In their last game in the Staples Center before it gets renamed to the Crypto.com Arena, the Clippers found themselves in a 116-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
The Clippers, who average just under 13 threes a game, made only nine tonight. The Spurs, who make a bit over 10 a game, cashed in on twelve. With the Clippers 3 point shooting advantage neutralized by a hot shooting night from the Spurs, the battle in the paint decided the game. At the half, the Clippers 32-22 point deficit, in terms of points scored in the paint, resulted in a double digit lead after the first two periods of play. By the end of the game, the Spurs outscored the Clippers 68-44 in the paint.
To this end, the presence of Isaiah Hartenstein, on both ends of the floor, was sorely missed. Serge Ibaka, however, more than adequately stepped up in his stead and took advantage of the opportunity, en route to a team-high six rebounds at the half.
Without Hartenstein’s energy and Marcus Morris Sr.’s veteran knack to be at the right place, at the right time, the Clippers quickly found themselves on the losing end of the rebounding contest, as has been a theme throughout many of the Clippers losses this season. In the first half, the Clippers collected only 19 rebounds while letting up 12 offensive rebounds to the Spurs. On the other end, the Clippers collected six offensive rebounds to the Spurs 24 defensive ones. By the end of the game, the Clippers had given up 23 offensive rebounds to the Spurs, while collecting only nine themselves.
The second quarter also saw the Clippers fall into some foul trouble, as the Spurs got in the bonus within the first three minutes of that period. This, coupled with continued turnover and defensive rebounding issues led to a 62-48 Clippers deficit at the half.
The poor shooting continued in the third quarter, as the lead climbed up to 20 points with seven minutes to go in the third. Further cold shooting from the Clippers resulted in a 92-65 Spurs lead entering the fourth quarter. Through the first 36 minutes of the game, the Clippers shot just 35.2% from the field, including just 26.9% from three.
In the fourth quarter, a resurgence in effort led to a Clippers run. “Too little, too late,” however, seemed to be the idiom of the night.
Throughout the game, the Clippers could not stop Dejounte Murray, who finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists, and four steals. All five Spurs starters scored over 12 points tonight.
On the bright side, Paul George came out the gate ready, rocking a new haircut and contributing 25 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in 31 minutes after missing his last five games due to an elbow sprain. He was joined by Ivica Zubac, who added 12 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks in 26 minutes. As the bonafide star on this team, and the primary anchor of the Clippers defense, George and Zubac’s production this season will be paramount to overall team success.
Los Angeles will look to get back to the win column, Wednesday, in Sacramento.