Spurs sweep Clippers, advance to West finals
|Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) is guarded by San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2), Manu Ginobili (20) and Boris Diaw (33) during Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference semi-final playoff basketball game in Los Angeles, California, May 20, 2012. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters.|
LOS ANGELES - (UPDATED) The San Antonio Spurs steamrolled into the NBA Western Conference finals after a 102-99 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday gave them a clean sweep of their seven-game series.
The West's top seeds rolled to their 18 consecutive victory going back to the regular season as the Clippers fell to the same fate as the Utah Jazz in the first round, exiting the playoffs after being swept 4-0.
Sunday's game was tight, and San Antonio trailed by one with two and half minutes remaining, but Tony Parker answered with a pair of clutch baskets and the visiting Spurs showed the nerve that has seen them dominate the NBA over the past month.
"We needed a game like that," Parker told reporters. "That was a great game for our young guys to get some experience. At the end of the game we executed our plays and made big baskets."
Tim Duncan scored 21 and Parker finished with 17.
The Clippers' Chris Paul recorded 23 points and 11 assists, but he committed a turnover and missed a potential game-tying shot on two of his team's final possessions.
Mo Williams failed to get a final desperation shot off as the Staples Center crowd fell to hush and the Clippers saw their season come to a close.
San Antonio's postseason march is in contrast to last year when they were stunned in the first round as No. 1 seeds.
It also has them positioned to make a run at their first NBA title since 2007.
"I know how good this team was last year, and we're healthier and deeper," said guard Danny Green, who finished with 14 points. "I know what we're capable of."
San Antonio will play either Oklahoma City or the Los Angeles Lakers for the Western Conference title.
'This should hurt'
The Clippers, playing in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006, were outclassed in every department by the seasoned Spurs.
A day earlier, Los Angeles squandered a 22-point advantage to lose Game Three, but this time they fell behind by 12 in the second quarter but fought to make it a test.
Reserve guard Eric Bledsoe scored 10 consecutive Clippers' points in the fourth, he had 17 on the night, to help give the home team a five-point edge with five minutes left but the Spurs battled back.
With Paul and Blake Griffin, who had 21 points, the Clippers have every reason to be optimistic for the future.
"I told them 'this should hurt,'" said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. "More is expected, and that's a good thing." (Editing by Peter Rutherford)