Spurs, Parker demolish Clippers, Paul

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- The post-All-Star-break San Antonio Spurs looked suspiciously like the pre-break Spurs, and that was bad news for the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.
If San Antonio keeps up its torrid play, it could mean trouble for the rest of the league.
After rolling the Clippers 116-90 at Staples Center, the Spurs have won 16 of 17 games dating back to mid-January, including seven consecutive on the road as they work their way through their annual rodeo road trip.
When they finally return home on Feb. 27 to face the Phoenix Suns, they'll be welcomed back to an arena where they haven't lost since a Nov. 17 defeat against the Clippers.
Home, away, it doesn't really matter right now for the Spurs, as they emphatically showed Thursday.
The key was a first half in which the Spurs opened leads as wide as 17 points, connected on 24 of 38 field-goal attempts -- including six of 12 3-point tries -- and harassed the Clippers into 18-of-42 field-goal shooting.
"We caught a little break. They were a little out of rhythm their first game after the break, while we were fortunate enough to play the other day," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
The good times kept coming in the third quarter, with the Spurs opening a 75-49 advantage.
San Antonio dominated to such an extent that Tim Duncan practically took the night off, playing just 16 minutes. He finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Tony Parker, matched up against Chris Paul, generally regarded as the best point guard in the league, scored 31 points and dished out seven assists in 28 minutes.
"He's just been magnificent all year long," Popovich said of Parker. "He's led the way for us through the injuries. He's really relished the situation and taken it on."
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro agreed.
"Parker just picked us apart," Del Negro said. "They spread you out and they have dives down the middle. Then you bump the dive guy and they've got 3s. We just didn't execute the way we needed to."
Danny Green added 15 points for the Spurs, who improved to a league-best 44-12.
Paul, the All-Star Game MVP, was out of sorts all night. He produced just four points and three assists in 27 minutes.
"It's a welcome-back-after-the-All-Star-break loss," Paul said. "The good news is it's not our last game. Now we just have to get back to work and get better."
Matt Barnes led the Clippers (39-18) with 18 points off the bench, while Blake Griffin added 17 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
"There's no excuses in terms of the All-Star break and all that," Del Negro said. "We didn't bring the effort, the intensity, the mindset tonight to compete at the level you need against a team like that."
There isn't much a team can do when it shoots 42.1 percent from the field, as the Clippers did, while allowing the opponent to shoot 58.9 percent.
Or when an All-Star guard gets outscored 31-4.
"We couldn't get anything going," Paul said.
It was that kind of night for the Clippers, but it's been that kind of run for the Spurs.
NOTES: The trade deadline came and went with neither the Spurs nor the Clippers making a move. In the Spurs' case, attempts were made to move backup center DeJuan Blair, but with no suitable offers available, San Antonio stood pat. ... The Clippers were rumored to have discussed two significant deals, one that would have sent backup point guard Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan to Boston for veteran forward Kevin Garnett, and the other that would have dealt Bledsoe to Utah for forward Paul Millsap. The Garnett deal was unlikely from the beginning, with KG adamantly indicating he would not waive his no-trade clause and the Clippers hesitant to move Bledsoe in a deal involving an older player. The Millsap deal made much more sense, with Millsap fitting the criteria of a young player the Clippers could utilize for the foreseeable future. However, the teams could not come to terms, and the Clippers seemingly have their roster set for the final third of the season. ... Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard was held out due to soreness in his left knee. It's the same problem that sidelined Leonard earlier this year. He hasn't been ruled out of Friday's road game against the Golden State Warriors, but the Spurs will proceed cautiously.

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