The Los Angeles Clippers did their best. They kept pace with the San Antonio Spurs through the first three quarters, responding to run after run to keep things tight. With one quarter remaining, they trailed 71-70. But the Spurs did what they've done to every opponent that has played in San Antonio this season: They wore the Clippers down.
The Spurs outscored the Clippers 37-17 in the fourth quarter to coast to their 42nd consecutive regular season home win, 108-87, on Tuesday. Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists, but it was the bench play that ran up the scoreboard for the Spurs, who moved to 33-0 at home this season.
It's been said again and again about the Spurs, but it's the system, and the never ending roster of players who fit the system, that makes them so dangerous. Nearly everyone did their part against the Clippers.
Leonard was his usual remarkable self, always making the right play and doing it spectacularly.
Do you, Kawhi! pic.twitter.com/gHVcnkGsdY— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 16, 2016
The Spurs have so many weapons that Leonard was the only Spur to play more than 30 minutes. Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili gave immediate energy off the bench, adding 15 and 13 points, respectively. LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and six rebounds, and his backup David West imposed his will down low off the bench with eight points and six rebounds. He made big plays that keyed the fourth quarter run.
DAVID WEST DOING WORK! pic.twitter.com/xYkpBQcu7O— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 16, 2016
That bucket came in the midst of a 17-5 run as the Spurs started the fourth 12-of-17 from the field. The Spurs bench put this one away.
The Clippers bench, on the other hand, was completely overmatched. Chris Paul did his best to keep the Clippers in it -- he had 18 points in the first half -- but the Clippers were outscored by 23 when he was sitting.
At this point, the Western Conference Finals matchup between the Spurs and Golden State Warriors still seems inevitable. The league's two most consistent teams continue to wear down the rest of the league just like the Spurs did to the Clippers on Tuesday. Teams think they can hang until they realize there is no let up. It's like getting to mile 20 of a marathon and realizing you can't slow down -- the Spurs and Warriors might even speed up.
The question is, can either wear down the other? The Warriors won Round 1, but three regular season games remain. Then, there's the possibility of seven more meetings deep in the playoffs.
2 other things
The Pacers have a better chance of climbing the East rankings than dropping out of the playoffs
Paul George had 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists as the Pacers pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Boston Celtics, 103-98, on Tuesday. After opening the season with some of the best basketball of his career, George stagnated somewhat in the middle months of the season. He's charging in March, however, and the Pacers are cementing themselves as an East playoff team. At 36-31, the Pacers are seventh in the East. They're two games clear of eighth and only 1.5 games back of sixth. George is averaging 23 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game in March while shooting 43.9 percent from three. George peaking makes this Pacers team dangerous.
This year's Toronto Raptors aren't going to fall into last year's traps
In 2015, the Raptors sputtered into the postseason before being ousted by the Washington Wizards in the first round. On the second night of a back-to-back after losing to the Chicago Bulls on Monday, and without a resting DeMar DeRozan, last year's Raptors would have folded against the Milwaukee Bucks. Kyle Lowry wasn't going to let that happen, though. He had 25 points and 11 assists to lead the Raptors to an easy 107-89 win Tuesday. At 45-21, the Raptors are only two games back of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top seed in the East. It won't be easy to catch Cleveland, but Toronto's toughness has it on the upswing heading into the playoffs. Unlike last year, it should be a dangerous out this postseason.
Play of the night
Aaron Gordon has gotten so good at dunks that we're not nearly as impressed by an in-game dunk like this as we should be.