The Margin: San Antonio Spurs 102, Los Angeles Clippers 99

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No Conclusion tonight/this morning. I don’t feel like I had a good handle on the individual performances of all the Spurs players, so we’re going with a Gordian/Mahoney-style Margin recap. The format for The Margin is one topic per difference in the final score. So with the Spurs winning by three points, we’ll talk three different things.

  • Going into Game 3, I expected that to be the closest game of the series. And it was, until Sunday night. After the Spurs took a 3-0 and effectively ended the series, I expected Game 4 to be far less competitive than it was. Maybe that was ignorant of me considering the guy who plays point guard for the Clippers, but I didn’t anticipate this one going down to the wire.
  • While Game 4 wasn’t the prettiest of basketball games and the Spurs’ execution wasn’t quite as sharp as it has been in these playoffs, the Spurs absolutely needed a game like this. With at least a few days off before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals (which I saw on Twitter would be on Sunday, regardless of when OKC-LAL ends, although that’s not official) and the Spurs having played so few close games, San Antonio was in desperate need of a close game that tested their execution in crunch time. It’s impossible to accurately recreate tense playoff situations in practice, so for the Spurs to get a game like this could be vital, especially heading to a series, likely with the Thunder, that won’t produce big wins like the Spurs, and their fans, have gotten oh so comfortable with.
  • The Spurs haven’t shot below 40% from the 3-point line since Game 3 of their first round series against the Jazz. That’s UNREAL. Despite seeming very similar to last year’s team aesthetically, one of the major differences is that the Spurs have far more consistent shooters than last year’s team. Those Spurs were heavily reliant on Gary Neal, Matt Bonner (who, I’m sad to say, is starting to recreate his playoffs performances of the past) and Richard Jefferson. This season the Spurs still get production from behind the 3-point line from Neal and Bonner, but also feature Danny Green, Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard (from the corners, at least). Even Boris Diaw will toss in a long range bomb from time to time. And while defenses are closing out harder on shooters in the playoffs, the fact that so many other parts of the Spurs’ offense is clicking is making it less of an issue. This offense is good.

 

  • SpurredOn

    Appreciate success, fellow Spurs fans. Our guys were playoff road dominant for so long, yet came into this post-season with six consecutive playoff road losses, 12 of 13. They’ve now won four in a row and will hopefully add to their total road wins next round and beyond.

    I think the Spurs were as responsible for the closeness of this game as the Clips were. The shooting was there, but so were unforced turnovers. That led to easy LAC points and thus, a closer game than necessary. Yet it was pleasing to see them at less than their best, winning on the road vs a team playing at their best for most of the game and the entire second half. Clutch shots while trailing made by Green and Neal. Tony being clutch. And most importantly, the biggest reason why this team is better than last season, the play of Tim Duncan on both ends.

    @Andrew – what concerns you about Bonner? Blake is a horrible defensive matchup for him, yet in 15min he made a very long 3, spaced the floor and hit another FG plus had 2 assists. Sounds good to me.

  • Nima K.

    These turnovers are gonna kill us when we play OKC. I hope our guys work on this problem while LA and OKC keep duking it out.

  • Melbourne Spur

    Not sure where else to post this, so here seems as good a place as any – CONGRATS BOYS!!!!! I’m truly appreciating this run the team is on, and not just the current streak, but really everything since the RJ trade. Would be so incredibly disappointed if this now doesn’t end in a title, but I’m appreciated the play nonetheless.

    Last year I was confident against Memphis and told all the doubters on here that we would win in 5, so this year I am steering clear of making any predictions. Just crossing the fingers, and enjoying the ride.

    Great stuff Spurs, keep it up.

  • Stijl

    Absolutely agree the Spurs needed a close contest. But to me it was more of the Clippers throwing everything they had in the name of pride to not get swept while watching a Spurs team through the mid 3rd to the 4 minute mark to go in the game who lost focus because of a 12 point lead is what I think happened in this game.

    Granted some were not having a good game like Ginobili, Kawhi, Jackson and Bonner (and lets be honest…Jackson hasn’t had a good anything this post season)…but closing out a series is the most difficult task to do.

    Congrats Spurs for another series victory.

    8

  • Chris

    Yes, the Spurs were their own worst enemy at times during this game; Griffin & Paul made this a game, however. They played very well.

    The one player that concerns me the most is Manu, however. He looks like Austin Powers without his mojo out there. At this stage in his career, he may not be the “closer” we’re all used to seeing. He’s gonna have to find ways to affect the game without the ball in his hands.

