If nothing else came out of last night's disaster, I was able to resist the urge to purchase and consume a $6.50 horn of Zebra/chocolate dipped caramel corn for the first time since the All-Star Break.  When you consider everything else - most prominently, John, your $250 moving violation caught on camera while turning left off Flower - that was the evening's highlight.

You and I broke it down while suffering through the fourth quarter last night and then Jason Reid nailed it in his lede in this morning's LAT:

Spread the offense, penetrate and locate shooters for uncontested shots.

It's a blueprint to defeat the Clippers, whose defensive shortcomings are glaring against certain teams...

Now there's nothing odd about Mike D'Antoni expanding his offensive sets with Players of Unusual Size (POUS) darting around the perimeter, but when D'Anti-tonis like Mike Fratello and Gregg Popovich decide to play Italian League ball instead of pounding it inside, you know they've exposed some vulnerability in your defensive rotation.

In the first half, you almost sensed that the Spurs' perimeter guys would get the ball off the pass, set themselves for the fake, then be utterly surprised to find themselves left alone.  At that point, they're, like, "Ummm...I'd be crazy to kick this look out of bed."

Three.

By the third quarter, Finley, Bowen, then Barry were so comfortable that it didn't matter that the Clips couldn't get straight on the rotation.  Those shots were going down, irrespective of the Clippers' snoozing. 

Despite the missed assignments on defense, this game was lost in the third quarter on the offensive end.  Cassell hit three pull-up jumpers in the first two minutes of the quarter,  then the Clips found Kaman one-on-one against Nazr (Chris missed the chippy, but followed with a basket and one), then rigor mortis set in. 

I'm watching the replay as I write and you're right - we didn't run a coherent offensive set the final eight minutes of the quarter as Popovich employed the 2-3 zone and blanketed the paint with his bigs:

  • Cassell trying to take Bowen off the dribble (blocked); Ross throws up desperation three with shot clock expiring.
  • Cassell fade-away jumper over Bowen with Duncan coming to help (clank)
  • Corey missed 20-footer with :17 on the shot clock (clank)
  • Corey 19-foot airball
  • Cassell bounces a pass beyond the reach of Kaman (turnover)


Livingston and Vlad are subbed in for Corey and Q at this point.

  • Sam is able to find Kaman one-on-one on the low block against Duncan, but Kaman travels.
  • Cassell 18-foot pull-up (clank), followed by a T, courtesy of Violet Palmer. 

Mobley subs in for Cassell.

  • Shaun has his 10-footer blocked by Barry, Brand collects the spoils, isn't able to muscle it in over a double-team.
  • Brand goes baseline against Duncan, but misses the little reverse.
  • Shaun shakes-n-bakes and is able to draw the double-team away from Brand at the top of the key.  Brand gets a phenomenal look from 15, but just misses it.  This is, without exception, the best sequence of the quarter.   Kaman is able to collect the garbage and earns a trip to the stripe. 
  • Same two-man game: Shaun dribbles to his favorite spot to the left of the key, finds an open Brand.  Losing confidence in his shot, Brand decides to dribble into traffic, misses the contested five-footer, but Kaman tips in the rebound for two.
  • In the freakiest display of Serbo-laciousness we've seen in a while, Vlad takes Barry off the dribble and launches himself MJ-style for the slam. 

Rebraca enters the game for Kaman.

  • Shaun penetrates against Barry and draws the foul and hit his two free throws. 
  • Elton sets a nice screen for Shaun, who easily shakes Barry and drains a 13-footer.   The lead is cut to 5.
  • Elton passes up a one-on-one matchup against Horry to kick it out to a wide-open Kat on the arc.  Mobley misses badly.  He went 0-6 from the field and looked awful.
  • Vlad drives baseline and tries to bounce it to a curling Brand (turnover)
  • Shaun recovers a turnover on the Spurs' end, races upcourt with the quarter expiring, but has his layup blocked by Horry.

And that was it.  Spurs 71, Clips 61 after three.  I don't suppose the Spurs have blown a double-digit fourth quarter lead all season, and certainly not against a team with an anemic three-point attack. 

Elton Brand has now surpassed 'Nique as my FavoritePlayerOfAllTime, but if he has one shortcoming in his game, it's passing out of the double-team -- something Garnett and Duncan have in spades.  Brand will cultivate this skill, but right now he's still an average passer, the only part of his game that isn't superlative -- and he isn't getting much help from his supporting cast.  When a 2-3 zone is like kryptonite to your post game, your swing guys have to move without the ball. 

John, can you send some Rip Hamilton game tape to Corey Maggette? 

--kevin