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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Clippers

Can the Silver and Black bounce back from a befuddling loss in Sacramento?

San Antonio Spurs v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs came out of the gates flat versus the shorthanded Sacramento Kings and never found a way to recover as they failed to hold onto their momentum from an encouraging victory a few nights ago. While they won’t look back fondly upon their latest loss, they can certainly learn from underestimating a shorthanded opponent.

Next up for the Silver and Black on the final leg of the SEGABABA are the Los Angeles Clippers, who enter this matchup down Paul George, Marcus Morris, and a couple of significant rotational pieces. Head Coach Tyronne Lue has done a superb job of guiding his team minus Kawhi Leonard, and they will adjust to whatever lies ahead on Monday night.

San Antonio Spurs (11-18) @ Los Angeles Clippers (16-14)

December 20, 2021 | 9:30 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — Ankle), Josh Primo (Out — On Assignment), Joe Wieskamp (Out — Two Way), Devontae Cacok (Out — Two Way), Doug McDermott (Out — Tooth Infection)

Clippers Injuries: Kawhi Leonard (Out — Knee), Jason Preston (Out — Foot), Marcus Morris (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Isaiah Hartenstein (Out — Ankle), Paul George (Questionable — Elbow), Serge Ibaka (Probable — Personal)

What To Watch For

  • Paul George has been the driving force behind Los Angeles staying afloat in the Western Conference standings with Kawhi Leonard recovering from offseason ACL surgery. Though the seven-time All-Star has been nothing short of remarkable as the go-to option despite a subpar supporting cast, a recent right elbow sprain could stop him from suiting up when the Spurs come to town on Monday night. Losing George would be an unmistakable blow for the Clippers on both ends, but as the shorthanded Kings showed San Antonio, you can’t pencil in a victory against anyone in the NBA. Not only will the Clippers potentially be without PG-13, but Isaiah Hartenstein and Marcus Morris won’t be available either. A combination of injuries and COVID-19 protocols have forced head coach Tyronn Lue to count on the end of his depth chart, which should give a predominantly healthy Spurs squad the upper hand. The Clippers are a commendable 3-3 when Paul George doesn’t play, including a 16-point win over the first-place Phoenix Suns on their resume. Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, and even rookie Brandon Boston Jr. are talented enough to have an offensive explosion. San Antonio must show a certain level of respect for their opponent regardless of the condition they show up in when the contest begins.
  • The Silver and Black have allowed their opposition to shoot the highest three-point percentage (43.3%) in the NBA since they kicked off a five-game homestand nearly two weeks ago. And that could pose a problem as they face a sharpshooting Clippers team that has knocked down the long-ball at the eighth-best clip (36.2%) in the league this season. Los Angeles is home to five players who shoot above league average from beyond the arc, but the Spurs will have one less marksman to hold in check as Marcus Morris goes through health and safety protocols. With that said, the Clippers will still have Terance Mann, Serge Ibaka, Luke, Kennard, and Nicolas Batum at their disposal, and San Antonio can’t afford to lose track of the latter pairing. Kennard has remodeled his shot distribution to become one of the most versatile three-point specialists in basketball, draining trifectas off the dribble, running off screens, and relocating for standstill opportunities. Meanwhile, Batum has extended his career by abandoning the self-creation from his earlier years for a low-usage catch-and-shoot role that perfectly fits into what the Clippers need. The former ranks fifth in three-point percentage (45.7%), the latter ranks ninth in that category (45.0%), and together they are responsible for almost a third of their club’s triples so far.
  • Generating suitable looks against a set defense has been one of the most glaring issues for Silver and Black, and the numbers only confirm what the eye test has been suggesting for a while. Per Synergy, San Antonio sports the ninth-worst half-court offense in the NBA. The Spurs produce a scant 0.941 points per possession in the half-court, which isn’t all that surprising given their shot selection. Head coach Gregg Popovich has guided his ball club away from a steady diet of midrange jumpers, trading those shots for a few more threes and a lot more long paint attempts. While that has gone quite a ways toward raising San Antonio’s field goal percentage, it hasn’t done much to improve their efficiency from an analytical perspective. The spacing across the roster is still shoddy, and though they are hitting their floaters at the sixth-best clip in the league (45.0%), those shots are only slightly easier to convert than a deep two. Opponents are more than glad to relinquish challenging runners if it means keeping the Spurs away from the rim and inside the arc. The Clippers have the fourth-best defensive rating in the NBA (105.4), and while they are entering this matchup less than 100%, they are still a formidable group of point stoppers.

For the Clippers fans’ perspective, please 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.