The San Antonio Spurs don't build depth just for show. They do it for games like this.
Triggered by key reserves Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills, Gregg Popovich's Spurs overcame an uneven start to defeat the Clippers, 108-87, preserving their pristine home record.
Now 33-0 and needing just 8 more home victories to complete a perfect home season, the Spurs gave the Clippers the initial opportunity to turn that and-0 into an and-1. It's going to take some team's best to put that blemish on San Antonio's home floor, and the Clippers, while certainly far from terrible, were unable to muster their best effort.
Which brings us back to depth. The Spurs collect it to a level that is the envy of the rest of the league, and on nights like tonight, when the starting lineup can't create much separation from their opponent, they call on a harem of veterans who execute their roles to perfection.
It was in the key minutes when the Clipper reserves gave their starters a breather that this game unraveled. Take a look at the box score and you'll see that all five Clipper bench players finished at least -16 for the game, and that included several minutes of garbage time. Jamal Crawford struggled through a 1-for-9 shooting performance for just 6 points. Austin Rivers scored 4 on 5 attempts, and Wes Johnson went scoreless while looking timid and tentative.
In comparison, Ginobili and Mills scored 13 and 15 off the bench, respectively, and when they weren't scoring, they were slicing open the Clipper defense to create shots for their other benchmates. David West grabbed 4 offensive boards in just 7 minutes, and scored all 8 of his points in a fourth quarter spurt that put this game on ice.
It wasn't just the reserves either, but the complementary starters who came through for San Antonio. Danny Green broke out of a shooting slump to nail 4 of 5 three-pointers and harassed JJ Redick all night.
Chris Paul was excellent again, but with too little consistent help, found himself checked by Kawhi Leonard in the second half, a Pop adjustment that went a long way toward deciding this one. Paul scored 22, but just 4 of them came after halftime.
JJ Redick scored 14, but was unable to be the kind of consistent threat that lubricates the Clipper offense. Jeff Green, often matched against the Spurs 3rd-best defensive perimeter player, was able to get hot for a stretch in the late third quarter to help tighten the game for a time, but was largely unable to take advantage of his opportunities for the remainder of the night. He finished with an empty 15 points. DeAndre added 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and paced the Clippers with 14 rebounds.
Kawhi Leonard, ever the full-court monster, led the Spurs with 20 points, adding 4 assists and 3 steals. LaMarcus Aldridge, who is looking every bit the fulcrum around which Pop's offense swings, tallied 17.
The Clippers recorded consecutive losses for the first time since dropping three straight with a loss to the Thunder on December 21st, and now have to travel to Houston for another game tomorrow night in the hopes of avoiding a similar three-game losing streak.