The Los Angeles Clippers arrived in San Antonio in the midst of a skid, searching for some sense of stability. A win would get them to .500 and build on the two games they won prior to the recent loss in New Orleans.
While the game was close, the Clippers’ mid-season inconsistency continued with their 101-94 loss to the Spurs.
The Spurs are regaining their strength after a string of lost games due to COVID-19 regulations, and it showed against the Clippers. Derrick White scored 19 points in his comeback from a five-game hiatus, Dejounte Murray added 18, and the Spurs defeated Clippers 101-94 on Saturday night, snapping a five-game losing streak.
The Clippers were missing injured talents Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Luke Kennard. Los Angeles’ starting team suffered without them, relying on the bench to lead a late comeback.
How Spurs take control
The opening quarter was a back-and-forth battle in which both teams showed competency on both sides of the court. However, as the second period went by, the Spurs took hold of the game.
Isaiah Hartenstein’s introduction into the game provided a rush of energy, but Dejounte Murray’s offensive activity helped curb the Clippers’ charge. His stat lines sometimes border on triple-doubles (he had 18 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds this night), displaying his versatility as a point guard.
The Spurs’ lead extended to as much as 16, but a 9-2 run by the Clippers trimmed it to nine at halftime, with Hartenstein’s energy off the bench playing a role.
The Clippers maintained their lead into the third quarter, despite foul problems that threatened to derail them. They fought back until, barely two minutes into the fourth quarter, they narrowed the gap and took the lead.
Amir Coffey and Serge Ibaka were two players who had an impact on the game during that run. Coffey finished with 20 points, and Ibaka had a double-double with two blocks.
However, as the game reached the clutch, the Clippers were unable to capitalize on offense, which, combined with ill-timed mistakes, largely contributed to the Spurs’ success.
With the Clippers leading 92-87 with 7:24 remaining, it appeared as if the Spurs had run out of gas and were about to fade away, which would be understandable given that this was their fifth game in seven nights and tenth in 16, all of which had been played shorthanded to some extent — but they suddenly found another gear.
They toughened up on defense and relaxed offensively, answering with a 14-2 run to end the fourth quarter for the win, with White and Dejounte Murray scoring 12 of those points.
“We were there,” Ibaka commented after the game. “It wasn’t perfect, but we were there. We came back. We were there, I think just a couple of mistakes. If we clean up those mistakes, we can get the ‘W.’”
This was not the result the squad hoped for on the road after the setback in New Orleans, but there is still a long season ahead of them and more time for recent returners to get back into a groove.