Moral victory? I'm not sure what that is. I guess we'll call it a quality loss. Here's the NBA.com box score and here, by request, is the one from the popcorn machine. I'm hard pressed to tell you how the Clippers took a 5 point lead in the fourth quarter against the Spurs. For the game, they shot 39% to the Spurs' 50%. And sure, the fact that they missed their final 9 shots hurt their overall percentage. But they didn't shoot well the entire game, despite getting good shots throughout. In fact, among those final 9 misses, the Clippers had many makeable shots - cases where they ran their set, got exactly the shot they wanted, and then just flat missed it.
You would think that in order for the Generic Clippers to have a chance to beat the Spurs in San Antonio, they'd have to shoot well, and do all the little things. And they didn't. For instance, they gave up not one, not two, but three offensive rebounds to Tim Duncan on missed free throws, and those three extra possessions resulted in 7 points by themselves. In a 9 point game, that's pretty big.
Still, the difference in this team having Kaman out there is pretty amazing. Not that he even looked that great. But the team defense is so much better, and even though he only got 5 rebounds, he's taking up space and occupying the other team's top rebounder so that other people can get the ball. So while he had only 5 himself, the Clippers as a team were only outrebounded by 1, after getting demolished on the boards night in and night out without Kaman.
Al Thornton had a good game, though a little streaky. He finished the game 7 for 15, and it felt like all 7 makes were consecutive from the end of the first quarter to the beginning of the third. (OK, I looked it up and I was close - 6 for 7 in that stretch.) It's true of many, many NBA players (like for instance Corey Maggette), but Al is so much more effective if he's making his jump shots. He becomes nigh unguardable, because he's got such a quick first step, the defense has to respect it, and he can get a clean look for his jumper any time he wants. Al finished the game with 21 points and a Clipper high 9 rebounds.
Unfortunately, he didn't get a lot of help on the offensive end. Tim Thomas was 0 for 4 for zero points. Throw in 4 rebounds, and you've got a laughable lack of production from 36 minutes. Strangely, although Kaman was restricted to 30 minutes, Josh Powell only played 11, leaving Tim Thomas guarding Tim Duncan for long stretches of this game. Given that Powell had 8 points and 6 rebounds in his 11 minutes, I'm thinking maybe he should have gotten more minutes and Thomas should have gotten fewer. Call me crazy.
I'm assuming that Quinton Ross' DNP was related to his sore foot.
In the absence of Ross, MDsr went with an interesting starting lineup, and one which I suppose we could see a lot next season (depending on a multitude of factors, and sliding Brand and Livingston into their proper spots of course). In his ongoing quest to bring a scorer off the bench, coach seems to have settled on Cat Mobley, and Mobley seems content in the role. Maybe it was because Thornton had had two good games against the Spurs, but for the first time this season MDsr started Maggette at shooting guard, playing Al and Corey together on the wings. If Corey ends up staying with the Clippers next season, that would be a way to get the best players on the floor together. Along with a 6'7" point guard, it would also be a HUGE starting lineup. It would be a potent team on offense - but Corey and Al might struggle some defending the perimeter.
After several weeks of being pounded, although the Clippers weren't particularly sharp, at least they belonged in an NBA arena again - a major improvement. With Elton Brand possibly back as soon as next Wednesday, next Sunday at the latest, hopefully we'll see another quantum leap in this team before the season is done.