Fresh off the longest and the most successful voyage last season, the Clippers ship this season has been veered on and off its course to the promised land.
Certainly, this wasn’t completely different from what we were expecting.
The Clippers, after all, started the season without their best crewman, Kawhi Leonard, then lost their captain Paul George.
Now they continue to move through what has been a tsunami-like season, without not only their best players but also a fleet of key role players like Luke Kennard and Isaiah Hartenstein.
Tomorrow, they’ll look to sail away from a swirl of lackluster performances and offensive struggles in a matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.
When: Saturday, January 15 at 5:30 p.m. PT
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 ESPN
Opposing perspective: Pounding the Rock
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Amir Coffey, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Spurs: Devin Vassell, Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, Doug McDermott, Jakob Poeltl
Clippers: Isaiah Hartenstein — QUESTIONABLE; Paul George, Keon Johnson, Luke Kennard, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston, Justise Winslow — OUT
Spurs: Derrick White, Drew Eubanks — QUESTIONABLE; Zach Collins, Tre Jones — OUT
Gregg Popovich’s Spurs have had their fair share of struggles, too.
13th in the West, they’ve dropped all five of their last five contests and only collected one win in the last ten games.
Don’t let their losing record fool you, though.
They can put up a fight against any team in the league: in three of their last four losses, they’ve fallen short by a margin smaller than 5 points.
The Texan team also knows exactly how to find easy looks for any of the five players on the court — the Spurs average 27.8 assists (second-best in the league).
This level of connection and trust between the players — perhaps instilled by the five-time champion Popovich — is also reflected by how the team turns the ball over only 13 times per contest (fifth least in the league).
All in all, the Spurs will not be, by any means, a walk in the park for the injury-stricken Clippers.
The Clippers will rely on their tough team defense; they are fourth in defensive rating. Nicolas Batum and his springy arms will help the team slow down the Spurs pace and also deflect easy passes to the paint or to the wings. A gritty Marcus Morris Sr. can and will slow down players anywhere on the floor — his large frame and athleticism allow him to stay firm when the Spurs are in the paint. The hard-blocking duo of Ivica Zubac and Serge Ibaka will also help protect the paint.
So the game will naturally come down to how well the Clippers play on the offensive end; they were held below 90 points in the past two outings and are shooting a not-so-impressive 44.6 percent from the field this season.
The team, therefore, will need more from veterans Morris and Reggie Jackson.
Replaying this moment over and over again. pic.twitter.com/2oHNj0X8mJ— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 12, 2022
Last game, Jackson and Morris struggled, scoring just five and 12 points, respectively; the game before, both of them combined for 25 points.
Both proficient scorers — the two average over 16 points — the two Clipper veterans should look to find their rhythm on the floor, taking higher percentage shots and capitalizing off easier looks near the rim. It’s when ‘Mr. June’ is pushing up the floor and finishing with an acrobatic finish or Morris is drowning shot after shot in the face of the defenders that the Clippers look to be at their best.
And when they do, the Clippers will have a better shot at riding the winning wave.