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As thorough a thrashing as the Clippers took in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Spurs, it may seem like they're down. They are. But they're certainly not out. That is, not if Chris Paul makes several adjustments to breathe life into the Clippers' sputtering attack.
Here are five things CP3 must do to give the Clips any hope of competing with the Spurs:
1. Dictate tempo
Against an intelligent, well-coached team, this is much easier said than done. The Spurs do a masterful job of controlling the tempo and tone of a game particularly because they are able to operate effectively at any pace. Their ball movement and execution make them a formidable half-court team and, despite some old legs, they're extremely dangerous when they run because of their sublime passing in transition. Paul must actively try to throw the Spurs for a loop by alternately pushing and slowing the pace as the Clippers' lineup changes and it suits the team's needs.
Like a major league pitcher, Paul has to bring to some variety to his approach and have a thorough understanding of how different Spurs lineups will react to changes in tempo. That's a lot of information, but it's his job to know. If the older Spurs want to slow it down, Paul should push hard. If San Antonio is excelling in its transition game, Paul should walk the ball up the court. He needs to establish early that he's going to dictate tempo to put the Spurs in a reactionary position all game. As great a game manager as he is, Paul can do this easily enough -- but here's the catch: The tempo he chooses has to be conducive to the personnel the Clips have on the floor.