After losing his first two games in San Antonio following his unceremonious breakup with the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard was able to get the last laugh on Saturday night in the AT&T Center. Leonard led the way for the Los Angeles Clippers in a 134-109 rout.
The first quarter was closely contested, with the Clippers holding a slight lead at the end, 33-31. A little more than two minutes into the second quarter, a Rudy Gay three-pointer gave the Spurs a two-point lead, 42-40. Unfortunately, that’s when the dam burst, as the Clippers outscored the Spurs 32-19 in the final nine minutes of the period to take a 72-61 advantage going into halftime.
Los Angeles put the Spurs to bed early in the third quarter. Coming out of the second half gates, the Clippers scored the first six points to take a commanding lead. The Spurs never seriously challenged again.
All in all, it was an embarrassing game for the Spurs. The Clippers had 20 dunks this game, the most dunks in an NBA game in at least 23 years. San Antonio didn’t put up much of a fight. The players were feckless; the coaching was painfully deficient. The only thing the good guys can do is try to move on as if this game never happened. Dwelling on this embarrassment would do more to demoralize the squad than anything else. Burn the tape.
Spurs vs. Clippers – Final Grades
In the first half, LaMarcus Aldridge was somewhat decent. He wasn’t being physical on offense but his jumper was accurate enough to give him some value on that end. Defensively, he wasn’t doing a whole lot but he was reasonably active to begin the game before becoming increasingly less active as the game progressed. To begin the second half, Aldridge was one of the players asleep at the wheel as the Clippers pulled away.
This loss wasn’t on DeMar DeRozan. In fact, DeRozan was the game’s leading scorer going into halftime with 20 points. He was attacking adequately and was helping the Spurs stay within striking range. Defensively, he wasn’t great but he was competing decently well. Things fell apart in the third quarter, though. He stopped scoring and his transition defense was nonexistent.
To begin the game, Dejounte Murray was defending Paul George. That’s one heckuva tall order for a point guard — but Murray did about as well as could be expected. Offensively, Murray was disjointed, per usual. He had flashes of knowing what he was doing playmaking-wise and stretches where he struggled to get the team into any of their sets. Some good news: Murray had two three-pointers and has a total of three threes in his last two games. Let’s hope that continues because he only had five made three-pointers in his first 23 games of the season.
Bryn Forbes’ horrendous shooting slump continues. Outside of his sizzling first half against the Houston Rockets, Forbes is now 3-for-31 over his last five games. To make matters worse, he doesn’t have a single assist in any of his last three games. Add in his team-worst defense and there’s simply no way he’s not the worst starter in the NBA right now.
Trey Lyles is another player in a slump. Since regaining his starting spot four games ago, Lyles is 1-for-10 on three-pointers. His three-point percentage on the season is now down to 32.8%. Teams are daring him to shoot and Lyles is either shooting and missing or, even worse, passing up open shots. Other than his missed shots against the Clippers, I thought his perimeter defense was lacking, although he was somewhat helpful on the boards.
Playing a team-high 25 minutes, Marco Belinelli scored a season-high 17 points. While it’s nice to see his shooting come around, there are a few caveats. Firstly, nine of his points came in the garbage session in the fourth quarter. Secondly, he gave back a lot of those points on the defensive end. Thirdly, Pop is trusting Belinelli way too much — to the point of absurdity.
Derrick White was okay. I like that he’s trying to make more plays as of late. He’s also pushing the pace better and he’s finally starting to look more athletic. (Is that foot injury finally behind him? Let’s hope so.) Defensively, he didn’t make much of an impact.
Patty Mills’ up and down play continues. The Clippers were keying on him and Mills wasn’t able to find much breathing room. On defense, it was difficult for him to hang, particularly when he got switched off to anyone on their roster not named Patrick Beverley. In those switches, it was almost always an automatic score for L.A.
Coming into this game, Rudy Gay was listed as questionable due to an illness he has reportedly battled since the trip to Mexico City. To Gay’s credit, he not only played, he played pretty well. After a 1-for-8 showing last time out, Gay was much more accurate. On defense, he did some rim protection and helped out on the glass. That said, his man-to-man defense out on the perimeter was ghastly at times.
Lonnie Walker IV
Lonnie Walker IV didn’t enter the game until the Spurs were down 17 points halfway through the third quarter. Less than a minute later, he was back on the bench after a couple of mistakes. Overall, Walker didn’t do much right — but, then again, he wasn’t given a fair shake. Instead, he basically got put on a ship as it was sinking, got punished for a couple of minor mistakes and then participated in garbage time in the fourth quarter.
The good: Jakob Poeltl continues to be a shot-blocking machine. He had four more blocks on Saturday night in only 16 minutes. On the season, he’s tenth in the league in blocks per 100 possessions with 3.7. Since Nov. 27, he’s averaging 6.2 blocks per 100 possessions. Poeltl’s passing was also a plus once again; he has 12 assists in his last three games. The bad: Poeltl had trouble coming down with contested rebounds or corralling contested loose balls and got blocked by Landry Shamet. If he could add toughness to his blocking and passing, Poeltl would be cooking with gas.
DeMarre Carroll got his first minutes of any kind since Dec. 3 against the Rockets. Unfortunately, it was in garbage time so there was nothing to really take from it.
Also in the garbage time lineup was Chimezie Metu. He looked pretty athletic but it didn’t translate to much on the statsheet.
Point blank: Pop didn’t give his guys a chance to win. He was trotting out small, unathletic lineups featuring the likes of Forbes and Belinelli against a big, strong, athletic team. There was just no way for the Spurs to physically match up against the Clippers. When you have Forbes and Belinelli going against a team that starts Kawhi Leonard at shooting guard, you’re going to have a bad time. Honestly, it’s surprising the Clippers only had 20 dunks considering all the mismatches on the court. Pop could have given Walker — or, hell, at least Carroll — real minutes. He could have given White and Murray minutes together. But no, Spurs fans were treated with unathletic munchkin ball as the Clippers easily flew to the basket as if they were going against an overmatched WNBA team.
Up Next for the Spurs
Alright, well, the Spurs need to erase this game from their memory and concentrate on Monday’s game in Memphis against the Grizzlies. This Grizzlies team already beat the Spurs in San Antonio so it’s not going to be an easy one. Let’s hope the Spurs can get revenge for that home loss and, in the process, avoid another tailspin.