    And I agree – I hated the lineups with Matt Bonner out there. It was necessary, however, as Diaw was having a bad night.

    All in all, glad the boys could pull one out when they’re not playing their “A” game, and the other team’s players are tuned in. Don’t expect Russel Westbrook to flubb up the last 2 plays of the game though…thank you CP3!

  • TDzilla!

    Manu does not need to be a closer. We have so many guys who can hit big shots (i.e. Danny Green, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan). That is why we won this game. Compare that to LAC with Paul as the only closer.

  • Titletown99030507d

    All I expect from Manu at this stage is the crisp passes, the occasional 3 pt shot, and smothering defense without any TO’s and fouls then I’m good with that.

    Splitter got more minutes and was solid IMO. Always said this about this dude the more he plays in a given game the better his game gets. He’s one of those players that gets better as the game goes on. And I’m liking the fact that SJ is looking for him on the screen and rolls.

    Duncan gets needed rest.

    Will we see Blair against the thunder?

  • Hobson13

    @TDzilla, I was thinking the same thing about Manu. I remember a few years ago when I wanted the ball in Manu’s hands in the wanning minutes because Tony was too inconsistent and turnover prone. Now it’s like Manu and Tony have switched roles. I know we have a great team in which everyone can score but so far so there’s no need for Manu to score 20+pts every game, but out of 8 playoff games, he’s only been great in 1. I know that I’m nitpicking, but Manu’s poor play may really hurt us when OKC comes to town.

  • Jimbo

    Manu is, what, 34? It’s hard to find a guard who doesn’t slip a good bit by that age. Granted, his minutes have been low compared to most players the last few seasons, but he’s always been “fragile.” As long as he’s productive within the Spurs’s system, I’ll treasure watching him. But yes, it’s cause for concern in the WCF.

    The playoffs are really going San Antonio’s way thus far. Two sweeps, a team without a dominant offensive post presence looming in OKC (not that they don’t present other serious problems for the Spurs), and the Heat may get knocked out by Indy. Go spurs.

  • Tyler

    Just read Arnovitz’s article on the Spurs at ESPN and came across a great quote from Pop:

    “I can tell you that, with any championship, we’ve never gone into the playoffs thinking, ‘This is our year,’” Popovich said. “We’ve never felt like that. We go with what we call ‘appropriate fear.’”

    Kind of sums up this team. Nothing is taken for granted or assumed.

  • idahospur

    Really glad to see this Spurs team play. Years past, Pop may choose to rest starters when a loss was imminent but this year, they work their way back and have come ahead with wins.

    I feel good about heading into the WCF, especially if Thunder-Lakers go for a few more games. I do worry about potentially playing a second road series in LA (if the Lakers somehow pull out a win). I also enjoy watching the teams in the East struggle to work their way to 4 wins.

  • Daniel T

    Let me see, Bonner has only made 7 out of his 16 three point attempts. He led the Spurs in EFg% during the playoffs two seasons ago, and finished 2nd to Tiago last season. He is only fourth so far this season, but if he makes his next shot then he just might recreate those past two seasons’ performance by moving into the lead. Though ouch, his DRtg is down from last year’s 109 to 98 this season (oh wait, that’s better). What exactly is expected of Bonner?

  • kris

    Well with Manu struggling would you even use him next series with all the talent that we have on the team. We can always give him more of a mentoring job for the other guys. I just know he can’t do much out there anymore.

  • Junirizzle

    Kris, not even using Manu? Wow. Look the dude is not a spring chicken but he isn’t dead either. Where would the second unit be without Manu, not as good that’s where. His role is clearly different on this team now, that’s it.

    Trust me if Manu weren’t on the team, then no one would have these Spurs as the favorite.

  • Bob

    @Titletown99030507d

    Hope not to see Blair unless it’s a blowout. I am enjoying the much improved defense with him out of the rotation.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Manu hasn’t had a great playoffs, but what makes him dangerous is the threat of a 25 point outburst. Defenses HAVE to play him honest. When they do that, he’s comfortable as a facilitator.

    I think Pop has found Blair’s niche: soak up minutes during the regular season for cheap, and grab a half dozen rebounds while he’s out there. He may even be a nice trade chip, perhaps for a draft pick down the line. He’d also be a nice sweetener in some sort of a multi-team trade. There’s always a need for cheap rebounds. That being said, his contract makes it easy to keep him around.

