Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Notebook: Spurs-Clippers, 11/17/08

Yesterday I noted how, of the 9 games we had played, 7 had been decided by 5 points or less. Well, you can officially make that 8 of 10 as the Spurs held off a late rally by the Clippers last night to win 86-83 in LA. The Spurs now head home with a .500 record where they await a Nuggets team that has been rejuvenated by the arrival of Chauncey Billups.

Both Kurt Thomas and Ime Udoka returned to the floor after receiving DNP-CDs two days ago in Sacramento. I still am not completely positive as to why each saw zero minutes on Sunday. My only explanation is that Popovich was saving them for the second leg of the back-to-back as we traditionally struggle in such games. But neither proved to be very productive, each going 1-3 from the field.

Tim Duncan scored 20 points and hauled in 15 rebounds in another well-crafted performance, but the real hero of this game was Roger Mason. leading the team with 21 points on 9-16 shooting, Mason showed some bravado by taking a pull up jumper from beyond the arc with 8 seconds left instead of hitting Duncan who was rolling to the hoop after having just set a pick. Mason nailed the shot, giving the Spurs a 3-point lead and moments later the win. He has done an excellent job filling the offensive gap during Parker and Ginobili's absence and I am increasingly confident that he is the reliable fourth option this team has been in need of.

Jacques Vaughn played poorly, succumbing to aggressive traps by either turning the ball over or mismanaging the offensive set. For further evidence note that when Vaughn entered the game for Hill with 4:05 left in the fourth, we were up 83-76. We would not score again until there was 8 seconds left.

I wanted to note that we played excellent perimeter defense during the Clippers final shot attempt. Popovich put in our "smartest" rotation: Vaughn, Bowen, Finley, Mason, and Duncan. And eventually the veteran unit forced Baron Davis into taking a difficult, low-percentage shot.

For further thoughts on the Clippers I'll turn to Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog:

The Clippers play a fairly crisp game tonight. They work themselves some nice looks against a smart defensive team. Their coverages seem as tight as they’ve been in a while — even with the problems on the perimeter. The Clippers destroy the Spurs on the boards [47-36, including 14-5 on the offensive glass]. The 13 turnovers are manageable [a couple of them are offensive fouls]. Chris Kaman is able to find himself space to shoot his face-up 15-footer. He turns the ball over only once. Cuttino Mobley runs off 11 consecutive point at the start of the second half to keep the Clippers in the game. But Baron is awful.
As I mentioned earlier, the Spurs will be back in San Antonio on Wednesday where they will face the 6-4 Nuggets. The game begins at 8:30 Eastern/7:30 Central.

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