One of the beautiful things about the NBA is that even the worst teams in the league have enough talent to upset legitimate title contenders on any given night. Unfortunately for the Spurs, that was not how their late tipoff in Los Angeles panned out, as the Clippers eviscerated their shorthanded roster from end to end. Entering this tilt without Josh Richardson, Jeremy Sochan, and Romeo Langford forced San Antonio to scrape the bottom of their depth chart to field a proper ten-man rotation. But their pacific coast counterpart had too much firepower at their disposal.
The good guys put themselves behind the eight ball with another ice-cold start that witnessed them relinquish 41 points in the opening frame before heading into halftime with a formidable 21-point deficit. Los Angeles likely would have outclassed the Spurs regardless of homecourt advantage, but catching them understaffed on the final night of a SEGABABA only helped their cause. The well-rested legs of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George lit up San Antonio for a combined 62 points and 14 assists, pulling off incredible feats of self-creation that looked effortless against an inexperienced and disorganized defense.
Though scoring has spiked drastically across the association this year, no one has allowed more points than San Antonio, and that unfortunate trend persisted against the Clippers. Los Angeles recorded 78 points in the first half, which ultimately ballooned to a final score of 138-100. Thursday was the 16th time their opponent has scored at least 130 points, the 13th time the Spurs have given up 40 points in a quarter, and the league-worst 28th time a team has shot better than 50% against them this season.
Despite their struggles to keep Kawhi Leonard and company from hosting an unmitigated scoring clinic at Crypto.com Arena, there were a couple of positive spins to the evening. Keldon Johnson logged 19 points and three assists while sustaining his improved rim finishing, making six trips to the free-throw line, and committing zero turnovers. Keita Bates-Diop dropped 13 points and six rebounds, performing admirably in his 14th spot start of the season. Spurs fans also got an extended taste of Blake Wesley, who suited up for a career-high 21 minutes off the bench. The third and final first-round pick from San Antonio’s 2022 draft class was a bit of a wildcard, and we might see more of the rookie guard after the February 9th trade deadline.
- Zach Collins was whistled for a shooting foul in the second quarter as he met Paul George at the summit of posterization attempt, but Gregg Popovich used his lone challenge to overturn the call.
- The Clippers actively hunted Keldon Johnson in the pick-and-roll throughout the contest, using his subpar screen navigation to get Kawhi Leonard and Paul George wide-open off the dribble jumpers.
- Blake Wesley received some much-welcome minutes for the shorthanded Spurs following his big-league promotion. However, it wasn’t a remarkably fruitful outing for the rookie, who showed his inexperience.
- San Antonio has dropped to 0-33 when they trail by double digits during a game this season. Like clockwork, the Spurs fell behind by ten points in the middle of the first quarter, and you can probably guess the outcome.
- How about Isaiah Roby? Though the fourth-year forward has mostly warmed the bench, he got a call-up to the second unit for the shorthanded Spurs. He responded with 14 points. Will that earn him another chance to break into the rotation?
- The Clippers swept the regular-season series against San Antonio roughly 24 hours after the Lakers did so in the same arena. Los Angeles has been cruel toward the Spurs this season, so thank goodness this was their final pitstop in Tinseltown.