Spurs-Clippers Preview

The Associated Press

The San Antonio Spurs showed more than enough veteran poise to move to the brink of another sweep in the Western Conference playoffs.

The Spurs will be out to stretch their overall winning streak to 18 games and advance to the conference finals in Game 4 of their semifinal series Sunday night on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Los Angeles jumped out to a 22-point lead after one quarter Saturday and seemed poised to get back in the series by winning Game 3. By the midpoint of the third quarter, San Antonio had roared back to take the lead by using a devastating 24-0 run in that period.

The Spurs went on to win 96-86.

"It's essential, I think to try and stay cool and collected when things are going in all different directions around you," said forward Tim Duncan, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds. "You can keep that even keel and you're not affected by the goods and the bads as much and that's a great quality to have."

The Spurs remain the only team without a loss in the postseason after winning their final 10 regular-season games.

Blake Griffin had 20 points by halftime, finishing with 28 and 16 rebounds. He and the rest of the Clippers went south in the decisive third quarter, getting outscored 26-8.

Los Angeles has lost the first three games of this series by an average of 14.3 points and can't be faulted for not sounding confident about keeping the season alive Sunday.

"If we don't play with that sense of urgency, it's not going to be pretty,'' Griffin said.

Tony Parker had 23 points and 10 assists in Game 3 for San Antonio. He's averaging 17.3 points and 8.7 assists per game in the series, but shooting just 35.4 percent.

The point guard has fared better than Clippers counterpart Chris Paul, who is averaging the same 8.7 assists but only 9.3 points on 30.8 percent shooting. Paul had 12 points and 11 assists Saturday but missed 12 of 17 shots.

While Parker and Duncan executed the pick and roll well for the Spurs, the offense generated by Paul and the Clippers after the first quarter was not up to par.

"We shot a lot of jump shots, didn't attack the rim, didn't get any offensive rebounds," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "They moved the ball well like they usually do and picked us apart a little bit with some 3s and some penetration."

The Clippers also missed 9 of 18 free throws. They are shooting 66.5 percent at the line - the league's second-worst mark in the postseason.

The 183 playoff games together for Duncan under coach Gregg Popovich represent the most in postseason history for a player and coach combination, and that experience is proving a key factor.

"We didn't get rattled but one would expect that that group wouldn't, they have been playing together a long time especially with Timmy and Manu (Ginobili) and Tony and they have seen a little bit of everything and they know that anything can happen in the NBA game," Popovich said.

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