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What we learned from the Spurs loss to the Clippers

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Spurs start hot and end cold against a resilient Clippers team.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

A night that started with so much promise was abruptly derailed as Tobias Harris and the Los Angeles Clippers exploded in the fourth quarter to steal a victory late. The win for the Clips kept their playoffs hopes alive, while also preventing the Spurs from clinching a spot in the post season. The loss also ended San Antonio’s historic run of 50+ win seasons and dropped the Silver and Black to 5th place in the Western Conference standings.

The Spurs started the game on a tear, building up a 14 point lead after the first frame. The first quarter might have been the best basketball I’ve seen this team play this season. The ball movement was fluid and the Spurs played with a sense of urgency that awarded the Clippers a verbal shellacking by their Coach, Doc Rivers. The Clips responded to their coach’s plea and stayed within striking distance for the rest of the game; eventually roaring back to keep their season alive.

As disappointing as the loss was, the Spurs showed what they are capable of when they execute offensively and play with tenacity on defense. However, they could not maintain that strong start and it cost them the win.

Observations:

  • Did anybody else watch Danny Green last night and say to themselves, ‘who the heck is that guy’? The former Tarheel was magnificent against the Clippers back-court in the first half. He repeatedly made them pay for running him off of the arc as he sliced his way to the rim for a couple of big-time finishes. His willingness to put the ball on the deck helped ignite the Spurs offense as he was able to dish the ball off and get his teammates some open looks early. He faded a bit down the stretch, missing some open looks and getting into foul trouble, but it is hard to ignore that strong stretch of play he began the game with.
  • Rudy Gay was once again in attack mode. When he has the jumper cooking he is almost unguardable. His size allows him to manipulate defenders by backing them down before stepping back and nailing a face up 18-footer. The problem Tuesday night was he was non-existent in the second half. After halftime, the aggression was no longer there, nor was the team’s consensus to let the offense run through him when Aldridge is off of the floor. Other than a half court heave to end the 3rd quarter, Gay took one shot the entire second half. If this team plans to make it out of the first round, #22 is going to have to be more involved.
  • Bryn Forbes and Kyle Anderson had some nice minutes together. The unexpected duo combined for 19 points, 7 boards, and 6 assists and helped weather the storm a few times in the second and third quarters when the Clippers began to chip away at the lead. Forbes in particular caught my eye as he was on the attack from the moment he checked into the game. If he is going to crack the playoff rotation, that’s the type of aggression he’s going to need every time he checks into the game. He is on the roster to spread the floor and score the basketball. If he wants stay there, #11 needs to embrace that instant-offense-gunner role off the bench.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge was toying with the Clippers front court for much of the night. His jumper was flawless, and he repeatedly nailed mid-range J’s throughout the night. Watching the former Longhorn, it is easy to see his confidence level rise with each passing game. He is playing in a rhythm right now and his teammates have done a tremendous job helping their superstar find his spots on the floor. What has also stood out to me over #12’s dominate stretch of basketball is he does not shy away from the ball in the fourth quarter. LaMarcus has become this team’s closer and wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line.
  • Other than LA, there might not be another Spur who has raised his game more in the last month than Dejounte Murray. Against the Clippers, he struggled a bit from the field, as they dared the young slasher to shoot for much of the night; however that did not deter him from making an impact on the game. For such a young player, his instincts are that of a seasoned vet. His length and athleticism make him a pest defensively, and he has a natural ability to play the passing lane. The next step towards raising his game to a new level will be to make opponents pay for going under screens and leaving him unguarded behind the arc.
  • While guys like Murray and Aldridge have been streaking, Pau Gasol hasn’t been so hot. Dealing with a shoulder injury, the 7-foot Spaniard has shown glimpses of improvement (like in the first quarter when he nailed an elbow-jumper and put an opposing big on skates out on the perimeter), but he still doesn’t look quite right as the playoffs draw near. He did not get much run against the Clips since Pop is likely saving him for tonight’s back-to-back against the Lakers, but getting the big man going should be a big priority as the Spurs close out the season.
  • Davis Bertans’ lack of playing time has been rather telling as to where the Latvian sharpshooter stands heading into the postseason. Even in a season with so much turnover and a key spot in the rotation up for grabs, he has yet to find a permanent role on this team. With only one more year remaining on his contract, it looks like next season will be a defining one for the versatile forward.