The LA Clippers ended their five-game losing streak with a near wire-to-wire victory against the San Antonio Spurs, winning 103-95 and earning a split in the season series against another Western Conference playoff hopeful in the process.
This was one of the most impressive wins of the year for the Clippers, who were on the road without Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari after having not won a game in nearly two weeks. Short-handed against a talented opponent, LA came out with a ton of energy on both ends of the floor in the first quarter, building a lead that the team would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Tobias Harris and Patrick Beverley — starting for the first time since Nov. 18 — were the stars for the Clippers. Harris led the way with 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting, playing a whopping 43 minutes. Perhaps more impressively, Harris had a career-best 9 assists, taking a larger playmaking role due to LA’s compromised depth. Harris opened the game with 12 points as he played the entire first period and helped the Clippers get off to a strong start.
Beverley was a defensive menace and also contributed his trademark energy to start the contest. He pressured Spurs starters Derrick White and Bryn Forbes into seven turnovers and continues to stuff the stat sheet. Beverley finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and four steals, as well as no turnovers.
No player 6-foot-1 or shorter has matched Patrick Beverley’s line tonight over the past 25 seasons: 18 pts, 12 rebs, 5 asts, 4 stls, 1 blk (per the Clippers).— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) January 21, 2019
The Clippers changed their starting lineup, forced to play Beverley in place of Gallinari, but electing to start Montrezl Harrell for the first time this season. Harrell is the team’s best offensive center by a mile, and unsurprisingly, LA got off to a good scoring start. For a team that has struggled out of the gate frequently recently, this was a good way of resetting the deck.
Beverley and Avery Bradley did a good job of getting Harrell involved early, as they changed their offensive attack to involve the center in a way the Clippers don’t normally do when Marcin Gortat or Boban Marjanovic starts. Harrell had some foul trouble, and wasn’t a perfect cover on LaMarcus Aldridge, but he was mostly a positive contributor, something LA hasn’t had at the five in awhile. Aldridge finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds, but didn’t seem to dominate the action like he has in previous meetings. He only finished with two assists, not really able to generate offense for his teammates.
Without Gallinari and Williams, the Clippers had to improve their defense, and they mostly did. It went unnoticed against Golden State because LA had so much difficulty scoring, but the Clippers were pretty solid defensively against the Warriors and continued that effort today. They forced 18 turnovers, allowed only 10 offensive rebounds, and only conceded 17 free throws to San Antonio.
The team was more physical than it has been in the past few weeks, a criticism Doc Rivers had of LA in the last matchup against the Spurs. The starters did the heavy lifting, sparked by Beverley’s aggression, but Rivers changed the rotation to emphasize toughness and grittiness off the bench as well, playing Johnathan Motley and Sindarius Thornwell more than any other reserves.
Motley struggled in his first real regulation minutes Friday, but he redeemed himself quite nicely in San Antonio. He ran the floor hard, competed on defense, and finished with 10 points and four rebounds, though he did turn the ball over four times. Thornwell also brought strong defensive intensity and was a plus-13 in about 10 minutes of playing time.
Avery Bradley had a strong offensive start with 15 first-half points. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his aggressive streak and took 15 shots, but he only hit three for seven points.
Last week, Rivers remarked that the team had forgotten how to finish games after performing well in close games to start the season. When the Spurs made their run, the Clippers always had a response. When they needed a bucket, Harris was there. When they needed a stop and a rebound to close a possession, Beverley was there.
LA will have to utilize a new formula to win games in the absence of its usual offensive firepower. In the midst of a skid that could have sent the team spiraling, the Clippers buckled down and delivered their lowest-scoring win of the season. This has been a resilient group throughout the year, and it was good to see that resurface in a tough road environment.