The Margin: Clippers 120, Spurs 108


Rob Mahoney of the TrueHoop Network’s Two Man Game has a unique style of game recap. He takes the margin of the final score and posts a note for every point. As I am not really a postgame grades kind of guy, I’m going to shamelessly steal his idea for the evening. Sorry to those of you who love El Conclusion, but I’m pulling ranking and doing it my way this evening because I am crotchety and old and you are on my lawn.

So, 12 notes for the 12 points by which the Spurs lost:

  • Danny Green did an admirable job defending Chris Paul tonight, and I’m not just talking about when he picked Paul’s pocket late in the third. Paul has a masterful move on the pick and roll in which he stops and dribbles back into a trailing defender, either creating space or drawing enough contact to get the foul call. Green did a great job mirroring Paul’s movement, staying close enough to alter his shot but just far enough to avoid the foul.
  • The Clippers scored 120 points, so I don’t want to create the misconception that the Spurs played good defense whatsoever. But, the other player who had a nice night on the defensive end of the floor was Tim Duncan. Of the Clippers 120 points, only 26 came in the paint and that was largely because of the excellent rim protection Duncan provided.
  • I was surprised when I looked at the box score and saw the Clippers only out-rebounded the Spurs by 6 and had only one fewer turnover. I was even more surprised when I saw the Spurs and Clippers had the same number of offensive rebounds. During the game it felt like the Spurs were getting handled on the boards, giving away cheap balls that they should have more easily corralled. And there were a number of turnovers — in particular 3 of Manu’s — that were baldly self-inflicted.
  • The Clippers had a terrific night from the field, plain and simple. Initially the Spurs were forcing them into contested 2s and they were making them anyways. Somewhere along the way those contested 2s turned into wide-open 3s and just in case you’re uncertain that’s a bad thing. (That’s some crack shot analysis from a wily veteran reporter if I’ve ever heard it).
  • Manu’s 4-6 shooting from beyond the arc is even more impressive when you think back upon the critical moments in which they came. Even though the Spurs lost, Manu was in hero mode tonight.
  • My favorite stretch of the game was somewhere in the mid-fourth, when Green, Leonard, and Splitter were on the floor. By no means was it the cleanest basketball the Spurs played, but everyone on the floor was playing with tremendous intensity. In particular Leonard and Green were flying around the floor, fighting for every loose ball. It was great to watch while it lasted.
  • The Spurs ball movement tonight was terrific. They took 30 3-pointers, many of which were wide open. 40% of them dropped through the net, which is not a bad percentage, but it wasn’t enough to counterbalance an inspired shooting night by Los Angeles.
  • After the game, I asked Gary Neal if he approached the game any differently because Parker was out. Neal didn’t think so, saying “I was aggressive as I always am. I got to the line 10 times. The point guard isn’t going to change my mentality.” I like that answer, because I like the fact that Neal believes he should always be aggressive, no matter who he’s playing alongside.
  • After the game, Tim Varner asked Pop about transition defense and Popovich shot him down mercilessly. I wish you had been there. Rest assured, I’ll give Varner plenty of crap on your behalf.
  • Neal, Bonner and Jefferson were collectively 2-13 from beyond the arc, which is less than stellar. Bonner’s 5 misses (he was 1-6) were especially hard to swallow, given how open he was on all 5 and the critical moments at which they came.
  • The music at the AT&T center has gotten better. A little Common’s “Raw.” Tyga’s “Rap City.” Some solid hip hop samples I didn’t expect to hear. (Be honest, the music at the AT&T has always been a little on the lame side.)
  • The TrueHoop Network was rolling deep this evening: Kevin Arnovitz, Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Tim Varner, Jesse Blanchard and myself were all in the building. So keep your eyes peeled: There should be more coverage of tonight’s game coming your way. Then again, if you just want to forget about this loss, I won’t blame you.
  • junierizzle

    Tough loss. I think The Spurs played well enough to win in each of the last 3 losses Chicago,Denver and now Clippers.
    Tonight the Clippers were just too hot. Personally I don’t like when they trap CP3, it always leads to an open 3. I think The Spurs were actually up when Paul was taking all the shots,Two-pointers.

    I’ll never understand why Coaches prefer to give up 3s over points in the paint. Even the Clippers gave up wide open 3s but Spurs couldn’t hit in crunch time tonight.

  • Bob

    Does anybody miss more open critical 3-pointers than Bonner. It’s one thing to miss 3’s but when they’re wide open that just hurts a team’s confidence.