  • Jimbo

    I think Kris was being facetious.

  • Bob

    @ThatBigGuy

    It doesn’t make sense to keep Blair around just to soak up minutes during the regular season. The Spurs should look to solidify the rotation of TD, Diaw, Splitter for next season.

  • ThatBigGuy

    If we don’t get another solid big, Blair will need to get some mins, because Duncan/Diaw/Splitter won’t be playing 32 mins a game during the season. I wouldn’t mind letting Blair go, but only if we got another big who could play a legitimate 20 mins a game, someone like Jordan Hill. Otherwise, Blair will be eating some mins during the regular season and none in the playoffs, which apparently hasn’t affected the team so far.

  • Titletown99030507d

    You guys are forgetting that fact that Blair had great games against the Thunder. Just saying.

  • Pingback: The 4-Down Podcast, Episode 48: Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com | 48 Minutes of Hell

  • Daniel T

    The Thunder might have noticed that playing small ball actually worked out better for them then playing the combination of Perkins and Ibaka, and the Lakers may want to trade one of their 7 footers and have decided they need a stretch 4 (though maybe they’ll just have Bynum work on the threes). Other teams will now be looking for ways to match up with the Spurs and their Bonner lineup, and yet ThatBigGuy leaves Bonner out of his calculations when talking about minutes for solid bigs. The Lakers might want to trade Gasol for Bonner, Blair, Neal, Joseph and Jackson; and the Spurs will then have room on the roster for Lorbek and Nando.

  • theghostofjh

    @ Daniel T

    It would be nice if you didn’t cherry-pick Bonner’s stats.

    Bonner is:

    - last on the team in FG% at a dismal .391
    - last on the team in ppg. at 3.4 (among those getting 8+ mpg.).
    - last on the team in PER at 9.4.
    - 3rd to last on the team in WS/48.
    - 5th worse on the team in DRtg.
    - last of all bigs, and behind even Leonard & Green in ORB%, DRB%, and TRB%.
    - 3rd to last on the team in ASST% & STL%.

    Other than that, there’s three good things about Bonner in these playoffs:

    - his 3-point % is a solid .438
    - he’s 2nd on the team in lowest TOV% (among players with 8+ mpg.)

    And most importantly, his mpg. are lower than they’ve been since the 2007-08 playoffs. But I guess we can thank Pop for that.

  • theghostofjh

    @ Daniel T

    “The Lakers might want to trade Gasol for Bonner, Blair, Neal, Joseph and Jackson; and the Spurs will then have room on the roster for Lorbek and Nando.”

    You are joking, right?

  • Daniel T

    Discussion on various Sports talk shows now that the Lakers are out of the playoffs is what they need to do to improve. A lot of it has been that Gasol is getting old, that the two bigs concept clogs up the paint on offense, and how what they need is a big that can shoot from outside in order to stretch the court. They have been actively shopping Gasol for some time, but then who wants an “old guy” in his “declining years”?

    As far as “cherry-picking” Bonner’s stats, what do you expect the Spurs are looking for from Bonner? They’d like him to be out in three point territory to spread the defense, and yet grab offensive rebounds at the same time? I think Bonner could possibly have a couple of more assists, but each time he passes to Jackson for a wide open three Jackson passes up the shot. If Bonner makes the next shot he takes, his dismal % moves up to equaling Jackson’s. Two in a row and he passes Tony. His percent if he were to make his next two shots would be up to 44%, which may not be that great on the Spurs but would be better than any Laker that’s played more than 15 minutes other than Bynum and would have him in company with James Harden and Dwayne Wade. The main thing the Spurs are looking for Bonner to do is to draw an opposing big out on defense, and he’s been so effective at that that he has not been necessary to play big minutes. If the opposition goes to a a small lineup, the Spurs do not say “let’s leave Bonner in there to get some more minutes”, they go to their own small lineup – Mission Accomplished. Are you thinking the Spurs are expecting Bonner to be a playoff hero ala Kobe or Lebron?

  • Titletown99030507d

    @Daniel,

    Exactly, we all know what Bonner’s purpose is right ghost? Yeah it would be nice to for him to make a few more 3′s and get more rebounds but how can he as Daniel mentioned?

  • theghostofjh

    @ Daniel T

    “Discussion on various Sports talk shows now that the Lakers are out of the playoffs is what they need to do to improve. A lot of it has been that Gasol is getting old, that the two bigs concept clogs up the paint on offense, and how what they need is a big that can shoot from outside in order to stretch the court. They have been actively shopping Gasol for some time, but then who wants an “old guy” in his “declining years”?”

