SAN ANTONIO – The Los Angeles Clippers led the Spurs by three at halftime Tuesday night at the AT&T Center – and then the third quarter happened.
Scoring a season-best 40 points in the pivotal period and turning up the heat defensively, the Silver and Black imposed their will on the Clippers and raced to a 120-107 victory.
Shooting a scorching 63.6 percent (14/22), the Spurs outscored Los Angeles 40-21 in the third quarter to take a 92-76 lead into the final period. The Clippers shot only 38.1 percent (8/21) in third period.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green, who finished the game with 25 and 24 points respectively, and Rudy Gay each scored eight points in the third quarter. Green and Gay each went 2 for 2 from the three-point line in the period.
“Disappointing,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought in the first half we had a terrific half. I think the third quarter just did us in.”
Gay came off the bench to score 22 points and Pau Gasol finished with 19.
The Spurs improved to 7-4 with their third consecutive victory, and the Clippers dropped to 5-5. The Silver and Black continue their six-game home stand Friday night against Milwaukee.
San Antonio shot 53.6 percent overall (45/84) for the game, and was shot the same percentage from the three-point line, where they hit 15 of 28 attempts.
Green (4/6), Gay ((4/5) and Gasol (3/4) were hot from beyond the arc. Aldridge was 10 of 19 from the field, and made 2 of 3 three-pointers. He also finished with six rebounds and two blocks.
The Silver and Black did a solid job of making the extra pass to hit the open man, getting 33 assists on their 45 made field goals.
“Just moving the ball,” Aldridge said, when he was asked about the key to the Spurs’ offensive execution. “I thought the ball kept moving. They’re a very athletic and active team, so I was just trying to get them moving from side to side and find the open guy.”
What made the third quarter different for the Spurs, who sometimes have struggled to get going in the second half?
“Guys locking in and coming in at halftime and looking at the things that ran really well, and trying to go out and do better,” Aldridge said. “I think guys are being more focused at halftime, too.”
The Spurs led 32-26 after one quarter, but the Clippers outscored them 29-20 in the second to go up by three at the half.
While Popovich said “we still got a way to go defensively,” he praised the team’s offensive execution.
“We had 33 assists, which is a great, unselfish game, really good,” he said. “A lot of people participated, so making shots does make things simpler. The ball moved, our pace was better, but our defense still needs to get better. That will take some time with all the new guys and combinations that are out there right now.”
The Spurs played without All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard and veteran point guard Tony Parker, both sidelined as they continue to rehab quad injuries. Neither has played this season.
Gasol had one of his best games of the season, hitting 8 of 9 shots and finishing with eight rebounds and six assists.
“When you have that many assists and we don’t turn the ball over, that aspect of the game is great,” Gasol said. “We set the tone well as far as moving the ball and finding our shooters that were open. We came out in the third quarter with a much better mindset defensively, and that is always going to be a big factor and key.
“We need to extend it for longer periods of time, so we don’t give up 55 points in the first half like we have the last games. But overall, great win. We can be happy with it, and now get a couple days of rest.”
Gasol singled out 40-year-old Spurs guard Manu Ginobiili, who is in his 16th season with San Antonio.
"I feel great playing with Manu," Gasol said. "He's a great basketball player. Most of the time he makes the right plays. He's very unselfish. If he sees a guy open, he'll give it (the ball) to them. His experience and his talent is exceptional."
Austin Rivers, the coach’s son, led the Clippers with 24 points. He hit 10 of 17 shots, including 4 of 6 from the three-point line. All-Star forward Blake Griffin, the Clippers' leading scorer, made only 4 of 15 shots and finished with 15 points. He went into the game averaging 23.7 points.
Lou Williams, one of the Houston players that went to the Clippers in the trade for All-Star point guard Chris Paul, finished with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting. He was 3 of 7 from beyond the arc.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Clippers different team without Paul running their offense
Los Angeles Clippers (5-4) vs. Spurs (6-4)
When, where: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday AT&T Center
Season series: First meeting
Last meeting: Clippers 98, Spurs 87, April 8, 2017, AT&T Center
Clippers’ last game: Lost to Heat 104-101, Sunday, Los Angeles
Spurs’ last game: Beat Suns 112-95, Sunday, AT&T Center
Notable: With the victory against the Suns, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (1,156) is now No. 6 for most career victories in NBA history, passing Phil Jackson.
