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Spurs try to beat Clippers at their own game, fail to outscore the league's best offense

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In a duel of potent offenses, the Clippers prevailed thanks to their individual talent.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs 115, Clippers 119 - Feb 19, '15

Every Spurs fan has been trying to figure out what's wrong with the team this year. Health has been a huge issue, as some players aren't back to their level yet after lengthy absences. But the reality of the situation is that there there is no single thing that is holding the Spurs back. They have had moments in which their ball movement, shooting and defense have been comparable to last season's and every individual has excelled at one point or the other. The problem is it rarely all happens on the same night.

On Thursday Parker played like his 2013 version but Kawhi Leonard was a mess; Tim Duncan dominated but Tiago Splitter couldn't rebound; the three-pointers were falling for Manu but not for Mills; the offense clicked but the defense was nonexistent. Inconsistency is what's plaguing the Spurs. The good news is through it all they are still winning enough to get to the playoffs and if they put it all together, the talent is there to repeat.

Four Factors (def.)

Spurs Clippers
Shooting (eFG%) 56% 60%
Ball Handling (TO%) 16% 13%
Off Rebounding (OR%) 13% 23%
Shooting FTs (FT Rate) 27% 68%

The Clippers swept the four factors and it was still a close game. Their free throw rate is outrageous, almost doubling the average of the league-leading Sacramento Kings. Obviously it was inflated by Pop's decision to intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan, who finished the game with more free throws (28) that the entire Spurs team (23). The controversial tactic drained the fun out of the game but it worked, as Jordan shot 35 percent from the line.

Team Stats (Definitions at bottom of post)

Spurs Clippers
Pace (No. of Possessions) 104.5
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.10 1.14
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.37 1.55
2-PT FG% 58.9% 58.6%
3-PT FG% 35.7% 42.1%
FT% 82.6% 51.9%
True Shooting % 61.1% 59.6%
Spurs
Clippers
Offensive Rating 108.4 115.7
Defensive Rating 115.7 108.4
Net Rating -7.3 7.3
Spurs Clippers
Passes / poss. 3.2 2.3
% of FGA uncontested 52.4% 41.6%
Points in the paint 46 56
Second chance points 12 9
Fast break points 7 19
Spurs Clippers
Assists 34 26
Steals 6 10
Turnovers 16 12
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.50 3.00
Spurs Clippers
Expected Offensive Rebounds 9.5 10.8
Offensive Rebounds 5 10
Difference -4.5 -0.8

It was a great offensive display by both teams, which finished with an offensive rating and an effective field goal percentage that would lead the league. Neither squad could really contain the other, with the Spurs using great ball movement to score while the Clippers relied more on the individual talents of their key players, as demonstrated by the passes per possession and assists.

One of the most surprising stats from Thursday is second chance points. The Clippers doubled the Spurs in offensive rebounds 10 to five yet only got nine points to the Spurs' 12 from their domination of the glass. The Spurs underperformed in terms of expected offensive rebounds and their season average on the offensive glass (23.3 percent) but had exactly the same amount of second chance points they average for the season.

Transition defense was a problem, as it has been for most of the year. 19 fastbreak points are just too many to allow, especially to an elite half court offensive squad like the Clippers. Some of those were the result of live-ball turnovers but a general lack of effort and focus going back on defense has been one of the few constants for the Spurs this season.

Spurs Shot Chart

Clippers Shot Chart

San Antonio wen't 1-for-7 on corner shots. The Spurs are actually shooting a higher percentage from the corners this season but when they struggle from those areas, their offense suffers greatly.

Rim protection was nonexistent despite the game featuring two Defensive Player of the Year candidates in Jordan and Duncan. The Spurs shot almost 80 percent at the rim and still loss, thanks in no small part to their inability to hit anything from the right baseline.

Players (Definitions at bottom of post, columns sortable)