  • DorieStreet

    Duncan has 8 of the 12 missed FTs.
    Mo Williams goes for 33 points off the bench?
    7 Clippers logged 230 out of a possible 240 game minutes.

  • DorieStreet

    Outscored 17-5 over last 5 minutes vs Bulls; 2 FTs and one basket in last 3 minutes vs Nuggets

  • TD BestEVER

     It’s not the last 3 few minutes that really drive me nuts as much as the ENTIRE 4th qt.  POP stuck with Bonner for WAYYYYYYYYYY too long.  And I remember at one time they subbed out Blair for Bonner.  And Blake gets a 3 point play the very next possession.   When Blair was doing a good job of limiting Griffin.  But POP wanted offense and stuck with the Rocket king after we all knew that he wasn’t going to get it going.

  • theghostofjh

    Just wait until the playoffs.

  • theghostofjh

    Bonner may only be the better option offensively when we’re desperate, trying to come from behind from double digit deficits in a fairly short period of time. Overall though, Blair is the more efficient offensive player, as evidenced by his higher PER. 


    Like the write up and format.  Would be nice to have both “The Margin” and “El Conclusion” posted after every game.  Thanks.

    In short…agree with all points made.

    Solution. (Or part of the recent problem)…Spurs players having no determinable rotational value or consistent unit on the floor cohesion.

    As I posted…”Pop has got to start playing a “ROTATION” that can give itself a chance
    to acclimate and develop cohesion as units.  Time to forget about Ford’s
    come back and into the rotation.  Time to get Splitter, Leonard, Blair,
    Neal and Green into a pattern of both minutes played as well as
    familiarity of position and expectation while on the court.”Read more:

    …and I Strongly… more than ever before believe… and even more important is this…

    “Here’s a recent trend that’s rearing it’s ugly head once more after all
    star break…Bonner missing 3’s and when missing his 3’s…is of no
    value to the team what so ever.  AS Proven So Many Times in Years Past
    whether the team is healthy or not.  Forget about this “Spread The Floor
    Shit”.  The minutes allocated to Bonner can easily (and I would bet
    Pop’s job) be spread amongst Blair, Splitter, Leonard, Jefferson and
    produce better, more consistent offensive results all the while
    improving the team’s overall defensive value.”
    Read more:

  • ziijordan

    3 tough losses. Hard to swallow. But i like that Pop would rather lose a game than lose an important player.

    Each of the last 3 losses, we had an integral part of the team out with an injury, or due to precautionary measures taken by Pop to ensure knocks don’t become injuries. All three of the losses came against playoff teams which I’m sure with a full squad we would have won them easily.

    What worried me last night was the lack of D.
    Mo Williams hitting 7 threes? Come on dude. I would have hammered him real hard on a couple, just to get him out of rhythm. He should have been checked hard with a couple screens on the offensive end too. But letting a one dimensional player like that affect the game in the way that he did was appalling on our part.

  • Km114108

    Manu’s conditioning still looks bad and it seemed like he pulled something else after a drive through the lane when he came up trying to walk it off.  I’m starting to be concerned if he can hold up.  I’m all for continuing him off the bench for the rest of the year and playing him very limited minutes.  

  • DorieStreet

    TYPO- I meant 17-5 over last 5 minutes vs Clippers.

  • DorieStreet

    Regardless of hard foul/hacking, etc.   – noo Spur could not just outright cover him? I didn’t see the game but I imagined that the Spurs “help” rotation scheme was responsible for Williams getting the opportunities to light it up. Sometimes players have to look at the big picture and realize in certain games sloughing off of your man to assist someone else is not the way to go—primary responsibility is to play defense against your guy.

  • Titletown99030507d

    The cohesion/chemistry just hasn’t been there in the 2nd unit as before and I think its taking too long for Splitter to get incorporated into that success when he had it before and my guess is that Bonner’s minutes and timing on the court might be limiting the opportunity for Splitter to get going. Tiago stepped in much later than usuall the start of the 2nd. The sooner he gets in the game the sooner he can get going. I’ve said this before it takes him a few minutes to get going but by the time we see any semblance of the Splitter we know it’s time to go out and sit. At this stage of the season it’s not about Blair anymore we know what he brings and he brings it consistently   he may not give you eye popping box scores but he brings it consistently it’s time Pop makes a decision on what kind of ball we’ll be playing in the playoffs. Spread the floor ball with a big question mark that eats up the minutes or the success we had with Splitter steadily going to the basket and getting the offense they used to get with him. Again they died by the 3 and lost. Pop needs to understand that once Timmy goes out it’s not time for 3 point open season. They need to put Tiago in a little sooner to get his rhythm going and not depend what he’s going to do in the 4th. The 2nd unit’s success depends greatly on Tiago. It starts there and opens many opportunities for the rest. 

