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Spurs show heart but can’t end losing streak against the Clippers

The Spurs fought until the bitter end but couldn’t complete a comeback for 10th straight loss.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

After reportedly having a players-only meeting a few days ago, the Spurs came out and fought to the bitter end in their second straight game against the figuring-it-out, star-studded Clippers. They overcame an ice-cold start on offense and generally looked better on defense, but unfortunately (and as is often the case), a huge third quarter run by Los Angeles put the game just out of reach, and a frantic comeback effort in the fourth wasn’t enough to prevent their tenth straight loss.

The Spurs looked anxious on offense early, fumbling the ball around and settling for jumpers before Victor Wembanyama and Jeremy Sochan finally broke the ice with free throws. Initially, the Clippers weren’t much sharper, and the score sat at just 10-8 five minutes in, but they took advantage of the Spurs not getting back in transition defense, soon doubling up the score to 16-8 and forcing a Gregg Popovich timeout. The Spurs’ halfcourt defense was solid, but everything was falling short on offense as they shot just 3-21 in the first quarter, and the Clippers closed on an 8-0 run to take a 26-14 lead.

The Clippers stretched the lead out to as much 16 before a couple of threes from Doug McDermott and Cedi Osman helped bring the Spurs offense some life, but Paul George was also red-hot, initially preventing the Spurs from going on any kind of extended run to quickly cut into the lead. They were slowly able to keep chiseling away and finally went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead three. The Clippers ended up scoring the final three points of the quarter from the line, but overall, the Spurs cut what had been a 17-point deficit down to six, 48-54, at halftime and seemingly had all the momentum.

Perhaps motivated by the all the booing (more on that below), Kawhi Leonard came out of the locker room on fire with 11 points before the first timeout, but the Spurs initially kept up thanks to six points from Victor Wembanyama and a couple of threes from Zach Collins and Keldon Johnson, getting as close as two points. Unfortunately, the offense eventually went cold again, and the Clippers used an 18-2 run to push the lead out to 18 before the Spurs scored the final six to give themselves a chance heading into the final frame, down 70-82.

The Clippers again scored first six points of the fourth quarter, but to their credit, the Spurs kept pounding that rock, especially Jeremy Sochan with 11 points, forcing Ty Lue to call a timeout with 4:50 left and their lead “back” down to 12. A Devin Vassell three and Johnson jumper two minutes later forced another Clippers timeout with the lead down to 7, but the Spurs couldn’t put enough makes together to complete the comeback, falling 102-109. The effort was admirable, but it’s still a loss as the Spurs struggle to get over the hump.

Game Notes

  • It was reported earlier today and discussed during the first quarter that three months ago, Spurs announcer Bill Land was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer that is not curable but treatable. He began a new form of treatment a couple of weeks ago and will miss games from time-to-time, but just as the entire Spurs family is with him, so is the Pounding the Rock community.
  • It’s hard to know what to tell Wemby to do on offense at this point. His best play is receiving the ball close enough to the basket on the pick-and-roll that he can go straight up. Otherwise, his teammates are still learning how to get him the ball for the brief moments he’s open down low, his shooting numbers on jumpers are poor, and when he tries to post up or drive, his dribble is so high that he’s swarmed and often stripped. These were all weaknesses that were known coming into the season, but it’s becoming clear that he has more work to do that perhaps some thought. Still, he had a solid night with 22 points on 7-13 shooting while only attempted two threes, making one.
  • Charles Bassey had a rough couple of possessions alongside Wemby in the first half, with some massive miscommunications, and Dominick Barlow ended up getting the backup “center” minutes the rest of the game. This also happened last week when Sandro Mamukelashvili got some burn in Bassey’s place, so we’ll see if he continues to hold a rotation spot going forward or if it becomes a game-by-game situation. (He did have a good outing in the first matchup with the Clippers.)
  • With about three minutes left in the second quarter, Leonard was shooting free throws, and after four years, Pop suddenly decided he’d had enough of the fans booing him. He grabbed the arena microphone and told the crowd to stop the booing and show some class. Unsurprisingly, all that did was make the crowd boo even louder, but it may have also motivated his own players a bit. The Spurs were down 12 one play later but almost immediately went on that 9-0 run to get back in the game before halftime. (It also probably motivated Leonard, who came out red hot in the third quarter.) Especially now that we have Wemby, I’m personally in the time-to-move on category, but I’ll never tell anyone to stop, and Pop probably didn’t do himself any favors with a fanbase that’s already frustrated (not that he needs any).

Play of the Game

We talked about Wemby’s best situations being when he’s near the basket and doesn’t have to put the ball on the ground, and here’s Collins finally finding him driving to the bucket off the offensive rebound and getting him the lob.

Up Next: Friday vs. Golden State Warriors

Eliminated from “contention”, the Spurs will conclude their In-season Tournament play against the Warriors, who will be without Draymond Green, in San Fransisco on Friday. Tipoff will be at 9 PM CT on ESPN and KENS 5.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, Pounders!