In a rematch of two teams in very different places who appear to be headed in opposite directions, the San Antonio Spurs will host the Los Angeles Clippers tonight. The Clippers handed the Spurs their first loss of the season, beginning a 3-13 streak that has dragged the Silver and Black down to 13th in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Clippers are 3rd in the Conference, despite playing without one or both of their two stars in all but 4 games.
The Clips are clearly contending for a championship, while the Spurs are struggling to live up to their potential as first round playoff fodder. There have been signs of life recently, with stretches of very competitive basketball against both the Lakers and Timberwolves, though not enough to earn a W in either case. They’ll likely have to string together a full 48 minutes of their best to have a chance in this one, too.
San Antonio Spurs (6-13) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (14-5)
November 29, 2019: 7:30 PM CT
Watch: FSSW, FSPT | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM), AM 570 LA Sports
Spurs Injuries: None
Clippers Injuries: Landry Shamet (Ankle - Out)
What to watch for
- Kawhi Leonard’s 2nd return to the AT&T Center since being traded two summers ago and 1st of the season should be much less contentious than his last visit. There will be boos, sure, but enough time has passed that the vitriol should mostly have dissipated. The players and coaches have never shown anything but mutual respect and that will certainly continue.
- More important than Kawhi’s return is the frighteningly real possibility that the Spurs are playing themselves into the lottery on a nightly basis. They won’t be the 1st team built to compete for a playoff spot that finds itself lacking, but if that happens, the implications for how the team has handled their transition into this new era are pretty much all bad. On the bright side, if you’re into that sort of thing, the Spurs have “risen” to 6th in Tankathon’s NBA Draft Lottery Simulator.
- The Clippers won the team’s first meeting 103-97. The critical factor in that game was turnovers, as the Spurs gave the ball away 19 times to the Clippers’ 11. The Spurs have slowly gotten their early turnover issues mostly under control and currently sit 5th in the league in turnover rate, per Cleaning the Glass.
- The Spurs will also need to pay special attention to the boards. The Clippers are the best offensive rebounding team in the league, rebounding over 29% of their misses. The Spurs have historically been very good at protecting the glass and currently allow the 5th lowest offensive rebound rate in the league. They’ll obviously need to win that battle.
- Even if they do, though, this Clippers squad at full strength has been very good, albeit in a very small sample size. They’ve won all 4 games Kawhi and George have played together, outscoring their opponents by 10.71 points per 100 possessions in the process.
- The Spurs rotation continues to be in flux. Marco Belinelli, DeMarre Carroll, Trey Lyles and Lonnie Walker IV all appear to be in contention for a spot and each has seen their minutes rise and fall this season. Lonnie, though, may have laid claim to whatever playing time is available on the wing in a more concrete fashion than anyone else so far in the 2nd half of Wednesday night’s loss to the Timberwolves.
The Spurs have shown they are clearly capable of playing much better than their 6-13 record and -3.1 net rating would indicate, but are running out of time for that to matter. At some point, they’ve got to start winning games. The Clippers are difficult opponent to face in that situation, but that’s who’s on the schedule, so the Spurs need to make it happen.
Vegas odds: Clippers by 4.5
For the Clippers fans’ perspective, visit Clips Nation.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed if you don’t have a radio around.