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Clippers Fight Off Spurs, 105-86

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A sluggish start gave way to a competitive second half, as the Clippers fought off a late San Antonio charge.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

This game officially tipped off around 7:40 PM. This game also didn't get going until closer to 9:00.

In what was supposed to be a grand return to regular season basketball action, the Clippers and Spurs submitted one of the sloppiest first halves of basketball you're likely to see from such talented teams, even teams missing injured stars like Blake Griffin and Kawhi Leonard, who was a late scratch with a calf injury.

The Spurs found it difficult to shake loose the All-Star break rust, missing more than 65% of their first-half shots, many of them badly. The one-point-guard Clippers, who lost Pablo Prigioni to a viral infection while already missing Austin Rivers, obliged their opponent with numerous turnovers, matching their season-high for a half. Thankfully, the level of play picked up for the second half with the two teams swapping runs before the Clippers finally put away their opponent, 105-86, behind another inspired Chris Paul performance.

If you missed the first half of "action", you didn't miss much. To wit:

  • The Clippers led the Spurs, 12-6, after nine minutes.
  • No Spur made more than single field goal in the first quarter.
  • The Clippers turned the ball over 8 times in the first quarter and 5 times in the second.
  • Rowan Kavner pointed out that the two starting backcourts combined to start 0-for-12 shooting.
  • The Spurs scored just 34 points in the first half, their fewest all season.
  • The leading scorer at the half, for both teams, was Jamal Crawford with 9 points. He also had 5 turnovers. Paul Pierce was the second leading scorer, playing one of his better games of the season.

The Clippers' defense certainly deserves some credit. They clearly began the game with more bounce than San Antonio did. DeAndre Jordan and Cole Aldrich, who even played several minutes next to one another, controlled the boards, allowing the Spurs just two first-half offensive rebounds. Aldrich shined defensively early, blocking three shots.

Popovich's men simply didn't look Spursy to begin, submitting some of the worst offensive possessions San Antonio has probably seen in two decades. Starting both Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge gave them a decided size advantage over Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but they were unable to capitalize at nearly any point in this game.

The second half began with a still-energized Clipper lineup that added sharp execution and extended an 8-point halftime lead as far as 20 in the third quarter. Then came a 14-6 Spurs run, or a 21-10 Spurs run, depending on your arbitrary endpoints. David West (!) drilled a three-pointer at the end of the third to cut the Clipper lead back down to 9.

Guard play was the catalyst for a competitive final quarter, at least for several minutes. San Antonio's Tony Parker and Patty Mills finally found their way into the paint, degreasing the Spurs' offense and putting a scare into the home crowd. Fortunately for the Clippers, they employ one of the best guards in the world. Paul scored 26 of his 28 total points in the second half and delivered a couple of lobs that led to devastating DeAndre jams, extinguishing the San Antonio threat.

Despite the several day layoff, Paul had every right to be tired, too. Danny Green dogged him with full court pressure for much of the third, and Paul was only allowed two minutes of second-half rest until he was subbed out for good with two minutes remaining and the game safely in hand.

Jamal Crawford, who struggled as the backup point guard in the first half, had a more productive second half playing next to Paul and finished with 19 points, splashing 3 threes. JJ Redick added 17, and DeAndre finished with 17 rebounds and a team-best +28 plus/minus.

Tony Parker led the Spurs with just 14 points. Duncan managed only 2 points on 6 attempted field goals. Aldridge was held to 3 total rebounds. As a team, the Spurs shot just 42.2% and converted only 4 of 17 three-pointers.

The Clippers have tomorrow off before hosting the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, when they should have newly acquired Jeff Green in uniform.

Notables:

  • Many coaches and players from both teams attended today's funeral of Thunder Assistant Coach Monty Williams' late wife in Oklahoma. Williams' wife was killed in a car accident a week ago. If you haven't watched Monty Williams' eulogy, part of which TNT broadcast during their halftime show, please do.
  • The Clippers are being roundly mocked for this pre-game tweet that I'll call, um, ill-advised: