The Spurs were busy to start this season, packing seven games into just 12 days to join the Kings as the only two teams in the league to have that heavy of an early schedule.
After the game some players for the Spurs admitted to being a little fatigued, but you won't find the Spurs using the first two weeks as an excuse for the beat-down they received at the hands of the Clippers on Saturday night. After all, they're pros and the schedule is what it is. You play the games as they come.
Don't get me wrong, the Spurs looked tired and a little lifeless, but the Clippers have played six games this season and both teams were on a the second night of a back-to-back. Coach Gregg Popovich gave the Clippers credit for their win, saying that Blake Griffin was great before adding,
...their whole team beat us soundly, embarrassingly. They were terrific.
You might take Doc Rivers' thoughts on the game with a grain of salt, but the Clippers' first half performance lends some credibility to him saying, "I told our players, this is a first half game. Whoever gets a big enough lead is going to win the game."
I'd say racking up a 73-55 advantage in one half of play qualifies as a 'big enough lead'. I honestly can't remember the last time the Spurs gave up 73 points in a half. I'm not even sure it's happened in the Popovich era. [Ed. Note: It hasn't. The last time was against the Nuggets in 1990, where they allowed 90 points in a half.]
Los Angeles got most of their first half production from an outstanding performance from Blake Griffin who dropped 26 of his 28 total points in the first half on an astounding 12-of-16 and a combined 25 points from Luc Mbah a Moute and J.J. Redick (both 2-for-2 from deep). Griffin did most of his damage against LaMarcus Aldridge, but his defense should have been sufficient, forcing the Clippers' all-star forward into multiple-dribble, fadeaway 15-to-18-footers. Blake was just fantastic all game, hitting seven of his nine two-point attempts outside of the paint.
Chris Paul was also great for the Clippers, running their offense to near perfection off a torrent of drag screens and high pick-and-pops/rolls with Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. At the end of the half in a little less than 19 minutes Paul had amassed eight assists for his club and added a team-high five rebounds.
Perhaps the score was a bit more out of hand than during the 2015 first-round series the Spurs lost to the Clippers but the same issues were still present. Paul in conjunction with Griffin and Jordan remain a serious issue for San Antonio. It's a problem that the Spurs will likely need to solve if they want to come out of the West this season.
To really illustrate just how badly the Spurs struggle with the way the Clippers attack them, the Clippers came into the game shooing 43% from the field and ranked 18th in offense in their first five games. So to hang 73 on a Spurs team that prides itself on defense in one half of basketball is a real issue.
I promise I'm not going sky-is-falling on you guys, but this isn't just one November game. I mean, there's plenty of time for San Antonio to figure out what will work for them, but the Clippers are legit. The Spurs were once the envy of the league in terms of corporate knowledge and consistent continuity, but this is a new season for the silver and black with more new players on the roster from a season ago than many fans have seen in their lifetime. The Clippers on the other hand returned their starting five and the majority of their meaningful roster.
And LA looked like the team that's been together for forever, playing with great chemistry and making the Spurs look more out of sorts than they actually are. With both teams on a back-to-back, comfort and familiarity are important and while that wasn't the only reason the Spurs received a drubbing on Saturday night, it was part of it.
To be fair to the good guys, this was a game where Tony Parker would likely have helped, especially with Patty Mills having an off night (1-for-7 from the field). After all, Tony is as cool-headed as they come and knows the system better than anyone else currently rostered. The Spurs are also still missing the other half of their league-best defensive wing-duo in Danny Green. For those keeping track, the Spurs were playing without 60% of last season's starters.
Have no defeated attitude, the Spurs aren't as bad as they looked in the game. Pop noted after the game that the extended break the team will have before their next game will be good for them. But if you were counting only the Warriors as the team that stands between San Antonio and another Finals appearance this game was revealing. The Clippers were mighty impressive on the road.
It wasn't all bad for San Antonio – they did run out to a quick 8-0 lead behind threes from Pau Gasol and LaMarcus (who finished 3-for-3 from deep!!!). The defense wasn't bad in the third quarter for the the Spurs either, holding the Clippers to just 16 points in the period. But in each of those cases the Clippers countered, first with a 28-4 run in the first quarter after Doc Rivers paused the game down eight and then by holding the Spurs to just 17 points in the third quarter.
It's a long season, guys.
And hey, losing two out of three games at home to start the season isn't good but at least the Spurs didn't lose to the Lakers.
- Kawhi Leonard has been fantastic this season, but the still-young stud had a rough night, finishing 3-of-13 from the field. DeAndre Jordan was great defensively for the Clippers inside and didn't make anything easy for Whi, but Leonard also missed all three of his attempts from deep and is now shooting just 33% (10-of-30 from three this season). Super small sample size alert! Kawhi continued to get to the line at an impressive clip, hitting all eight of his freebies in the game and improving to 61-of-63 for the season from the charity stripe. Positive takeaway!
- Nico Laprovittola. I've already forgotten about that really tall Serbian from last season. What was his name? Nico is so fun and is a really earnest, nice guy. Give him a sec and you'll be in love as well. The NBA-rookie Argentine shot 80% from the floor, 60% from deep and finished with five assists to just one giveaway. His one turnover was on a beautiful behind-him, pocket-bouncer intended for David Lee. It's not Lee's fault he wasn't ready for it, I wouldn't have expected anyone but Manu to be ready for it. Like playing with Manu, his teammates are going to have to learn to be ready for anything coming their way when he's on the floor. He's a blast to watch, plays without fear, can really shoot it, has great court-vision and this writer is thrilled he made the roster and gets to watch him all season.