The Spurs finally put together a complete 48-minute performance on both ends against Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers, and behold: they won the game. With strong outings from both the bench and the starters, the Spurs methodically pulled away in the second half after a back-and-forth first half to win 107-97.
- Gregg Popovich rolled out another new starting line-up, this time replacing Jakob Poeltl with Rudy Gay. While Gay didn’t have a great shooting night (6 points on 2-9 shooting), he was active on defense against Leonard and Paul George and helped provide balance on offense simply by being an extra threat to shoot from outside, giving his fellow Mid-3 members more room to operate.
- Derrick White also continues to be a positive addition to the starters, and tonight he was more than just a “threat” from outside, he was a force, shooting confidently and pulling up when open to hit 5-7 threes. When White is playing with confidence, it puts this team on another level. Hopefully he can keep this up. (He did last season, so why not?)
- The Spurs have been showing promise in spurts all season, but they could never manage to make those spurts last long enough to put teams away or avoid falling into a deep hole. Although they got behind early by eight, they responded with an 18-2 run, and even though the Clippers responded themselves, the Spurs played them even the rest of the first half to avoid falling back behind: something they have had trouble doing all season.
- The third quarter has usually been good to the Spurs, and tonight was no different as they outscored the Clippers 29-18 to put a stranglehold on the game, and this time they didn’t let up. No lead has ever felt safe this season, but they had an answer every time the Clippers threatened their lead in the fourth quarter with threes from Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, White and . . . DeMar DeRozan! (His first make of the regular season.) In all the Spurs tied their season high with 14 made threes on the night, nine of which came in the second half.
- It wasn’t their most efficient shooting night (they shot just 43% overall), but another key for this Spurs squad (which has lost on plenty of nights when they shot better overall) was they hit their shots when it mattered the most, especially the aforementioned fourth quarter when they put the Clippers away and actually forced garbage time.
- Defense was the other big factor tonight, with 97 points being a season low by a Spurs opponent. Maybe the line-up change helped, but the effort was there all night from both units. On the season, the Clippers’ top four scorers — Leonard, George, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell — average 92 points per game, but they were held to just 43 points tonight. Beyond the starters, the second unit did a good job on the Clippers’ league-leading bench, which probably had a lot to do with Dejounte Murray and Poeltl — who after having 5 blocks against Minnesota had another 4 tonight — taking on the tasks of guarding Williams and Harrell.
- Hopefully this ends up being the confidence-boosting win the Spurs need. They’ve been gradually getting better, but not enough to win games until tonight. With December comes now-or-never territory (or at least darn close to it) if the Spurs want to climb back into the playoff race, and hopefully they can look back on this performance as the one that turned things around.
For the Clippers fan’s perspective, visit Clips Nation.
The Spurs are now headed out to chilly Detroit to take on the Pistons on Sunday. Tip-off will be at 4:00 PM CT on FSSW.