SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tim Duncan had 26 points and 10 rebounds and the San Antonio Spurs, recharged after a weeklong layoff, wore down the busy Los Angeles Clippers to win Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series, 108-92 on Tuesday night.
Playing for the sixth time in 11 days, Los Angeles gave San Antonio its toughest first half of the playoffs before fading fast. And unlike their stunning Game 1 comeback at Memphis in the first round, the Clippers didn’t have the wind this time.
Manu Ginobili added 22 points for the Spurs, who’ve won 15 in a row. It’s the longest winning streak sustained in the NBA playoffs since the 2004 Spurs won 17 straight.
“It’s the playoffs. It’s going to be physical. We knew that coming in,” Duncan said. “We just expected to attack the basket as much as possible.”
Eric Bledsoe led the Clippers with 23 points.
Game 2 is Thursday night.
That gives the beat-up and banged-up Clippers one full day of rest — which is all the time they’ve had to recover between games for the past week and a half.
Los Angeles couldn’t even fly home first after knocking out the Grizzlies on Sunday in Game 7 of a grueling series that had the Clippers hobbling next to Texas. Blake Griffin scored 15 points in 28 minutes a day after estimating his sprained left knee had him feeling “80 percent” at best.
The Clippers said the injury is bad enough that their All-Star and leading scorer might be missing up to two weeks if this were the regular season. But unlike in Game 7 on Sunday, Griffin didn’t take a seat in the fourth quarter until the Spurs were safely ahead in the final minutes.
Rookie Kawhi Leonard added 16 points, hitting all three of his 3s, and Danny Green added 15 points for the Spurs.
The marquee matchup of the series — All-Star point guards Tony Parker and Chris Paul — was a fizzle. Paul, who ended the first round with an aching hip, scored just six points and didn’t make a single basket in the second half. Parker had seven points and 11 assists.
Caron Butler scored 15 points and Nick Young had 13 for the Clippers. Los Angeles cut the deficit to single digits with a 10-burst in the fourth quarter before San Antonio, which hasn’t lost in a month, ran away with its 11th double-digit victory during this dominating winning streak.
The Clippers didn’t even need San Antonio’s help getting more bumps and bruises: Mo Williams, already playing with his sore right fingers taped, took a lump on the head when teammate Reggie Evans kicked him with an errant foot after Williams fell on his back in the lane.
Williams wobbled when he tried standing, sat back down, and the Clippers burned a timeout. He never left the game, but the Clippers weren’t getting any fresher.
Parker, meanwhile, finally felt the hard knocks and slow-him-down shoves that Utah repeatedly promised but never delivered in the first round. Sometimes, the All-Star looked in vain to officials when the whistle didn’t blow. When that didn’t work once in the first quarter, he kept jabbering about a no-call on the last possession while lining up to shoot free throws on the current one.
Popovich, pacing and sensing an impending technical foul, silenced his leading scorer.
“Tony!” Popovich snapped from the sideline. “Shoot!”
Parker waved off the NBA Coach of the Year — he was under control. But his frustrations didn’t end there. He was 1 for 9 despite playing 38 minutes, scoring all but two of his points at the foul line.
Notes: Before this became the deepest Spurs team yet under Popovich, Butler said he came so close to signing with the Spurs after the lockout that he canceled a flight to San Antonio when the Clippers counteroffered. “They made a great pitch,” Butler said. …Leonard finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting, the highest finish for a Spurs player since Ginobili finished fourth in 2003. Said Popovich: “He’s done a good enough job to make me trust him to be in the starting lineup. I’m happy for him.”