  • DorieStreet

    Yeah–Tony went to the floor a lot vs. the Knicks, and with TJ going down and Cory in Austin, that led to the inevitable injury (quad) tha forced him out for last night –and how many games in the future?

    It may have Spurs sliding back to 5th, even 6th position in the confence standings, but we may see the Core 3 sit out 1/3 to 1/2 the games down the stretch -say the 55th to 66th games of the season.

  • Bentley

    As far as the defensive end tonight, 120 points is a horrible amount to give up, but some of that was just due to the red-hot shooting of the Clippers. They could not miss. Contested long two’s and even some contested threes were just falling tonight so props to them…I would argue that was the best offensive performance from them I’ve seen all year. But I’m still very concerned with our defense. It seems like guys that normally wouldnt get hot seem to get hot on the perimeter against us (See James, LeBron)

    Mo Williams 33 point night was more the result of Chris Paul attracting so much attention every time he got in the paint. Chris Paul ate us alive last night and he is without a doubt the best pg in the league by far. We’re going to continue to lose to elite teams unless the D steps up.

  • theghostofjh

    There has obviously been a problem with the “rotation of the bigs” for some time. As I stated on this blog two weeks ago, IMO it’s time to implement a change in this regard.

    I’ll leave you with what I stated as a reasonable alternative on this blog back on February 23 (given Pop’s infatuation with the “Bonner effect”, which is clearly overrated):

    “Being that we’re apparently stuck with Bonner, the best solution is to bring Splitter in for Duncan at the 7 minute mark, then bring Bonner in for Blair at the 9 minute mark. Bring Duncan back for Splitter at the 9 minute mark of the 2nd, bring Blair in for Bonner at the 7 minute mark, and bring Splitter in for Blair at the 4 minute mark. If something similar were to be repeated in the 2nd half, Duncan would be on target for about 32+ minutes, Splitter 24 minutes, Blair 24 minutes, and Bonner 16 minutes.

    Projected Pairings in minutes for each game:

    Duncan/Blair – 20 minutes
    Splitter/Blair – 4 minutes
    Blair/Bonner – 0 minutes

    Duncan/Splitter – 8 minutes
    Duncan/Bonner – 4 minutes
    Slitter/Bonner – 12 minutes

    But for some reason (an insufficient reason in my book) Pop wants to play Duncan with Bonner TOO much. This needs to change.

    Obviously the minutes would vary some from game to game based on performance and match-ups, but I would try to stick to this kind of formula.”

    The fact is, it NEVER works to play three of your top four bigs “all around 20 minutes per game”. Name ANY other successful team that has ever done so. One of the bigs minutes must be reduced, and in my book it is Bonner that should get a “maximum” of 16 mpg. on average (in my break-out above, Bonner would get A THIRD less minutes than Blair or Splitter).

    I’d be interested to hear from all that care to weigh in on this subject. In my view, we will not go far in the playoffs with this big rotation. With a change, we have at least a chance to go further.


     You pretty much hit the nail on the head without even watching the game.

    The Spurs were not going to let the Clips beat them in the paint.  Perimeter defenders cheated to the paint all game long.  Got burned by hot perimeter shooting of Clips.

    Spurs…couldn’t match in it’s perimeter shots being made.  Bonner missed wide open (easy) chances.  Spurs could have burned Clips with more attacking but Parker out of game.

    Bottomline…Spurs weak individual interior defense forces team to cheat (compensate perimeter D) in order to prevent opponent from dominating the post.

    Time to let Kawhi (undersized as he may be) get time as a PF.  For being slighter of build than Bonner…he’d provide better interior defense through agility, speed and length.  (Much like the 6’9″ only 125lb. Josh Smith) does for Atlanta.

  • Colin

    No true PG to play against Chris Paul was the demise in this game.  Given, the Spurs defense wasn’t as good as in championship years Chris Paul was able to slack off enough defensively and save his energy for offense.  With no Parker to chase around, Paul was able to save himself and this was the difference IMO.

