With Thursday’s trade deadline quickly approaching, the San Antonio Spurs gave the Los Angeles Clippers a wake up call, the kind that can only be remedied by roster change. The Spurs walked into Staples Center Tuesday night without small-forward sensation Kawhi Leonard, center Tiago Splitter and All-Star point guard Tony Parker who is “out for the foreseeable future with a variety of maladies” according to Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. The Clippers would enter the contest without starting guard J.J. Redick who will be out for five weeks and possibly the remainder of the regular season with a back injury.
Nonetheless, the Clippers had reason for optimism, scoring 100 points or more in 11 straight home games, a record of 4-3 in their last seven games against the Spurs, and a hyperactive Blake Griffin who’s scoring 33.7 points per game in February, leading all active players. Griffin would also reach the 6,000 career points mark, finishing the game with a stat line of 35 points and 12 rebounds. Griffin remarked on the Spurs performance with, “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get where the Spurs are and accomplish what they’ve accomplished. They kind of have the model of the NBA and how you want to run things. Guys can be sitting out with injuries, and it doesn’t matter. Other guys are going to come in and do exactly what they’re supposed to. It’s impressive.”
Barely playing above .500 against teams with winning records, the Spurs would look to their lesser known players for a lift in a vital Western Conference matchup with the Clippers who sit just two games behind San Antonio in the standings. “Patty Mills was unbelievable. We never could really slow him down”, said Chris Paul who finished the night with 11 points and nine-assists, on 1-10 shooting from the field – his worst performance since missing all of his attempts on April 10, 2011 as a member with the New Orleans club formerly known as the Hornets. Reserve guard Patty Mills finished with 25 points, 16 of which were put up in the fourth quarter and Tim Duncan exited the game with 19 points, 13 rebounds. Mills scored all of San Antonio’s points in an 11-5 run, which pushed the Spurs lead to eight with a little under nine minutes remaining. Mills also scored a career-high 32 points 10-days prior against the Charlotte Bobcats and has three games of more than 20 points this month.
The Clippers would go on to lose at home for the first time this season after holding a lead at the end of any quarter, and losing their first game coming out of the All-Star break for the sixth consecutive season.
With a few days off the Clippers have time to make some corrections and possible roster upgrades before taking on the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.