Los Angeles Clippers
San Antonio Spurs
MVP: Kawhi Leonard may have scored 20 points, making 9 of his 15 shots, but the stamp he left on the game was most noticeable on the defensive end. He consistently stifled the Clippers in the half court as the head of their defensive beast, forcing the visiting team to shoot late in the shot clock and forcing turnovers.
That was … second unit disparity: The Clippers second unit only scored 20 points on 6 of their 22 attempts, and consistently struggled against a Spurs bench ensemble that dropped 51 points, making 20 of their 36 shots. The difference in bench play was immediately evident early on in the second quarter, where the Spurs first built a double-digit lead, but none more evident than in the fourth quarter where the Clippers were outscored 37-17.
X factor: This was yet another game that the Clippers have allowed double-digit offensive rebounds to the opposing team. In total, the Clippers have now allowed double-digit offensive rebounds to their opponents in 46 of their 66 games.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Almost, Austin Rivers 😂https://t.co/Pg2C8nJ5rG
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 16, 2016
Austin Rivers: "That second unit feels like it’s our fault. Whether it’s true or not, that’s the way we feel."
— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) March 16, 2016
Check Your Messages
When J.J. Redick hit a three-pointer with 7:50 left to play in regulation, the Clippers were down 84-77. This was a game the Clippers had led by a point before Kyle Anderson’s bucket to end the 3rd quarter, but Redick’s three kept the San Antonio lead to single digits. The next Spurs possession was interrupted by a Chris Paul foul, allowing subs to come in.
For the Clippers, Jeff Green came in for Wesley Johnson.
For the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard came in for Kevin Martin.
There was 7:41 left to play at that point, but the subs marked the beginning of the end.
Leonard hit a bank shot, then rebounded a missed three by Jeff Green, eventually finding his teammate Danny Green for a three to push the Spurs lead back to double digits. Over the four minutes that Leonard and Jeff Green were in the game together mid 4th-quarter, the Spurs outscored the Clippers 15-2, culminating in a basket by Leonard to give Leonard 20 points for the game and a 20-point lead for the Spurs.
This was a shocking blowout considering how close things were. Leonard’s cataclysm of Jeff Green had a team-wide effect, one that saw the Spurs make 6-of-7 FGs between 7:41 left and 3:46 left, when Leonard checked out of the game. The Clippers had more turnovers (3) than FGAs (0-of-2) during that last knockout punch by the Spurs, and the end result is the team’s first back-to-back losses since Blake Griffin’s injury on Christmas.
One major factor of the Spurs dominance this year has been an elite bench that ranks second in the league in scoring. On the flip side, you got a Clipper squad already missing Paul Pierce’s reserve presence. If you thought the Spurs cared you were wrong. Kawhi will be Kawhi but the Spurs rode the shoulders of a massive 51-20 bench scoring edge throughout the game and in a fourth quarter that took full advantage of the Clippers being down on chess pieces.
With all that, they trailed by just 1 at the beginning of the fourth. Jamal Crawford opened the quarter with a missed jumper. On the other end, David West put the Spurs ahead 73-70 and it was effectively a wrap after that. West proceeded to beat the Clippers to three game-turning offensive rebounds and several put backs that broke the Clippers collective backs. Between the start of the fourth quarter and the 5:18 mark when West checked out, the Spurs went +12.
The Clippers needed an extremely efficient game from someone other than Chris Paul or J.J. Redick – but just to make this loss official, Jamal Crawford, Wesley Johnson, and Austin Rivers combined to shoot 2-for-16. It feels funny and wrong to consider the Spurs an afterthought because of that other team in Northern California, but they are on a historic tear of their own. To be competitive, a mistake-free close to the game was required – instead, the Clippers found themselves on a slippery slope in the fourth quarter that swept them clear down into a hole.
Searching or Scoring
An aggressive Chris Paul is a good Chris Paul, or so we’ve been told since the beginning of his career. The knock on him is that he is too passive, too interested in setting his teammates up, and not forceful enough in dictating the tempo or scoring early in games.
Is this really true, though?
More often than not, it seems that Chris Paul is aggressive early in games only when his teammates are shut down and the passing lanes are closed. The Spurs have done this often to Paul in his career, and when early in the second quarter he had as many points as the rest of the Clippers team combined, it appeared not that he was taking the game over, but rather that he was forced to shoulder a larger load because he wasn’t getting enough help either due to teammates struggling or teammates who couldn’t find open space for shots.
Credit the Spurs for their defense tonight, but coming away from the game, a lingering feeling remains that high scoring first halfs by Chris Paul — while certainly welcome in a vacuum — usually spell bad news for the prospects of a Clipper victory.