Los Angeles Clippers 92, San Antonio Spurs 87: SA can’t close gap down the stretch

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AT&T CENTER — The Spurs won a lot of games over the years by simply keeping things close over a long night and executing down the stretch, when many observers believe it matters the most. The same scenario almost came to fruition again Monday night, as the Spurs nearly fought back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit in a 92-87 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

San Antonio came out of a timeout with just under six minutes left in the game facing a seven point hole with two players (Matt Bonner and Manu Ginobili) who hadn’t seen much crunch time ball this season. After an Eric Bledsoe tip-in made it a nine-point game, the Spurs got five quick points from Bonner. Just a couple minutes later, Bonner knocked down his second 3-pointer to bring the Spurs within two at 87-85.

The problem, though, was rebounding. As the Spurs’ core aged and this went from being less of a defensive team and more of an offensive one, the “stops on demand” that was a theme with this franchise went away. Against the Clippers, getting stops wasn’t the issue. It was finishing plays with defensive rebounds.

With Kawhi Leonard out of the game and Stephen Jackson gone early with a broken pinkie finger, the Spurs were forced to deploy a lot of three guard sets. When the Spurs went to Bonner late in the game in an effort to space the floor better offensively, it left only Tim Duncan as the Spurs’ real rebounding presence.

San Antonio played good ball defense and ushered the Clippers into many missed shots, but gave up three offensive rebounds to Bledsoe in the final five and half minutes, two of which were converted into second chance points.

“Of all our games, this was in the ‘soft’ category,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said after the game.

The way the Spurs lost the game was made worse by the fact that the Clippers went small. Say what you want about Bonner, but he’s still 6’10”. The Clippers’ crunch time lineup featured Blake Griffin, who finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, at center and Matt Barnes at power forward.

It was all the more frustrating that the man getting the offensive rebounds that could be considered the difference in the game (Bledsoe) was one of the smallest players on the floor at 6’1″. Pop’s appreciation for Bledsoe aside, his nine points and five rebounds were key for Los Angeles.

“We can’t expect Timmy and DeJuan to take every rebound,” Tony Parker said postgame.

On the night, the Spurs were out-rebounded 52-42 and the Clippers had four more offensive rebounds than San Antonio. As a result, the Clippers beat the Spurs 20-8 in second chance points.

Now the Spurs head out on a six game road trip missing both the team’s small forwards. The 15th roster spot is available to bring someone in, but it’s looking more and more likely that San Antonio will finish November with little in the way of a size advantage.

Notes:

  • Jackson broke his pinkie reaching for a loose ball in the first quarter. He ended playing through it for another couple of minutes, even leaving the game and checking back in, but left after the first quarter and never returned. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
  • After a painfully slow start to the season, Manu Ginobili’s shot is starting to come around. He’s had much more arc on his shots the last two games, going 6-10 from 3-point range in the process. Against the Knicks last Thursday, Ginobili’s were devastatingly flat.
  • To say the officiating in this game was rocky is an insult to the the geological formations, ice cream and Sylvester Stalone movie. There were some terrible calls in this game, including a play where an offensive foul on Ginobili where Manu cut through the lane and stopped in front of Matt Barnes, that was originally called a flagrant foul and had to be reviewed. The call being downgraded to a plain old offensive is what you call the lesser of two evils. It was dubious. That said, the Spurs were still in position to win this game and the refs can only be blamed to a certain extent. In the end, the players play.
  • Colin

    Poor shooting %, poor passing, poor ball movement, poor player movement, and poor rebounding tonight and we still had a chance in the final 1:30. I hope this won’t be a theme for the season. All of our losses against good teams, Clippers and Knicks, have been winnable games in spite of less than quality play. On top of this, Tony Parker and Ginobili haven’t played up to standard thus far this year. IMO, aside from Parker’s game winner against OKC, he has been less stellar than Ginobili as far as what he means to the team. Parker HAS to be the catalyst and the difference-maker for the Spurs offense if the Spurs will have any sort of aspiration in 2013 Playoffs. Duncan can’t be asked to do any more……..he’s phenomenal.

  • Titletown99030507d

    “We can’t expect Timmy and DeJuan to take every rebound,” Tony Parker said postgame.

    Well Tony tell the guy who was supposed to be guarding Bledsoe on that put back over Timmy to get his butt in gear. No complaints on Splitter’s output on offense –“Perfect” what more can you ask. Played 1 minute less than Blair and just one rebound behind him but clearly better offensively on the night than Blair. Tiago is hitting his FT’s and like the blog writer said he’s a foul magnet. Automatic points is what I’m looking at and again perfect from the field. Imagine what could happen if they just give him the damn ball on those running to the hoop plays but instead I guess they like to pass the ball around till no one has a shot. What a waste. It’s ok as long as he continues to improve offensively and keeps getting aggressive on defensive it’ll bode well for him when a team comes knocking on his door after the season is over. Can’t wait. By the way the ref’s sucked last night. How does Timmy get mugged and and Griffin gets treated like NBA royalty. Those Clippers hacked like hell last night and very few calls. And how does Timmy get tee-d up voicing his opinion on a legit foul (hack to the head) and Barnes gets to swear off to the refs and gets nothing? Sick to watch.

  • spectator

    i am ok with most spurs’ losses; however, this one was specially aggravating because of the lack of defensive rebounding and the refs; i counted between 3-5 calls that the officials made to the detriment of the spurs, which acted as spurs turnovers. in a 2 pt game in the final minute, that is huge.

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  • TD BestEVER

    you are kidding yourself if you think Splitter has much value ANYWHERE else…..He is basically a PnR player. And we run more PnR’s than any other team basically….. So he would produce less anywhere else……. What he needs to do is learn to shoot the floater or set shot so he can get more shots up…..He only attempts shots within like 5 ft of the basket – kinda puts a ceiling on what you can score in this league…..The refs did suck but out biggest problem is EMPTY minutes from too many people……. We played 5 bigs and only needed to play 4 – Diaw has been sucking it up majorly and needs to be benched – split those minutes between Splitter/Blair and we win last night

  • Titletown99030507d

    Blair 3 for 7? Your funny dude. He cant even draw foul and hes no sharp shooter himself. He wasnt too much on the rise last night. He got scored on as wellstill making stupid mistakes
    Your high thinking Splitter cant get any attention in free agency. It’s good practice for Tiago anyway. By the way the hamburgler has reached his ceiling.

  • Titletown99030507d

    At least Tiago has a better chance of making those shots near the rim where blair doesnt eben dare attempt those same shots for fear of eating leather thats why he has to resort to throwing up junk and air balls. Good luck with that.

  • TD BestEVER

    No its because DJB can shoot outside of 5 feet that he can get up 7 shots in a game…… Tiago has to HOPE and pray to get that many looks. DJB is rebounding much better than Tiago and his passing is better.

    All and all DJB is a better player today than Splitter is and even POP is staring to believe it…….

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