Doc’s decision to start Boban Marjanovic looked questionable right from the get-go. While he had a nice and-one early, the Spurs went right at him in the pick and roll, and his tendency to drop led to several open midrange jumpers for the Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge in particular smoked him frequently, and was able to get into a comfortable rhythm that would not be disrupted for the rest of the contest. Bringing in Montrezl Harrell slowed down the Spurs’ roll, however, and getting a few stops resulted in easy fastbreak points. Unfortunately, the Clippers missed several little floaters and layups around the basket, so they trailed by two entering the 2nd.
The Clippers’ second unit just looked great, and all of a sudden the Clips had life. Lou Williams did most of the ball-handling and shot creation, while the rest of the guys spoted up, set screens, and cut. On defense, Ty, Bev, and Trez were everywhere, getting steals and contesting shots. The Clippers were able to build a small lead based mostly on this defense, but the lead collapsed as soon as the starters checked back in. Aldridge continued to sizzle, and the Spurs moved the ball all over the court with ease. To end the quarter, Doc went small with three guards and Mike Scott at center, and this lineup was able to tie the game going into halftime, 56-56.
The 3rd quarter, however, is where things went wrong. Doc started Marcin Gortat over Boban, to the delight of Clippers’ twitter, but the team looked listless regardless. They couldn’t get anything going on offense, while the Spurs methodically moved the ball and pounded it into Aldridge in the post. The Spurs’ lead quickly entered double-digits, and the Clippers looked powerless to stop it from growing Doc tried bringing in Lou and Trez to stem the tide, but this didn’t really help. The Clippers continued to miss open shots, and the Spurs lead stretched to 17 points. After two Patty Mills threes, that lead was 23, and Doc put in the rest of the bench. They brought a bit more energy, but the Spurs were able to keep the lead at 20 thanks to some poor Clippers’ possessions.
Doc, with nothing to lose, experimented with a new lineup to start the 4th: Bev-Lou-Ty-Tobias-Scott, but rolled with it only a minute and a half (they had two turnovers) before putting Bradley and Gallo back. Gallo and Tobias hit back-to-back threes, but Aldridge got two easy buckets back. A DeRozan midrange jumper that put the Spurs back up 20 at 7:17 felt a bit like a dagger, and it seemed Doc might waive the white flag. After a timeout, Gallo hit a 3 the next possession, and then got a dunk off a Lou pick and roll. However, after a couple more stops, Gallo missed an open three to cut the lead to 12, and Aldridge hit an and-one. That basically sealed the game. The Clippers made a push at the end of the quarter, when a Trez steal and dunk brought them to within 10, but there was never any sense they were going to pull out a win, and they fell 122-111.
- End the Boban starting experiment: I think there’s a place for Boban on the Clippers’ roster. He’s a unique weapon, and can legitimately swing the tide of a game by himself. However, he just doesn’t work as a starter, as his deficiencies are exploited too easily, especially on defense. His inability to do anything but drop into the paint on the pick and roll allowed LaMarcus Aldridge to get easy open midrange shots early, and Aldridge was on fire the rest of the night. On offense, Bobi is getting swarmed as soon as he gets the ball, leading to rushed shots or turnovers, and little ball movement. Doc Rivers said after the game that the Clippers knew this would be a tough matchup for Boban, but wanted to see how he would do anyway. While I admire the willingness to experiment, I think the time on the experiment has run out.
- Not enough Shai: After playing just 17:23 against the Lakers, his lowest minute total of the season, Shai had played just 16 minutes until the last few of the 4th, when the game was essentially over. While he wasn’t particularly great tonight, seemingly spooked by the Spurs’ length and physicality inside, he simply needs more minutes. Shai was probably the Clippers’ best overall guard over the first month plus of the season, and even though he seems to be hitting the rookie wall a bit, he also seems out of rhythm partially because his minutes are down. And even when he does play, most of the time he now stands in the corner on offense, which is a waste of his talents and doesn’t help the team all that much. I’d like to see him play more, but at the very least, when he does play, he should handle the ball more, especially in the pick and roll.
- Ty Wallace is a defensive menace: It’s always funny to hear the Clippers talk up Avery Bradley’s defense when a better defensive player comes off the bench for him. Yes, technically Wallace mostly plays small forward for the Clippers, but he’s really a guard, and he’s the best perimeter defender on the roster. He was +10 in 14 minutes tonight despite not making a field goal, and it’s because of his length, activity, and smarts on defense. He had 3 steals and 2 blocks in those minutes (they really happened in about 12 before garbage time), and was the only Clipper (outside of Pat Beverley in the first half) who seemed to bother the Spurs at all defensively. He needs more minutes, because his ability to force turnovers and missed shots usually leads to easy Clipper scores in transition the other way.
The Clippers’ schedule finally relents a little now, as they don’t play until Tuesday, and their next game after that isn’t until Friday. Some practice time and rest could do a world of good for the Clippers, who have looked out of sorts for most of the past two games.