SAN ANTONIO – The Los Angeles Clippers team the Spurs face Tuesday night will be different than the one they’ve battled in recent years.
All-Star forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan are still with the team, but guards Chris Paul, J.J. Reddick and Jamal Crawford are no longer with the Clippers.
“It’s been a lot of games,” Manu Ginobili said Tuesday, reflecting on the games the Spurs played against the Clippers’ core. “Every time we face the Clippers, thinking about their main guys, C.P, Blake and DeAndre, having to chase Reddick all over the place and Jamal. It’s kind of a different team, but they still demand a lot of respect for their talent.”
With Paul gone, the Clippers have run most of their offense through Griffin, who is averaging 23.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
How will the Spurs’ change their defensive strategy, if at all, now that Griffin is the focal point of Los Angeles’ offense.
“Yeah, maybe a little more emphasis on him, but we already had tough times against him,” Ginobili said of Griffin. “With C.P. and without. He’s a great scorer, very strong, with a lot of skills – off the dribble, catch, now threes. He always demands attention but now, for sure, he’s the head of the snake.”
Patty Mills, who has started the Spurs’ last three games at point guard, acknowledged that it will be odd not to have Paul directing the Clippers’ offense.
“I can imagine it being different, and from our game preparation, the way they play is obviously different, with Blake Griffin being the head of the snake,” Mills said. “But regardless, they are a very good team and have a lot of weapons there. It’s going to be a team defensive job for everyone to be on the same page for us to be able to stop this team.”
Ginobili played in the first two games of the Spurs’ six-game home stand on Thursday and Friday, but was given the night off Sunday by coach Gregg Popovich. The Silver and Black rolled to a 112-95 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
The Spurs (6-4) start the second half of the home stand Tuesday night against the Clippers (4-5).
Ginobili said the day of rest was good for him.
“I could have played,” he said. “I wanted to play, but it wasn’t worth the fight this time. Sometimes you’ve got to pick your fights. I was a little worse (tired) than the game before, so when he said that I was going to sit, I said, ‘OK, I’ll be fine, stronger and healthier for the Clippers.
“The team was going good. We were facing a team that was struggling, so I figured out it wasn’t an emergency. So, yes, I’m better for it.”
The “fight” Ginobili reference was the ongoing back-and-forth he has with Popovich on when to play and when to rest.
Ginobili, who turned 40 in July, is the second-oldest player in the NBA, only months younger than Vince Carter, who was born six months before Ginobili in 1977.
Given his age, does Ginobili he’ll have to fight Popovich more this season about his when to play and when to rest?
“Usually it’s a back-to-back thing,” Ginobili said. “This time, since I was ready to play the back-to-back and I felt I needed to be out there, I ended up pretty tired. I played way more than I expected. That’s why I thought I needed the rest a little more than I did before.”
After scoring only six points in 19 minutes Thursday night in a 112-92 loss to Golden State, Ginobili had 10 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals in 27 minutes against Charlotte the next night.
The Spurs broke out of a four-game skid with the victory over the Hornets, avoiding their first 4-5 start since the 2009-10 season.
All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard and veteran point guard Tony Parker, both rehabbing quad injuries, remain sidelined. They have yet to play this season, but Parker has said he could be back by mid-November. He was on the court after the team’s shootaround Tuesday morning, working on his jumper.
Popovich hasn’t given a timetable on Leonard’s return.
“Every time a team has to adjust to play without their main players, others have to step up, gain confidence and end up being better players,” Ginobili said, when asked if there are any positives to Leonard’s extended absence. “I think it’s a great thing for guys like Bryn (Forbes), Brandon (Paul), even Kyle (Anderson), having to be more responsible offensively and have more possessions and make more decisions.
“I think it’s going to end up being a great thing for the team, but long term. Short term, we miss him. We need him out there. When he come back we’re going to have to readjust. It’s going to take a little bit of time. At this point, it’s making those guys step up and play a bigger role.”
After playing the Clippers, the Spurs wrap up their six-game home stand with a back-to-back against Milwaukee and Chicago on Friday and Saturday, respectively.