Spurs

Player
Min
AdjGS
GS/Min
Line
Usage%
Floor%
OffRtg
DefRtg
NetRtg
Tim Duncan 33 40.6 1.22 30 Pts (12-14 FG, 1-1 3PT, 5-5 FT) 11 Reb (0 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 Stl, 3 PF 21% 91% 114.3 112.4 1.9
Tony Parker 35 29.8 0.86 21 Pts (8-17 FG, 1-2 3PT, 4-4 FT) 3 Reb (0 Off), 13 Ast, 2 Stl, 4 PF 24% 63% 112.6 110.3 2.3
Aron Baynes 26 13.7 0.53 14 Pts (6-9 FG, 2-2 FT) 4 Reb (1 Off), 1 Blk, 5 PF 17% 68% 111.3 112.1 -0.8
Tiago Splitter 16 11.7 0.74 11 Pts (3-4 FG, 5-6 FT) 1 Reb (1 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO, 3 PF 23% 66% 101.0 113.5 -12.5
Marco Belinelli 24 8.9 0.37 11 Pts (4-9 FG, 3-6 3PT ) 2 Reb (0 Off), 3 Ast, 1 TO, 3 PF 17% 43% 110.8 122.1 -11.3
Danny Green 27 7.9 0.29 9 Pts (4-6 FG, 1-3 3PT ) 6 Reb (1 Off), 1 TO, 4 PF 11% 51% 116.0 113.0 3.0
Manu Ginobili 23 7.7 0.34 10 Pts (3-4 FG, 3-4 3PT, 1-2 FT) 1 Reb (0 Off), 6 Ast, 5 TO, 4 PF 18% 44% 99.2 134.9 -35.7
Matt Bonner 1 0.0 0.00 0 Pts , 0% 0% 0.0 0.0 0.0
Kawhi Leonard 27 -0.1 -0.00 4 Pts (1-11 FG, 0-6 3PT, 2-4 FT) 6 Reb (2 Off), 6 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 TO, 2 PF 27% 24% 106.6 96.9 9.7
Boris Diaw 16 -0.4 -0.02 3 Pts (1-3 FG, 1-1 3PT ) 3 Reb (0 Off), 1 Ast, 2 TO, 3 PF 13% 22% 95.4 131.6 -36.2
Patty Mills 13 -4.7 -0.37 2 Pts (1-7 FG, 0-5 3PT ) 1 Reb (0 Off), 1 Stl, 2 TO, 1 PF 29% 9% 104.7 128.2 -23.5

Show Clippers Players

Tim Duncan was fantastic, putting together one of the most efficient games of the season for any Spur. His jumper was falling and that completely changes how effective he is. Tony Parker was also great, slicing the Clippers' defense for close shots. Two of the Spurs' veteran stars showed up to play and provided a good reminder of how good the offense can be when they are clicking.

Unfortunately, the two other players the Spurs need to perform at a high level to win -- Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard -- just didn't have it on Thursday. Leonard missed shots he typically makes and sat for much of the fourth quarter while Ginobili was extremely turnover-prone, at one point making a perfect shovel pass to Jamal Crawford.

The supporting cast wasn't much better except for Tiago Splitter and Aron Baynes. Splitter clearly is not right physically, as he seems even less explosive than usual, which hurt the Spurs on the board. He still managed to score efficiently, though, and played with energy. Baynes was amazing. He's making the most of this unique opportunity to start and is looking quicker than I remember seeing him in a Spurs jersey.

As for the Clippers, DeAndre Jordan continued his stellar play in Griffin's absence (free throw shooting notwithstanding) and Jamal Crawford had a very Jamal Crawford game, meaning he hit crazy shots with ease.

Spurs Index: 106.3 (def.)

Factor Value Score
Passing (AST%) 79.1% 38.2
Shooting (eFG%) 56.0% 20.8
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 76.7% 20.1
Defense (DefRtg) 115.7 17.3
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 41.6% 9.8
Total 106.3

Clippers Spurs Index: 99.9 Show Breakdown

The passing alone makes this game Spurs-y, as the ball definitely moved. Unfortunately, the other defining characteristic of last year's team was their ability to get stops and that defensive competence wasn't on display against the Clippers.

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Definitions

eFG%: Effective Field Goal percentage. (via) Effective Field Goal Percentage; the formula is (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA. This statistic adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. For example, suppose Player A goes 4 for 10 with 2 threes, while Player B goes 5 for 10 with 0 threes. Each player would have 10 points from field goals, and thus would have the same effective field goal percentage (50%).

AdjGS: a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game. The "adjustment" in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game's points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

Usage%: This "estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor" (via). The usage of those possessions is determined via a formula using field goal and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. The higher the number, the more prevalent a player is (good or bad) in a team's offensive outcome.

Floor%: Via Basketball-Reference.com: Floor % answers the question, "when Player X uses a possession, what is the probability that his team scores at least 1 point?". The higher the Floor%, the more frequently the team probably scores when the given player is involved.

Offensive Rating (offRtg): Points per 100 possessions.

Defensive Rating (defRtg): Points allowed per 100 possessions.

Spurs Index: The Spurs Index © is a just-for-fun formula that attempts to quantify just how "Spursy" a particular game is, based off averages for the 2013-2014 regular season. A perfectly average game would have a Spurs Index of 100. The formula consists of four factors which the Spurs are known for and lead or nearly lead the league in: Shooting (effective Field Goal %), Passing (Assist percentage), Defensive Rebounding Rate, and Defensive Rating. These metrics are weighted as follows:

Factor Weight Average
Passing (AST%) 30% 62.1%
Shooting (eFG%) 20% 53.7%
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 20% 76.4%
Defense (DefRtg) 20% 100.1
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 10% 40.8%
The values for each metric are determined based on how a particular game's performance compares to the Spurs 2013-2014 regular season average for that metric. For instance, the average effective Field Goal percentage for 2013-2014 was 53.7%. So if the Spurs shot 60% in a given game, the score for eFG% would be calculated by: (0.6 / 0.537) * 20, which would yield a "score" for that factor of 22.3.

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