The Spurs were limping towards the end of what was a grueling month when they last met Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and the L.A. Clippers within the confines of the AT&T Center. Their performance that night, a 107-97 victory, would be the first in a series of recent examples that this team isn’t nearly as bad as their 11-16 record would indicate they are. They defended aggressively that night, holding the Clippers to just 39% shooting while coming away with 8 steals and 8 blocks, and they shared the wealth offensively, with six players scoring in double figures and 8 players taking at least 8 shots.
While it hasn’t always been pretty, San Antonio is 4-3 in their first 8 games following that win and were a poor second half away from beating 19-9 Houston two times in as many tries to pump that up to 5-2. They continue to resemble more and more of the team they actually are, and while that might be a deeply flawed team, there’s reason to hope that they’re turning the corner. Tonight will be another chance for them to flash their true form in their search for basketball harmony.
Los Angeles Clippers (21-9) vs. San Antonio Spurs (11-16)
December 20, 2019: 7:30 PM CT
Watch: KMYS CW35| Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None
Clippers Injuries: JaMychal Green (back — questionable)
The Spurs held Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Lou Williams to a combined 18-56 shooting in their last match-up. Can they have success there again?
For the most part, the Spurs’ defense has left much to be desired so far this season, ranking just 20th in defensive rating coming into tonight’s game (111.5). A lot of this has come down to playing specialists that are easily exploited on the defensive end (Marco Belinelli and Bryn Forbes seemingly cause Spurs Twitter to drink every time they blow an assignment) or just at times flat-out defensive incompetence.
There are, though, some answers that have been poking their heads through the woodwork as the season has gone on. Derrick White and Dejounte Murray are well-known by fans for their commitment on the defensive end of the floor, while Lonnie Walker IV has shown much-improved activity defensively, helping to spearhead a Spurs’ defense that allowed them to get back into Thursday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets.
Combinations of those 3 on the perimeter, along with the tenacious activity of Jakob Poeltl swallowing everything at the rim will go a long way in helping San Antonio corral the Clippers’ “Big 4.”
Gregg Popovich offers insight on one of the biggest questions that fans have
After Derrick White almost single-handily turned the Spurs’ defense around last season when he was on the court, fans were salivating at the havoc that he and the returning youngest player ever to make an All Defensive team would wreck on opposing backcourts this season. However, they’ve seen very few minutes together through the first quarter of the season.
Speaking to Bill Land ahead of Thursday night’s game, coach Gregg Popovich commented on how a foot injury that has limited White has also kept the time those two have played together down:
Pregame Pop broke down all the young guys, also mentioned seeing Dejounte and Derrick on the floor together more cc: @RealTomPetrini #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/GyrbpOoxXe— Chamoy Dreams (@ChamoyDreams) December 20, 2019
Pop’s desire to see them play more together before White’s injury, combined with the fact that the two were in the line-up to close out the Rockets game would seem to be a good indication that Pop knows what he has with them and that he has, in fact, not actually lost it, as has been speculated.
Vegas Line: O/U 223.5
For the Clippers fan’s perspective, you can 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.