    I’ll make this short, these “sports talk show” guys apparently have no idea what they’re talking about. And short of getting Chris Paul, which didn’t pan out (and which I have a hard time believing a Paul/Kobe pairing would be a good fit anyway) or Dwight Howard, which doesn’t solve the so-called clogging the paint” issue, trading Gasol is risky and most likely foolish proposition.

    The Lakers problem is Kobe (he shoots way to much, hogs the ball, and often detracts from the “team”), not their bigs (and maybe their coach as well – not impressed with how he’s handled the team, particularly after the Sessions signing – they should be mostly a half-court team with Sessions running the offense, and they should use and expect more from their bench). It’s also clear that Gasol is not properly utilized, and that he takes way too much unwarranted flack from the media (and even on occasion from teammates – hint, hint, Kobe 2 for 10 in the 4th quarter Bryant!).

    “If Bonner makes the next shot he takes, his dismal % moves up to equaling Jackson’s. Two in a row and he passes Tony.”

    This makes no sense. What if Jax makes the next shot he makes, what if Tony makes his next two in a row, what if ……….

    “Are you thinking the Spurs are expecting Bonner to be a playoff hero ala Kobe or Lebron?”

    Obviously not. I was thinking more along the lines of spending even more time on the bench. We don’t really need any more floor-spreaders. What we need are rebounds and scores inside on high percentage opportunities, neither of which Bonner is very proficient at.

    @ Titletown

    “Exactly, we all know what Bonner’s purpose is right ghost?”

    Well, my preference would be for him to do some more cheer leading from the bench.

  • Daniel T

    theghost:

    Bonner’s number of shots attempted is much smaller than Tony’s, with Jackson’s somewhere in between. Therefore for Bonner, one additional shot with a make will move up his % a great deal more than Jackson or Parker could. Tony making his next shot would only move his percentage from .430 to .434, not much of a change at all. I expect if you had given it some additional thought, you might have realized it does make sense.

    What I don’t get is the exaggeration of what Bonner’s role would be to the point of making him a scapegoat for the Spurs not going any further in the playoffs the past few years. Most everyone on the team can turn in substandard performances, and yet it is Bonner’s playoff performances that people nag about. He has a certain role on the team and has pretty much done what the team would expect from him, just apparently some fans seem to expect he should be a series winner for the Spurs. When he can hit 7 of 16 three pointers and then have it said that he is beginning to “recreate his playoffs performances of the past”, what is that remark supposed to mean?

    As far as the Lakers are concerned, I don’t see Gasol as their problem but they do seem to have established the fact that they have shopped him in a trade and will likely to continue to do so. They seem to be in a cost cutting mode under Jim Buss, and so it shouldn’t be a surprise if they do trade him while reducing their payroll.

  • theghostofjh

    @ Daniel T

    “Therefore for Bonner, one additional shot with a make will move up his % a great deal more than Jackson or Parker could ……. I expect if you had given it some additional thought, you might have realized it does make sense.”

    No, I’ve given it plenty of thought to the issue. Perhaps you’ve forgot that you’re logic works in the reverse direction as well. For example, one miss next time would “lower” Bonner’s FG% faster than a miss by Parker would to his FG%. So again, it’s a pretty weak point you’re making here.

    “Most everyone on the team can turn in substandard performances, and yet it is Bonner’s playoff performances that people nag about.”

    The problem is, out of all of the true veterans on the team (guys with several seasons, and a few playoffs in the rotation under their belt), Bonner’s the only one that’s “never” had a really productive postseason.

    “When he can hit 7 of 16 three pointers and then have it said that he is beginning to “recreate his playoffs performances of the past”, what is that remark supposed to mean?”

    You can’t look at one stat and say that Bonner is playing up to expectations in his role. I already pointed out many stats in which he’s under-performing. And don’t get me wrong, Bonner hasn’t had a terrible playoffs, it’s just that overall it’s not very good, and remains below what we need and should expect from him at this point in his career.

    I don’t disagree with your concluding paragraph about the Lakers. I will add that they better get a lot back for Gasol, or they’re making a big mistake. And as I said, if they don’t get a very good point guard, who’s a good play-maker, and is assigned to run that offense (and/or decide whether they will support Sessions in that role), with Kobe’s blessing, they’re still going to have a problem getting back into contention whether Gasol is traded or not.