“Of all our games, this game is in the soft category. We never had five guys who competed hard enough to win the basketball game.”
That was San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich on Monday evening after his Spurs fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 92-87 at home.
“The Clippers played aggressively and competed at a top level for 48 minutes,” continued Popovich, “I thought for a portion of that game, we were an embarrassment.”
Popovich had reason to be upset with his team after their performance on Monday. The Spurs originally held a 10-point first quarter lead, but then fell apart in the second quarter and clawed back through the next two, but eventually, they could not make the full comeback.
Early in the first quarter, Spurs forward Stephen Jackson injured his little right finger trying to deflect a pass. Jackson would continue to play in the first but by halftime; Manu Ginobili (15 points) said Jackson told the team he would be out for a while.
Jackson ended up with a non-displaced fracture in his right little finger. He is expected to miss four to six weeks. With Jackson being out, the Spurs do not have an active small forward on the roster with Kawhi Leonard also being sidelined for 10-14 days with an injury near his left knee.
“It’s irrelevant,” said Popovich after the game if the Spurs lost some level of their toughness on Monday evening. Let’s get to the rundown.
First quarter: Spurs 28, Clippers 18
The first quarter began slowly as DeAndre Jordan (13 points) found physical ways to draw fouls and get to the foul line, but once Ginobili and the Spurs’ second unit came in, the pace went up while the defense increased for the Spurs. Tim Duncan (20 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks) scored eight points in the first in a variety of ways, most notable by him taking the ball coast-to-coast. Ginobili scored seven points both with his outside shooting and penetration in the first. The Spurs held the Clippers to shooting 35% and by forcing them to commit six turnovers.
Second quarter: Spurs 42, Clippers 47
The second quarter belonged to the Clippers as they outscored the Spurs 29-14 in the quarter. First the Spurs’ bench struggled, but then when the starters were re-inserted into the game, they too struggled. After going down by as much as nine points in the second, the Spurs managed to close the quarter down just five points.
The biggest news of the quarter came with three minutes remaining, when the Jackson news was made available to the media. “I thought when we found out Jack was out,” said Gary Neal after the game,
“We had to make adjustments.” In the second, the Spurs threw Nando De Colo out in the second, while Ginobili manned the small forward position for the second half of the quarter.
After the game, both Duncan and Tony Parker (11 points, 6 assists) also added to the fact that the second quarter was the one where the game began to shift.
Third quarter: Spurs 63, Clippers 71
The game became chippy in the third quarter as Spurs fans felt there were some questionable calls by the officials. The Clippers outscored the Spurs 24-21 in the third, while the Spurs were shooting just 33% after three quarters.
Coach Pop wouldn’t agree with the Spurs’ fans as he had this to say after the game, “Officials have nothing to do with it.”
Though there may have been some questionable calls, the Clippers were called for more fouls (20) than the Spurs (19) in the game. The Spurs also had a 28-19 advantage in visiting the free throw line.
Fourth quarter: Spurs 87, Clippers 92
In the movies, Matt Bonner (10 points) comes into the game and scores 10 points in the fourth quarter to save the Spurs. Unfortunately in reality, Bonner did score 10 points, but the Clipper still won the game after the Spurs got within two points mainly off second chance possessions, where the Clippers grabbed 17 offensive rebounds over the “smaller” wingless Spurs.
With the Spurs down two points with less than a minutes remaining, a forced Neal floater than turned into an air-ball was all that was sent the fans filing out of the arena for the Spurs, as the Clippers used free throws to close out the game.
“They out-competed us today and they out-toughed us for the win,” said Neal after the game.
The Clippers are now 2-0 against the Spurs this season, with wins both in Staples Center and the AT&T Center. “We definitely know we have to play for 48 minutes against that team (the Clippers),” said Ginobili after the game.
The Spurs will have Tuesday off before setting out on a six game road trip that begins in Boston against the Celtics on Wednesday. The team fell to 8-3 now eleven games into the season.
“We lose a lot of size with Jack and Kawhi (being out),” said Duncan after the game. But Ginobili added this, “We’ll have to figure it out. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be a good test for us.”
· After the game, coach Popovich said the team will probably bring up Cory Joseph from the Austin Toros with the losses of Leonard and Jackson.
· Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Neal all said the guards will have to help the big men in the rebounding department with the losses of both of the team’s only small forwards.
· Get ready for some unique lineups with the small forwards being out. Nando De Colo received some solid minutes in the second quarter playing shooting guard, while Ginobili played the small forward position. In the second half, Neal started at shooting guard and Danny Green played the small forward position.