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Recap: Spurs defeat Clippers 89-85

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Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs were able to eke out a win against the Clippers in Los Angeles despite a woeful shooting night by almost everyone on the team. They held the Clippers to just 3 points in the last 5:48 on 3 free throws from Jamal Crawford, and prevailed despite some oddness at the end.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight's game, for three and a half quarters, felt pretty much like the rest of the games this season. The Spurs looked a little rusty and the shooting was off, way off in fact. But the defense looks to be rounding into form, and the Spurs locked in a W on the road.

The game began with a wide open three-pointer by Matt Bonner that banged off the back of the rim. This was going to be a recurring theme for the game. The Spurs only shot 5-22 for 23% in the first quarter, but they kept the Clippers within range and the quarter ended with a surprisingly close 20-14 score.

There were a few good plays for the good guys including a length of the court pass from Tim to Kawhi that curved about six feet. Just about every shot the Spurs took ended up rattling off the rim, but the Spurs actually outscored the Clips 25-22 in the quarter.  The 0-for-12 shooting from behind the three-point line must be some sort of record.  Almost all of them were wide open and uncontested, but the lid was on tight.  Despite the poor shooting, the Spurs managed to score 25 in the quarter and went into halftime with the Clips only leading by three, 42-39.

The third quarter started with a lot more promise for the Silver and Black. Kawhi and Bonner both hit three-point shots early in the period, and it seemed for a moment that someone had taken the lid off the Spurs' basket. Sadly, it was not to be, and the three-point futility continued after that. The Spurs kept in contact by playing tough defense with Matt Bonner, who didn't make much of an impact with his scoring, doing a good job of limiting Blake Griffin by just hustling and staying with him. The Clippers, for their part, kept the Spurs at arm's length. Every time the Spurs would cut the lead to a basket or two, Chris Paul or Jamal Crawford would make a play. One time, Chris Paul even found himself in an iso with Tim Duncan and of course made him pay.

The fourth quarter was more of the same, and it seemed that the Spurs just didn't have enough offense on their side to overcome a Clippers team that was content to trade baskets with them, but the Clippers committed several early fouls and put the Spurs into the bonus with 9:14 left in the game, which allowed them to creep back into the contest. It seemed that the Spurs would never get past the five-point deficit that had  been maintained most of the game. But at the halfway point of the quarter, the defense stiffened. With five minutes left, Blake Griffin seemed to have an easy dunk, but Cory Joseph smartly fouled him on the ground. Since they were not in the bonus yet, they took the ball out of bounds and were unable to find a good look. The Spurs started to grab every rebound and were able to chip away at the lead until  Kawhi stole the ball from Blake Griffin and made a layup to give the Spurs their first lead with 1:39 left. Then, Boris Diaw put in a floater with 1:02 left that gave the Spurs a three-point lead. On the next possession, Kawhi picked Chris Paul's pocket and called a quick time out to give the Spurs a fresh possession. After a Manu layup, the Spurs had a five-point lead and it seemed the game was over. But things got a little weird after that.

Jamal Crawford was fouled by Manu on a three-point attempt and cut the lead to two with just 25 seconds left.  For some reason, the Clips let the Spurs run the clock down to 11 seconds before they finally fouled Manu, who then improbably missed two free throws. Two points down ...10 seconds left.  But the Spurs played great defense, and it ended with Blake Griffin on his back after securing the rebound with 1.4 seconds left and no timeouts. Blake called a timeout anyway and the ref gave it to him. Somewhere, Chris Webber is slapped his palm against his forehead because for a second it seemed that somehow, that move actually worked for someone. There was a technical for the illegal timeout call, but it still extended the game for another excruciating 1.4 seconds.  After a phantom foul call with .4 seconds left, Kawhi hit a couple of free throws and the game was mercifully over.

Observations:

  • Jeff Ayres and Austin Daye both were given a DNP-CD, which will make a lot of Pounders happy. I expect them to see a lot of court time tomorrow
  • Cory Joseph always does something good when he goes in. A lot of what he does doesn't show on the stat sheet but his energy and hustle always picks up the team.
  • Tony Parker seems to be getting blocked a lot on his layup attempts this year. Maybe we're just playing teams that have a lot of athletic bigs, but it's a little concerning to see so many of those sent back.
  • The Spurs shot 10.5% from the three point line tonight. It's amazing they can shoot that badly and still win a game.
  • Kawhi looks much much better than he did early in the season,but he still looks like he's not 100% on his conditioning or shooting. If he's this good playing only about 60%, it's scary for the rest of the league.

Vine of the Night:




Conclusions:


Next game is tomorrow night against the Warriors in Oakland at 9:30 pm Spurs time. The Spurs are now 3-3 for the season, and look like they're beginning to round into shape. For the Clippers view of the game, be sure to visit the excellent Clips Nation.