The San Antonio Spurs instantly hushed any notion that they may be experiencing an NBA title hangover as they evened the series against the Los Angeles Clippers on the road.
This swings the home court advantage in the Spurs’ favor, and they will undoubtedly be fired up after pulling off an exciting overtime victory.
The Clippers could have sealed the win in regulation, but many things went wrong for them, including the Spurs successfully executing the “Hack-a-DeAndre” strategy.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan missed eight free throws in the fourth quarter, and point guard Chris Paul fouled Spurs point guard Patty Mills, who tied the game with two free throws.
Paul blew his opportunity to give the Clippers as he missed a two-point shot with a second remaining, and power forward Blake Griffin failed to tip the ball in as the clock expired.
Griffin had also made a costly mistake when the Clippers were up by two as he turned the ball over, which enabled Mills to draw the foul when the Clippers could have ran the clock out or sealed it with free throws.
Mills continued to star for the Spurs in the clutch when overtime came, as he scored eight points in the period.
He drew a foul and made two free throws to give the Spurs a five-point lead with 11 seconds left after Paul made a three-pointer.
Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick trimmed the lead to two points with a three-pointer as five seconds remained on the clock.
Mills put the game away for good with two more free throws as the Spurs won, 111-107.
In addition to Mills’ clutch play, Spurs power forward Tim Duncan looked nothing like a 38-year-old(soon to be 39) as he led the Spurs with 28 points on 14-of-23 shooting with 11 rebounds.
Small forward Kawhi Leonard also shined for the Spurs in Game 3, scoring 23 points with nine rebounds while Mills added 18 points.
Despite his costly turnover, Griffin put on an overall great performance for the Clippers as he scored 29 points with 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
Jordan also posted solid numbers despite missing many free throws, as he scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 15 rebounds.
Paul added 21 points with eight rebounds and seven assists, but he did very little to shake off his critics that say he is not clutch in big games, like Griffin.
Despite their big win, the Spurs have a major injury to overcome as point guard Tony Parker is battling an Achilles injury.
Luckily for them, they have incredible depth as they showed with Mills, and they have two reliable shooting guards in Manu Ginobili and Danny Green, who stepped in and performed well after Ginobili fouled out.
Other key bench contributors include small forward Marco Belinelli and center Boris Diaw, who can also make their fair share of three-pointers.
It remains to be seen how Parker’s health will be in the foreseeable future, but they have a bona fide head coach in Gregg Popovich and on-court leader in Duncan who guide them through times of adversity.
The Spurs will be given a tough test by the Clippers once again, but their depth and playoff experience will prove to be too much once again.
Prediction: Spurs 103, Clippers 98