The Spurs dropped their third game in a row in a 134-101 blowout loss at the hands of the visiting Clippers on Wednesday night. DeMar DeRozan paced the Spurs with 19 points but was eclipsed by both Kawhi Leonard (25 points) and Marcus Morris (20 points) as the Clippers put on an offensive clinic at the Spurs’ expense.
The game was far more competitive on a possession by possession basis, at least for the first three quarters, than the final score would indicate, but the Spurs could never find an answer for the Clippers’ attack. Help and double teams led more often to open looks than forced shots or turnovers. The Spurs were simply overwhelmed by the inexorable march of a team playing better basketball stretching their lead minute by minute, quarter by quarter.
It didn’t help that the Spurs were out of sync right from the tip, giving up a pick off and runout layup to Leonard on their first offensive possession. They spent most of the first quarter unable to knock down shots or get to the rim against a Clippers’ squad that was clearly determined to cut off penetration. DeMar Derozan’s in-between game generated some decent looks in the paint, but he wasn’t able to convert enough of them to matter and even Keldon Johnson’s hard-nosed drives couldn’t find paydirt.
On the other end, the Clippers had no trouble breaking down the Spurs’ defense, forcing rotations and finding the open man. They started off the game by hitting their first five threat pointers en route to building a commanding 33-15 lead with just under 3 minutes to go in the first. The Spurs did manage a bit of a scoring burst and a little defense over the last few minutes to get the margin back down to 9, but Lou Williams dropped in a difficult floater over Jakob Poeltl with an and-one to end the quarter up 41-29.
For most of the second period, the Spurs seemed on track for their now expected surge back into the game. It was a back and forth affair with Spurs consistently threatening to close it down into single digits but the Clippers’ managing to keep them at bay. It wasn’t just a matter of shots falling on one end and not the other. The Spurs were making plays on both sides of the ball and even managed to cut the lead all the way down to 5 with 5 minutes to go in the first half before the Clippers asserted their dominance again. With Jakob Poeltl in foul trouble, Drew Eubanks got a little more run against the Clippers’ starters than usual, and they took advantage. By the time halftime rolled around, the visitors had stretched their lead back out to 14.
The 3rd quarter kicked off with more of the same. The Spurs could match the Clippers for a minute or two, but then the seams in the Clippers’ defense would disappear and the Spurs’ would overhelp or miss a rotation and give up a three or a layup. By the time the 4th period started, it was clear the Spurs’ starters would be on a short leash, and sure enough, when the Clippers pushed their lead to 23 with 8:12 to go, Coach Popovich pulled the plug in preparation for tomorrow night’s rematch.
- As mentioned in the game preview, the Spurs’ ability to defend against the Clippers’ three point shooting was a key aspect of the game. The Clippers, who lead the league in three point accuracy at 41.4%, hit 17 of their 33 three point attempts, despite Paul George managing to go o-fer on 6 attempts. Some quick math will tell you that the rest of the Clippers shot a somewhat unbelievable 63% from deep.
- The Spurs continued to use their full court press when the opportunity presented itself. They still have some kinks to work out, but the makings of a dangerous situational tool are there. The first time they used it, they wasted a decent surprise with a personal foul. The next time, the Clippers’ seemed more prepared and moved the ball well enough to get what looked to be a wide open look from the left corner. It didn’t turn out to be all that open, though, as Devin Vessel teleported over to the corner to get his outstretched fingers on the shot, forcing it to come up short and fall into the Spurs’ hands. The third time nearly resulted in steal, but wound up a deflection out of bounds. A little more discipline and a little more luck and the Spurs’ could easily have stolen three possessions. It wouldn’t have mattered at all in this game, but it may down the line.
- Several Spurs had decent nights, with Patty Mills chipping in 17 points on 7-12 shooting off the bench, Luka Samanic putting up 14 points on an array of good cuts and solid finishes, and Derrick White chipping in 13 of his own. But nobody in Silver and Black had an especially good game, meaning there’s plenty of hope for a completely different outcome tomorrow night.
- Sadly, this also happened:
The Spurs have lost multiple games by 30+ points at home in a season for the first time in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/q2tZJV4pNA— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 25, 2021
Next game: Vs. Clippers on Thursday
The Spurs will face the Clippers again tomorrow night in a rubber match for the season series.