Towards the end of the 1st quarter on Saturday, the Spurs mishandled an uncontested defensive board and returned the ball to a team they had no business handing additional possessions. To be more specific, it was Charles Bassey and Isaiah Roby appearing to have slightly different ideas over a free defensive rebound, leading to the ball pinging out of bounds.
There’s likely a common response to seeing both names as part of a team’s early-game rotation — that somewhere leading up to the night, things hadn’t gone to plan for San Antonio — and the cynical one: maybe things are kinda going as planned ? Anyway, the Spurs ended up losing to the Clippers, 119 to 97, making it 9 losses in their last 10 games after a shock-the-world 5-2 start.
It was an objectively flatter effort from the Spurs than we’ve seen, even in most losses. There used to be a little extra fire brought to games against Kawhi Leonard, but that spark likely left with every single player Still, Jakob Poeltl (20 and 8) was his usual problem in the pick and roll and active on the offensive glass, and his partner in the pick and roll, Tre Jones (6 points, 10 assists, still trying to find last year’s floater touch) keeps looking better delivering pocket pass dimes. You take the silver linings where you can get them.
Mostly, though, this one felt written after the opening quarter in which the Clippers drained 9 three-pointers (on 16 attempts). Outscoring San Antonio 40-22 in the first, LA surgically picked apart a Spurs defense that rarely looked settled and showed off the talent gap between one of the league’s deepest rosters (Robert Covington was somehow only dusted off for garbage time) and a Spurs group that was also without Devin Vassell (left ankle soreness), Romeo Langford (return to conditioning after entering health and safety protocols) and a handful of longer-term injuries.
- When the Spurs aren’t shooting themselves in the foot they can hang with most teams, which was the case in the first half of the first quarter, when they kept it close without turning the ball over.
- The Clippers were playing with a Kawhi Leonard that is still clearly trying to find his legs. They also lost Paul George to a knee injury early after a white-hot 15 minutes of play, but got enough contributions from Reggie Jackson (20 points), Norm Powell (26) and John Wall (15 assists, 4 steals, 5 points) .
- The Spurs came into this game with some fairly awful numbers for the month of November, and not much will change after this one:
Spurs are 1-8 in November with the league’s worst defensive rating (120) and 3rd worst offensive rating (105.8). Few numbers behind this stretch:
0.195 FT rate (last in league)
17.9% TO rate (28th)
59.6 Opponent eFG% (30th)
68.9 Def Rebound rate (27th)
18.8 Opp FB points (30th)
— Bruno Passos (@bouncepassos) November 18, 2022
- Pardon the hot take, but Jakob Poeltl is good at what he does, even when not playing with the best hand. Despite his lack of a jumper, he forces his man into a tricky decision into how aggressive to play him when he catches the ball 20 feet away from the basket, something we saw regularly against LA. He punished drop coverage with his pop-a-shot or by springing ball-handlers for open-midrangers, but also took advantage when a reaching Ivica Zubac opened up a lane for him to take it from the three-point line to the rim in a few long strides. He also made all 4 of his free throws!
- We were treated to a bit more points Sochan in this one, with the results less positive than in previous games. He had 7 turnovers and looked more tentative than usual with the ball in his hands. Better showings will come.
The Spurs do this all over again in ‘the Crypt’ tomorrow, this time against the much-worse (and possibly LeBron James-less) Los Angeles Lakers. This will be the first of three meetings between both teams within a week’s stretch.