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Lethargic Spurs get outworked by Clippers bench

With Blake Griffin out and Chris Paul injured for much of the second half, the Clippers bench led by Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford shut the Spurs down.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs came into tonight’s game with a gaudy 15-1 road record, but couldn’t play well enough to beat a Clippers team that was missing Blake Griffin and lost Chris Paul to injury on a hamstring strain in the second half. Kawhi Leonard had an impressive game, but nobody else on the Spurs could provide much help. When Chris Paul left the game, Raymond Felton came in and did his best impression. The Spurs mounted comeback attempts, but the Clippers always had an answer, and the ageless Jamal Crawford made key plays to keep the Silver and Black from getting back into the game.

The Spurs usually put away games with their bench, but tonight it was the Clippers bench outperformed the juice unit. There were some good individual performances and Dejounte Murray made some good plays in limited minutes, but the juice unit really missed Manu Ginobili’s leadership from the bench, as he was taking a game off to rest.

Game Flow

There was a weird delay to start the game as the ball was deflected into the stands, got wet, and had to be cleaned before play could resume. Apparently, the ball met Pau Gasol’s approval, as he hit a jump shot off the inbounds pass for the first points of the game.

The Spurs rushed out to an 8-2 lead, but eight straight points from the Clips with three point shots from JJ Redick and Chris Paul put the Clippers ahead. Then there was a curious offensive foul called on LaMarcus Aldridge as Paul Pierce blocked his shooting motion with his face, turning a basket into a turnover.

After another Redick three and a DeAndre Jordan dunk, the Clippers led 15-12 and Pop called timeout to talk to his team. The Spurs continued their cold shooting, but the defense was solid. Even with the good defense, JJ Redick got off a three point shot and extended the lead to a half dozen. A Wesley Johnson bucket pushed the lead to eight. Kawhi scored a basket, and then collapsed the defense and passed off to David Lee to cut the lead to four. After another Kawhi assist to Lee and two Leonard free throws, the score was tied at 22.

In the last minute of the first quarter, Coach Pop inserted Dejounte Murray into the game and played well, but Jamal Crawford showed him no mercy as he hit the final 5 points of the quarter, including a deep three closely guarded by Jonathon Simmons that could have been four if the referee had called the contact. The Clippers led 27-22 after one quarter.

The second quarter started with both teams playing mostly bench lineups. Kyle Anderson put in some good minutes for the Spurs, but Raymond Felton countered with strong play for the Clips. After a Felton assist for an easy Marreese Speights layup, Pop had seen enough and called another timeout. The Clips led by eight halfway through the quarter.

Luc Mbah a Moute, who had sat out much of the first quarter with foul trouble, hit a pair of baskets to swell the Clippers’ lead to double digits. Chris Paul started to use his uncanny ability to draw fouls to get free throws, and the Clippers lead expanded to 14. The Spurs continued to struggle to score and only Kawhi could buy a basket.

The Silver and Black defense failed to stop Chris Paul, and even when he missed shots, DeAndre Jordan was there to clean up the mess. A Kawhi tip-in at the halftime buzzer made the score 57-45. It could have been worse as the Spurs were thoroughly outplayed for most of the half, but Leonard’s efforts kept the score within reach.

The Spurs started the second half with a good defensive possession, and then passed the ball around to an open Danny Green to cut the lead back to single digits. The Clippers played with a small lineup with Jordan as the only big, and the Spurs forced him to switch outside on a guard and neutralize his rebounding.

After a couple of Kawhi Leonard blocks, the Spurs took advantage and cut the lead to a half dozen halfway through the third. It looked like the good guys might be able to pull out another road win. Doc Rivers called a timeout to settle his team, and it was about this time that Chris Paul tweaked his hamstring and headed to the locker room.

The Clippers returned to the court with Raymond Felton, and although the Spurs played better defense, they still settled for jump shots and missed most of them. Turnovers were also a problem for the Silver and Black but Jonathon Simmons used his speed and determination to keep Jamal Crawford from turning one of them into easy points with one of his incredible chase down block.

Despite being thoroughly outplayed by the Clippers for most of the game, the Spurs were only down 81-73 after three, and it seemed that they might just pull out another improbable win.

Green hit a triple to open the fourth after Dewayne Dedmon stole a rebound from Marreese Speights. But the Clips quickly answered with a Wesley Johnson triple and a Jamal Crawford jumper that put the Clips up 10, and forced Pop to call a quick timeout.

Felton continued to penetrate the lane and break down the Spurs’ defense. Dejounte Murray got into the game and made some good plays, but Felton and the Clippers were able to take care of the ball and extend the lead to 103-91 with a little over a minute left.

The Spurs made things a little interesting late with two consecutive Kyle Anderson steals to cut the lead to 6 with 17 seconds left, but the Clippers held on to win 106-101.

Random Observations

  • The Spurs usually put games away with their bench. Tonight, the Clippers bench outplayed them. They still got good performances from individuals like Dewayne Dedmon, but the reserve unit didn’t do enough to outscore their counterparts. They really miss Ginobili’s leadership.
  • Dejounte Murray got a big cheer from the crowd after missing a pair of free throws in the fourth, winning them some free chicken sandwiches.
  • Speaking of Murray, he looked pretty good in limited minutes. He already looks a lot more NBA ready than he did just a few months ago. He’s going to be a special player in a few years.
  • The Clippers did a much better job than the Rockets taking care of the ball with a lead, except for those two Wesley Johnson inbounds passes to Kyle, but those happened too late to make a difference.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge started the game aggressively, but after the initial questionable offensive foul call, he ended up settling for jump shots, which mostly missed.

Musical Interlude

A little happy Christmas music for you

Final Thoughts

The Spurs record now stands at 23-6 and they’re in second place in the Western Conference, 2.5 games behind the Warriors. Their next game is tomorrow night at 9:00 PM in Portland against the Trailblazers. The Blazers are on a four game losing streak, including a controversial loss against the Kings where Boogie Cousins... well let’s just say there was some drama... followed by a disappointing loss to the woeful Mavericks. Damian Lillard is always dangerous, so it’s going to be a challenge for the Silver and Black to start a new road win streak.