LOS ANGELES -- The San Antonio Spurs hadn't lost a game in more than five weeks entering Saturday's Game 3 matinee against the Los Angeles Clippers.
That last loss was against the Los Angeles Lakers, at Staples Center. It looked like the streak would be snapped in the same location when the Clippers opened up an enormous early-game lead on visiting San Antonio on Saturday, but no -- the Spurs showed why they'd won 16 consecutive contests and stormed back to beat the Clippers in comfortable fashion, 96-86.
San Antonio outscored the Clippers 24-0 in one eight-minute stretch in the third quarter to erase an earlier 24-point deficit and never let L.A. get closer than seven points in the game's final minutes. The Spurs now have the opportunity to sweep the Clippers in Sunday's Game 4 at 7:30 p.m. PT.
Spurs point guard Tony Parker and power forward Tim Duncan both produced double-doubles, with Parker putting up 21 points and 10 assists and Duncan 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Rookie forward Kawhi Leonard nearly joined them with 14 points and nine rebounds. He shot 3-of-5 from 3-point range as the Spurs made 9-of-22 from there.
For the Clippers, star forward Blake Griffin was the only consistent producer of the starters, with 28 points and 16 rebounds. Point guard Chris Paul, battling a strained hip flexor since the team's first-round series against Memphis, couldn't get things going in the second half and finished with 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting. Reserve Mo Williams added 19 points.
The Clippers initially jumped out to a 33-11 lead after one quarter on spirited play from forward Griffin.
The third-year forward, dealing with knee and hip injuries, nearly matched his entire Game 1 output in 12 dynamic minutes Saturday, scoring 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting and adding five rebounds. He even hit a signature Duncan-style 15-footer off the backboard near the end of the period.
Paul also produced more than he did in the series' first two games, with seven assists in the first period alone. He finished the half with eight dimes but again struggled to get his shot going with just four points on 1-of-1 shooting.
San Antonio converted just five field goal attempts in the first quarter before bouncing back in the second, outscoring the Clippers 32-20 in that stretch. Duncan and Manu Ginobili were held scoreless in the first period, then exploded for a combined 15 points in the rest of the half.
The Spurs did get 11 first-half points and five assists from Parker, who continued to subdue Paul on defense and force him to expend energy guarding him on the opposite end.
After two straight Nick Young jumpers gave the Clippers a 24-point lead with nine minutes to go in the second, the Spurs responded with a 3-pointer from Matt Bonner and a flurry from Duncan and Ginobili. to gain back the momentum
At the break, L.A. led by 10, 53-43.
NOTES: The Clippers-Spurs game was the first of a Staples Center doubleheader, with the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder following it at 7:30 p.m. PT. The games are part of an unprecedented playoff weekend in the L.A. area, with the NHL's Los Angeles Kings hosting two Western Conference final contests as well. ...Griffin's 16 rebounds were a playoff high and his 28 points were two short of his 30-point playoff mark. ...In total, the Spurs outscored the Clippers 80-46 in the final 35 minutes of the game.
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