Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, then you know you don’t. A crazy series stayed zany Thursday night at the AT&T Center, the Clippers becoming the fourth team to win a game as the visiting team during a 102-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. Here are five takeaways from a game that pushed the series to a Game 7 on Saturday night at Staples Center:
1. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin broke through when the Clippers needed it. Both players endured horrid first halves before looking like superstars in helping the Clippers force a Game 7. Paul made seven of 14 shots in the second half and Griffin scored 10 points in the third quarter alone and made a pair of game-sealing free throws to help their team extend the defending NBA champions to one more game.
2. The Spurs’ Tony Parker and Danny Green were benched late in the fourth quarter. It was odd to see one of the team’s cornerstones and its best three-point shooter out of the game in crunch time, but San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich opted to go with Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli after Parker and Green had combined to make seven of 21 shots. That decision may have cost the Spurs as Mills needlessly dribbled on the perimeter for several extra seconds during their final possession before Belinelli chucked up a three-pointer that was interfered with by San Antonio’s Boris Diaw and did not count.
3. Intentionally fouling DeAndre Jordan didn’t really help the Spurs. Popovich appeared to take his team out of its rhythm in the first half by continually sending Jordan to the free-throw line with a flurry of intentional fouls even with a big lead. Jordan made six of 10 free throws in that situation and seven of 13 in the first half, improved accuracy for a player who had made only 39.7% of his free throws in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Clippers rallied from deficits as large as 10 points while the Spurs hacked Jordan, who made seven of 15 free throws for the game.
4. A Game 7 at home sounds great until you consider this series. Each team has won twice on its counterpart’s home court, including each of the last three games. The home team does win nearly 80% of Game 7s on its home court historically in the NBA. But the Clippers failed to finish Games 2 and 5 at Staples Center, a pair of excruciating losses. Not that Griffin wanted to stay in San Antonio for another game at the AT&T Center. “We’re excited to go home and play in front of our home crowd,” Griffin said. “Our home crowd last year in Game 7 against Golden State was amazing and we’ll need that again Saturday night. To be going into Game 7 back home against the Spurs is great, it’s where we need to be, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
5. Glen Davis’ availability in Game 7 is a big deal. The reserve forward’s impact is usually biggest at Staples Center, where he routinely invigorates the crowd and his teammates with his energetic plays. He initially feared he had re-injured a foot in the second half Thursday before sustaining what is believed to be a low ankle sprain. His status for the decisive game is unknown. Should Davis be unavailable, the Clippers would have to turn to Spencer Hawes and Hedo Turkoglu or go with a much smaller lineup.