Spurs off to a rocky be­gin­ning

The de­fend­ing NBA cham­pi­ons have a tough road ahead in try­ing to win back-to-back ti­tles.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Brod­er­ick Turner brod­er­ick.turner@la­times.com

For all the suc­cess the San An­to­nio Spurs have had re­cently, they have never won con­sec­u­tive NBA ti­tles.

The de­fend­ing NBA cham­pion Spurs set out on a course Sun­day night to change the one feat they have yet to ac­com­plish.

But it was not a good start for the Spurs in their quest to win back-to-back cham­pi­onships, los­ing, 107-92, to the Clip­pers in Game 1 of the West­ern Con­fer­ence firstround play­off se­ries at Sta­ples Cen­ter.

Go­ing down, 0-1, in the best-of­seven se­ries that re­sumes with Game 2 on Wed­nes­day night only made the road tougher for the Spurs.

San An­to­nio fin­ished the regular sea­son tied as the sixth-most ef­fi­cient of­fen­sive team in the league.

But the Spurs rarely re­sem­bled that team Sun­day night, go­ing down by 18 points in the third quar­ter and hav­ing to run up­hill the rest of the way.

The Spurs shot 36.6% from the field and strug­gled with free throws, go­ing 14 for 26 (53.8%) from the line. They failed to take care of the bas­ket­ball, turn­ing it over 15 times.

It was that kind of night for a Spurs team that won the first of its five cham­pi­onships in 1999 and fol­lowed that up with ti­tles in 2003, ’05, ’07 and ’14.

“All in all, we were just out of rhythm for the most part,” Spurs for­ward Tim Dun­can said. “We got off a lot of de­cent shots that we didn’t make. We had some pretty de­cent looks there. But give them a lot of credit be­cause they did sus­tain it longer than we did.”

The Spurs also had never reached the Fi­nals in back-to-back sea­sons, but they fi­nally did, los­ing the 2013 cham­pi­onship to Miami and then ex­act­ing some re­venge by beat­ing the Heat for the 2014 crown.

But Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said be­fore Sun­day’s game that he has never put much em­pha­sis on his team’s fail­ure to win back-to­back cham­pi­onships.

“I don’t give it a whole lot of thought,” Popovich said. “We tried to win again. We’ve never done it. I couldn’t say it was be­cause of A,B, C, or D.

“I do know it’s re­ally hard to win an NBA play­off game, let alone an NBA round or an NBA cham­pi­onship. So I don’t get too hung up on, ‘You didn’t re­peat.’ ”

Clip­pers Coach Doc Rivers, who won his only NBA cham­pi­onship in 2008 when he coached the Bos­ton Celtics, said hav­ing “play­ers change” their ap­proach can be a rea­son it has been so dif­fi­cult for teams to re­peat.

“Some [play­ers] never come off the ‘Tro­phy Tour,’ ” Rivers said. “And some lose their place and their role. Be­cause usu­ally if you won a ti­tle, you won it be­cause every­body got their roles. And some­times it takes all sea­son to get ev­ery­one back in the right role.”

The Spurs ar­rived in Los An­ge­les on fire, hav­ing won 21 of their last 25 games.

“And we’re in sixth place,” Popovich dead­panned while shak­ing his head. “What’s the deal?”

In­deed, all that win­ning only got the Spurs the sixth seed in the su­per-tough West.

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