Chris Paul didn’t need Tony Parker to get up for this game, and Mo Williams didn’t care about the Los Angeles Clippers winning in San Antonio for the first time in a decade.
Steering the skidding Clippers back on course was plenty incentive.
While Parker sat in street clothes with a sore thigh, shelving an All-Star matchup, Paul took advantage with 36 points and 11 assists as the Clippers salvaged the end of a disappointing road swing with a 120-108 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.
Paul matched a season-high yet he was still nearly upstaged by Williams, who added 33 off the bench and was 7 of 9 from behind the arc – including consecutive makes midway through the fourth that sucked the wind out of a Spurs rally.
The Clippers cruised to a 19-9 mark to start the season, but ”Lob City” had nosedived for the past three weeks and lost six of nine. Now they return to Los Angeles satisfied at splitting a six-game road trip.
”At least to go back home knowing that we split, won three out of the six, was a good win for us,” Paul said. ”Even though they didn’t have Tony Parker. Teams usually tend to letdown.”
Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 22 points. Parker missed just his second game this season, and was a surprise scratch from the lineup after averaging 28 points his last two games.
”We always say we’re a defensive team, but there was just no way today,” Ginobili said. ”They beat us in every aspect.”
Paul matched his season-high in scoring and shot 12 of 20 from the floor, including three 3s. The Clippers were 14 of 27 from behind the arc and shot 51 percent from the floor.
Randy Foye and Blake Griffin scored 15 points apiece and Caron Butler added 14 for Los Angeles.
It was the Clippers’ first victory in San Antonio in a decade, ending a stretch of futility that spanned 18 games. Williams, the nine-year veteran playing on his fourth NBA team, hardly celebrated the milestone personally but said he was glad for the franchise.
The last Clippers win in San Antonio was Jan. 31, 2002, in a victory led by Michael Olowokandi.
”You don’t want that record. Obviously it’s good for the organization to have off their book,” Williams said.
Meanwhile, it’s been an uneven return home for the Spurs. They’re 2-3 since coming back from the winningest nine-game road swing in NBA history, when San Antonio went 8-1.
Gary Neal, filling in for Parker at point guard, scored 18 points and Tim Duncan had 17. Danny Green scored 16.
The night off for Parker wasn’t simply a well-earned rest. Scoring 32 points in a win against the New York Knicks on Wednesday took a toll on the All-Star point guard, who played through a strained right quadriceps and a bothersome right calf that continues to ache.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich conceded that Parker could’ve played and labored through the soreness if needed. But Popovich is through taking chances.
Never mind two injuries that kept Ginobili sidelined for all but a dozen games this season. Popovich, in a moment of candor before the game, admitted he still thinks about last season when Ginobili sprained his right elbow in a meaningless regular season finale.
”Last year was a huge disappointment to us. To win 60 games and then basically lose Manu on the last game of the year, when should I have sat him? I don’t know. I’ll ask myself that forever probably,” Popovich said.
Making matters worse in the backcourt was the Spurs also playing without backup point guard T.J. Ford, who’s still recovering from being knocked hard to the floor against the Knicks.
Ginobili, in his third game back from a strained stomach muscle, was 6 of 10 from the floor in 28 minutes. Rookie Kawhi Leonard added 10 points.
NOTES: Clippers F Kenyon Martin (bruised ribs) missed his first game since joining the team in February. …The Spurs recalled PG Cory Joseph from the D-League before the game but the rookie didn’t play. … If Parker was feeling down about not playing, there was just the place after the game to cheer him up: His new San Antonio nightclub, Nueve Lounge, which had its grand opening Friday.