In the Spurs strongest showing to date, they dropped a close and competitive contest to the Clippers in LA on Halloween night. The 103-97 final score knocked the Spurs’ out of sole possession of 1st place in the West, but did more than any of their wins to cement the case for this team being much tougher than many expected. Kawhi Leonard paced all scorers with 38, and DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 29. Derrick White chipped in another 20 point game, and managed a very encouraging 3 of 4 from deep.
- The Spurs looked far more locked in right from the tip than at any point so far this season. Dejounte Murray had two deflections that could’ve been steals on the very first possession, while DeMar DeRozan got all up in Kawhi Leonard’s personal space, getting called for a foul but also setting a tone for how the team’s defense would play for the entire night.
- Both teams got off to a cold start. Kawhi Leonard was the only Clipper to make a field goal for the 1st 7 minutes of game time. Some of that was bad luck, as an Ivica Zubac shot from close range actually balanced on the back of the rim (it wasn’t stuck, it just . . . sat there). For their part, the Spurs shot even worse. Dejounte got the team started with a pull up jumper, but a Bryn Forbes three in transition was the only other bucket the team managed before the first time timeout came at 6:09 in the 1st quarter. At that point, the score was still just 8-5 with Zubac headed to the free throw line for 2 shots when play resumed.
- Part of the reason for the Spurs’ poor shooting was where those shots were coming from. They didn’t produce a single attempt at the rim until the last minute of the 1st quarter, when Rudy Gay made a strong move to the basket along the baseline for a layup. Of course, Rudy immediately went right back to that move on the next play and drew a shooting foul. The Spurs took the lead for the first time on Rudy’s 1st free throw, 24-23.
- Lonnie Walker IV got his earliest minutes of the season so far, checking in at 11:26 in the 2nd and immediately matching up with Kawhi Leonard. Lonnie was a little over aggressive, but his physicality on both ends of the floor is a marked departure from the rest of the team’s guards. He gave as good as he got, getting worked a little in the post but then drawing a foul on Leonard on the perimeter. He also cross checked Patrick Beverley on a screen, which somehow wasn’t called.
- Early in the 2nd quarter, Derrick White completely owned a minute of game time. First he and Jakob Poeltl brought back a little of their beautiful two man chemistry from last season, as Derrick quickly cut towards the rim off an overplay and Jakob fired a line drive that put Derrick right under the basket for a reverse layup.
Big man dime— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) November 1, 2019
Jakob ➡️ Derrick pic.twitter.com/y2vKGsCi2j
- Then, Derrick tracked Leonard perfectly over a screen into the lane before swatting his floater attempt, which led to a Rudy Gay finger roll on the run out. The Clippers’ very next possession ended almost as soon as it started with Derrick drawing a charge on an out of control Harrell.
- DeMar did the bulk of the work to keep them in it for the rest of the half, hitting 5 of his 6 shots for 10 points in the 2nd quarter, attacking from the left block and the midrange. Derrick helped, too, raining in a high arching three from the right corner as the shot clock expired to save a BAD offensive possession with less than a minute to go in the half that helped the Spurs head into halftime down by just two, 50-48.
- The game was a back and forth affair, with the Spurs making just a few too many mistakes to ever take the lead for more than a moment. The Clippers repeatedly isolated and attacked the Spurs’ weaker defenders with Leonard dragging Bryn Forbes into the post multiple times and obliterating Marco Belinelli on the perimeter.
- The Clippers seemed destined to establish some separation for most of the 3rd quarter. They ramped up the defensive intensity, and got their hands on every loose ball, and a few that weren’t, snatching it away from Spurs’ players on more than one occasion. But every time it looked like they might really stretch it out, the Spurs responded. Derrick, LaMarcus, Bryn and Patty all took turns making tough shots to stay in it. Derrick’s pair of pull up threes and sprint down the floor to draw a pair of free throws and close the quarter kept the margin at 5 in game that had the feel of being dangerously close to slipping away.
- The other LA team started out the 4th doing the exact same thing and quickly stretched the lead out to double digits, reaching 13 at it’s zenith. The Spurs, in typical fashion for this young season, leaned into their questionable lineup choice motif, playing Marco at the 3 at the same time Kawhi is on the court. You’d never guess what happened.
- But then Dejounte and DeMar started dragging them back into the game. DeMar’s 12 point fourth was his best single quarter output of the season. The Spurs fought the game back down to a 4 point gap on Derrick’s floater with 2:34 to go. But that was as close as they got, as the Clippers hit their free throws and played tough defense to close it out.
For the Clippers fan’s perspective, head over to Clips Nation.
The Spurs take a quick trip up the coast to the newly opened Chase Center for a match up with what’s left of the Golden State Warriors on Friday at 9:30 PM CT.