28 meetings with the Clippers, who are winless in 16 straight visits to San Antonio.
Los Angeles has not won in San Antonio since Jan. 31, 2002, when it defeated the Spurs by a 91-87 count. Michael Olowokandi led the Clippers with 20 points and 10 rebounds in that one and Elton Brand added 19 points and 14 boards.