was looking forward to see the Spurs battle a contender even without Parker, Leonard and Splitter but the game was starting at 12:30 AM here and the last thing I wanted was to stay up late to watch a loss. Fortunately, the Spurs came through with arguably their best win of the season, which made it all worth it.

The Game

It's hard to say if it was caused by the players being rusty after the All-Star break or just plain old sloppiness but the first quarter was mired with turnovers. Neither team could stop coughing the ball up, which is the only reason the score was not higher with both squads shooting well above 50% from the field. The defenses were not able to assert themselves, as the Spurs used ball and player movement to make up for Parker's absence and the Clippers pushed the ball up court every time they could.

The second quarter started with both teams trotting out offensively-challenged bench units who had to labor for every point. Once the starters came back in, the fouls starting piling up and neither team could get in rhythm. Luckily the Spurs started playing better defense, led as always by Tim Duncan who wrestled control of the paint from DeAndre Jordan, at least for a while. But the Clippers kept running and the Spurs found no answers for Blake Griffin's ability to lead the break and finish.

The game remained close but after back-to-back threes by Griffin and Crawford, the Clippers carved out a six-point lead. The Spurs clamped down on D after that, allowing L.A. only three points in the last three minutes of the half. With Duncan as the focal point on both ends and Danny Green finding his outside shot, the Spurs went on a 14-3 run to go into the break up five, 56-51.

After trading buckets for a while, the Clippers were able to tie it around the six minute mark thanks mostly to the efforts of Jordan on defense and Griffin on offense. The Spurs wasted opportunities to pull away and it seemed like the up until that point dormant L.A. offense was about to explode after a Griffin breakaway dunk. Fortunately, the opposite happened. Just like at the end of the second quarter, the Clippers went ice-cold. With the game tied and 1:24 to go, the Spurs went on an 8-2 run, taking full advantage of the mediocre Clipper bench to go into the fourth quarter up six, 82-76.

Coming into the final period I feared that Chris Paul, who had been unusually quiet up until that point, was going to take over like he usually does. But it was Patty Mills who looked like the All-World point guard late in the game. Mills scored 11 consecutive points for the Spurs to start the quarter, single-handedly stretching the lead to 12. The Spurs withstood the Clippers' final push by making one tough bucket after another and hustling for every lose ball. Then Mills returned after a break and scored a contested three that served as a dagger. Manu did the rest by getting to the line and icing the impressive win on the road.