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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Clippers

The Spurs look for a win against the ghost of titles past

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve always wondered what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of a wave of boos.

In spite of coming from a rather theatrically oriented family, I’ve been fortunate enough to never suffer that particular indignity, but it invariably comes to mind any time the Los Angeles Clippers and The-Forward-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named make their way to the AT&T Center.

I can’t imagine that it feels good. Then again, neither does being ghosted and gaslighted by a would-be franchise icon, so that’s about as far my empathy extends in this case.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Kawhi Leonard will in fact be making an appearance in San Antonio, in the same way that there’s no guarantee that he’ll make an appearance in more than fifty-percent of Los Angeles’s games this season, so maybe there won’t be any booing after all.

Then again, the Clippers are currently doing their best stay in the playoff picture while dealing with injury situations involving their two best players, and Leonard has been making regular (by his standards) appearances as he plays himself into shape from a lengthy layoff.

The Spurs on the other hand, appear to finally be experiencing a bout of good health, and are hunting for another win after downing a shorthanded Nets team.

With Keldon Johnson exploding for a career-high 36 points, Jakob Poeltl looking more and more like his old self, and standout rookie Jeremy Sochan beginning to reap the rewards of his active shot rehab (while swarming other players to the point of drawing frustrated outbursts), things are looking up in the Alamo City, as the silver and black look to start up a modest win-streak on the heels of a five-game losing streak.

It’s been rough going for the Clippers as of late though, as they enter San Antonio on a two game losing streak of their own (and 2-8 in their last 10 contests), having recently lost another important contributor in the somewhat resurgent John Wall.

Ranking 28th in scoring, 27th in offensive rating, and 25th in net rating over those ten games, the Clippers appear to be in quite the funk, and not so far above the Spurs as to be significantly favored, with the Spurs having knocked off the Knicks, and nearly done so to both the Celtics and Grizzlies (twice) in that same span.

Still, both teams will be missing critical contributors, and neither has been the class of the league thus far, so it’s hard to give either a clear advantage. In the end it might all come down to the boos.

Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs

January 20th, 2023 | 7:00 PM CT

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

Spurs Injuries: Devin Vassell - Out (Knee)

Clippers Injuries: Kawhi Leonard - Day-to-Day (Load Management), Paul George - Day-to-Day (Hamstring), Luke Kennard - Out (Calf), John Wall - Out (Abdominal Strain

What to watch for:

  • Stanley Johnson - Average, Everyday Hero: For those who’ve been paying close attention, you may have noticed the low-key contributions of San Antonio’s most-recent free-agent acquisition. While spelling Keldon Johnson during a bout of bumps and bruises, Stanley was in the spotlight and showed out, and it was fair to wonder if he was experiencing a burst of ‘new to the roster’ energy alongside immediate usage, but with Keldon more regularly back in the fold, Stanley’s been seeing less emphasis as of late, and all-the-while continues to thrive in critical bench minutes. Shooting 54% from the field and 46% from deep over the last 10 games, on basically a 5/3/3 slash-line in just 13 minutes of playing time, Johnson continues to do every little thing right, adding much needed spacing and tertiary distribution to a bench that’s been visibly better with his addition. Whether the Spurs will keep him on in the off-season remains to be seen, but Johnson has clearly (and deservedly) won the favor of Gregg Popovich in a short time, so anything is possible.
  • A Kawhi Leonard Tribute Video: Plot Twist - It’s just a 30 second loop of Leonard saying “Yeah, for sure.” and then laughing awkwardly in a Toronto media day. (No, I won’t let it go. You let it go!)

For the Clippers’ fans’ perspective, visit Clips Nation.

PtR’s Game thread 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.