The Clippers played a rare great game from start to finish, and blew the game open in the 4th quarter to secure a 134-101 win over the Spurs. Keep reading for a full recap of the Clippers’ win over the Spurs.
The Clippers came out of the gates extremely hot in this one, with Kawhi Leonard opening things up with a steal and a layup in transition. Two Marcus Morris threes followed in quick succession, and the Clippers’ surged to an 8-0 start. Even as the Spurs began to score, the Clippers were able to build their lead to double digits behind great ball movement leading to open threes, with Morris in particular scorching hot. The Clippers went small with Nic Batum and Marcus Morris at center, which did take a hit on the defense. Fortunately, the offense remained high-powered, and a couple Kawhi dunks plus a Lou Williams and-one kept the lead at 12 entering the 2nd quarter.
That second period began much less auspiciously than the first. The defense with Zu continued to suffer, and Lue had to re-insert Zu just a couple minutes in because the Spurs got a couple easy looks at the rim. On offense, the ball zipped around the court to open guys, but the decision-making on shooting (when contested) or passing up open looks (for worse ones) wasn’t great. After a couple of minutes with the starters, Ty Lue went big with Paul George at point guard alongside the three forwards and Zu. This lineup looked much better on both ends, with Morris remaining hot and Zu playing nice defense, but the Spurs kept hanging around. Finally, at the very end of the quarter, the Clippers made a quick 7-0 spurt to blow the game back open and carry a 14 point lead into halftime.
The Clippers’ strong play did not fade in the 3rd quarter. Their aggression in attacking the basket remained, with Kawhi Leonard leading the charge. The Clippers might have really gotten to a blowout-level but a couple missed Paul George threes helped the Spurs stay attached. Still, every time the Spurs scored, the Clippers answered. Even the Clippers going small again at the end of the quarter to give Zu a breather didn’t dampen their overall play – while the defense sagged a bit, the offense was still good enough to have them up 18 entering the final frame.
The Clippers continued to push to start the 4th quarter, and this time, the flood gates opened. A couple Paul George midrange jumpers, a slithery Lou layup, and a PG to Zu alley oop and all of a sudden the lad was in the mid-20s. With that, the game was just about over, and the rest of the contest was garbage time. Even then, the Clippers played well, and guys like Amir Coffey and Daniel Oturu made nice plays down the stretch. The Clippers won going away, 134-101.
Steady Kawhi: As mentioned throughout the recap, while the Clippers got very nice performances from across the roster tonight against the Spurs (special shouts to Ivica Zubac and Marcus Morris), the clear best player on the court tonight was Kawhi Leonard. While Kawhi has had moments and quarters of brilliance in recent games, this was his first sustained, top-down dominant performance in a while, and it was great to see. He poured in 25 points on 9-12 shooting, making both threes, all five of his free throws, and throwing down a couple vicious jams. Kawhi added seven rebounds, a few assists, and five steals for good measure, and generally made big plays whenever the Clippers needed them. Great, great performance from the superstar wing.
Playoff Style Rotations: For most of the night, Ty Lue went with an eight man rotation, shifting Nic Batum, Lou Williams, and Terance Mann off the bench alongside the starters. Luke Kennard played a six-minute stint in the first half, but didn’t play again until garbage time. Thanks to the blowout, key players didn’t play too many minutes, but it was notable that Ty Lue is trimming down the rotation with Beverley and Ibaka out. A big issue with this team has been lack of reps together, and playing all the key players big minutes does obviously result in more time on the court at the same time. Hopefully these reps will continue to help with chemistry development and cohesion as the season enters the stretch run.
Lou Williams Hits 15K: Perhaps the biggest news of the night was that late in the 4th quarter, Lou Williams scored his 15,000 career point. Considering that he came out of high school as the 45th pick in the 2005 draft, Lou’s career has exceeded all expectations. It’s winding down now, but tonight was a vintage Lou performance, as he scored 16 points on 12 shots in just 17 minutes and also made a few gorgeous passes. If it was his last game as a Clipper, it was a really good one. Cheers to the Underground Goat.
Turnover Battle Won: The Clippers have been bad at turnovers this year, the Spurs are good at getting steals, and are also proficient at limiting their own giveaways. In this game, all those trends were bucked – the Clippers had a mere eight turnovers, they snagged 10 steals, and the Spurs had a total of 16 turnovers. Those extra possessions were a big reason the Clippers won going away in this one.
Well, that’s about it for this recap of the Clippers’ win over the Spurs. Stay tuned for Lucas’ player grades, and get ready for another match against these Spurs tomorrow night!