  • Bob

     Splitter was definitely a big part of the Spurs doing well during the RRT. It seems Pop is forgetting that.

  • Bob

     If it’s one game it’s one thing but if every opponent is going lights out on you then you know you have a problem with your defense. NBA players are too good to allow them to develop rhythm on their jumpers. After they develop the rhythm you have to play even harder to break that rhythm.

  • TD BestEVER

     Sorry but is wasn’t the INTERIOR D that let us down last night…..Our PERIMETER D was EXPOSED AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!    Chris Paul was repeatedly got into the lane and force the help and then kicked it to the guards.  Also Griffin wasn’t all that big of  afactor because of the way Blair was playing him.  We should have just stayed home and let Blake try to beat us.  he wasn’t going around Blair.  He scored like 2 baskets over the top of Blair, both were tough shots that you can live with.

  • Bob

     I think it’s better for the Spurs to stay at home on the perimeter because they’ve been getting killed on the perimeter. They just better hope they have enough help inside.


     Thank you…You just clarified what I said.

    Yes.  Like TP does for the Spurs.  In an attempt to better defend the paint… the Spurs perimeter players were cheating towards the paint thus allowing the opponents perimeter players wide open J’s and/or 3pt attempts.

    And yes…a more athletic and quicker in the post defender would help in not having perimeter players cheat towards the paint while playing half court D.

  • Oeste

    I think you are right. Does anyone else like the idea of trading Anderson and Bonner to get George Hill back?

  • Daniel T

    I think maybe Indiana is discovering he’s an undersized SG and they got the worst end of the deal.  AJ Price seems to be taking over as the 2nd unit PG.  While all of Indiana’s starters have a +/- of over 100, George is at a -13 (Price a +21).   The Pacers have been rumored to be looking for another PG in a trade. 

  • TD BestEVER

     So would a Bruce Bowen……..So the point there is the Spurs can’t keep players out of the paint…… So we need Both:  Another more athletic Big, and a really good defender.  Tony Allen type to help lock down and wreck some havoc on the other teams guards.

  • Jtcasal

    Why do browsers think that is malicious? Can you guys fix that?

  • Nima K.

    Thanks TJ. We understand your decision to retire.

    You’ll always remain a Spurs to us.

  • Nima K.

    And now the PG position. Not just the front court. I hope they make a move before thursday.

  • Spursfanbayarea

    Gilbert arenas is an available free agent and would not give up any assets. If we have to give up assets we need to get another big.

  • Cheyenneharty

         Wow, TJ to retire (! With his history of debilitating neck and spinal problems it’s more than understandable, and I wish him the best. Still, the question remains: What are the Spurs to do?
         One option would be to sign a back-up point guard before Thursday’s deadline. While this would mean having a bench player to give Parker some rest, schooling a new quarter back in the Spurs’ offensive system well into the second half of a condensed season may be too tough a task. Furthermore, trying to trade for a point guard would reduce the Spurs’ slim chances of getting another big.
         However, were the Spurs not to trade for a new point guard and instead charge Ginobili and Neal with ball distribution, there would be less time for these two shooting guards at their natural positions and arguably less floor time for our best back court combo, Parker and Ginobili.
         In the end, I expect no trades to come by Thursday. There are not too many options for the Spurs at the center position, and few point guards in the league will be able to adjust to the Spurs’ offensive scheme before the playoffs. I hope San Antonio can bring a point guard from the Toros, as such a player would already be familiar with the Spurs’ XOs. Unfortunately, Cory Joseph, is not ready for the role.

  • Deeds130

    Bummed. Based on what little we say of TJ, I was really looking forward to witnessing the impact of having quality PG depth in the playoffs for a change. Alas, no. And a heavier burden on TP and Gino down the stretch. CJ will hardly be a factor for us, and Neal & Green are even more imperfect solutions handling the point than Hill was.
    I hope that’s the last loss our roster will sustain. I know losing Ford pales in comparison to losing Lowry or Rubio, but HOU and MIN aren’t our real competition anyway… Sure, DAL is unfocused and MEM is still without Z-Bo, but OKC and hated LAL have their pieces in play.

  • Cheyenneharty

    I don’t see Agent Zero as a ball distributor. And the Spurs have no need for shooting guards, particulalry ones who are well past their prime.  

  • Nima K.

    Heard DeSean Butler is steadily improving in Austin. Maybe he should be given a shot again in a Spurs uniform. He could play aside CJ. Especially now that TJs gone.