The Spurs have been on a bit of an upswing lately, and the good showing against the Nets on Thursday night had fans of the Silver and Black thinking that the team was turning into a solid unit. But tonight’s meeting against the Los Angeles Clippers exposed the Spurs as a squad that lacks enough talent and cohesiveness to hang with the western contenders. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George shone for the Los Angeles squad, but to be fair, it was a team effort, and the Spurs were outplayed at almost every position on the floor. As usual, the starters were outscored, but tonight, the Clippers bench also comfortably outplayed the San Antonio reserves. Jakob Poeltl did pretty well in limited minutes and had some spectacular blocks, but that wasn’t enough to make the game competitive as the Clippers won in convincing fashion, 134-109.
- Poeltl has excellent timing on his block attempts. He got switched onto Lou Williams in the first quarter and calmly erased a three point shot from the sharpshooter. He also stopped a point-blank dunk attempt from Harrell.
- Pop used his coach’s challenge early in the second quarter and got the reversal. Mostly, they’ve been using the challenge late in games, but it seems it works better to do it whenever you see a call that could be reversed, whenever it occurs. Even if you gain only one possession, it could be important later. Doc Rivers used his challenge early in the third quarter to reverse a foul called on Beverley, which was also successful.
- I don’t know why Marco Belinelli always gets off the bench before Lonnie Walker IV. Marco did hit some shots early, but at this point, he’s just holding back Lonnie’s development. Lonnie finally entered the game halfway through the third quarter, in a lineup with Marco. The game was pretty much decided at that point, anyway, but at least he got some run.
- The Spurs have been pretty good on defense recently. Not tonight.
- The defense for the Spurs was fairly effective at disrupting the Clippers offense, but as often as not, the ball bounced right back to the Clips, giving them easy baskets.
- Chimezie Metu got into the game in garbage time, and he looks like he can play. Maybe he should play more when the score is closer.
LaMarcus Aldridge won the opening tip, and Patrick Beverley fouled Dejounte Murray just 2 seconds into the game, which is some kind of metaphor for how Beverley plays. DeRozan used his midrange game to propel the Spurs to an early 11-7 lead. But unlike last time they met, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard got into the flow of the game, and the Clippers led 21-16 halfway through the quarter. The Clipper stars played well, the Spurs defense kept them in the game as they trailed 33-31 at the end of one.
The Spurs stepped up their defense to start the second quarter, and eked out a 39-38 lead. It was pretty even for the Silver and Black until a quick 8-0 run fueled by the Clippers getting down the court faster that the Spurs had them leading 52-44. An ill-advised foul by DeMar DeRozan was called a flagrant 1 (technically correct, but pretty weak) and the Clippers extended their lead into double digits. The Spurs offense was good enough, but they couldn’t get any stops as they trailed 72-61 at the half. Scoring 61 is pretty good, but giving up over 70 is probably not optimal.
The Spurs weren’t ready coming out of the locker room and let the Clippers score the first 3 buckets of the second half, two by Ivica Zubac inside and a slick drive and dunk by Leonard to put the Clippers up by 17. The Spurs lost their composure a little bit in the middle of the third, and Los Angeles took advantage, turning Spurs miscues into points as they extended the lead to 27 points. The Clipper led 110-83 at the end of the third, and the rout was on.
The Clippers played a mostly bench lineup for most the final quarter, and they were good enough to close out the game, with Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell getting everything they wanted. Chimezie Metu and DeMarre Carroll got into the game for the Silver and Black, which means that Pop had definitely checked out early in this game.
For the Clippers fan’s perspective, head over to Clips Nation, although due to SBNation turmoil, I don’t know if they will have their regular coverage tonight. After tonight’s game, the Spurs travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies and Ja Morant, who has the most spectacular missed dunk this year on Monday at 7:00 PM. Merry Christmas, and let’s go Spurs.