SAN ANTONIO – Teams on the losing end always can look inward and say they could have played better. But sometimes the other guys, at least on that given day, are just better.
As the final score indicates, the Los Angeles Clippers were better than the Spurs on Saturday night at the AT&T Center.
The trio of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan proved to be too much for the Silver and Black, leading the Clippers to a 98-87 victory in the Spurs' regular-season home finale. .
Paul and Griffin scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, and Jordan finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds, keeping the Silver and Black on their heels as the Clippers (49-31) won their fifth game in a row. Paul flirted with a triple-double, adding eight rebounds and eight assists.
With both teams playing their best players, the late-season game was something of a dress rehearsal for the NBA playoffs, which start next Saturday. The Spurs showed they still have some work to do to get their edge back before they open the postseason against Memphis.
"I definitely think that they were the aggressive team tonight, and they got into us," said Gasol, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. "We kind of reacted later, in the second half mainly. We just let them play a little too much offensively, and defensively we weren't aggressive enough. They took the initiative, and that's just how you lose games. It's something to keep in mind."
Los Angeles clinched the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with the victory and remains in contention for the No. 4 spot. The Clippers are locked into a first-round playoff series against Utah, which is tied with them for the No. 4 seed. Both teams have two regular-season games to go.
The Clippers won the season series against the Silver and Black 3-1.
The Spurs (61-19) have clinched the No. 2 seed in the West and will play No. 7 Memphis in the first round. The series starts next Saturday or Sunday at the AT&T Center.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich didn't like what he saw Saturday night and he wasn't bashful about saying so.
"We want to play well in all aspects of the game whether it's the first game of the year, or this game, or the playoffs," Popovich said. "That's what you want to get from your players. They were more aggressive than we were. They wanted the game more.
"We were aggressive and got into them and showed the physicality and communication necessary to win against a good team for about six minutes of the third quarter, and that was that. We didn't have enough physical toughness to compete with them. I thought Chris Paul sliced and diced us. He was great, and our execution at both ends, defensively and offensively, was really poor."
Popovich went on to say he was "very disappointed" in the Spurs' performance and was looking forward to the team's last two regular-season games.
"Nobody's going to rest," Popovich said. said. "Everybody's going to play. We already rested everybody, and we have days in between now. It's like the playoffs kind of. There's no back-to-backs. There's no bad travel or anything like that, so it's time for rhythm and that sort of thing. So, hopefully, we'll play better next week."
Saturday’s game was the Spurs’ fourth in five nights. They end the season with road games against Portland on Monday and Utah on Wednesday. The NBA playoffs start April 15.
Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points and nailed five 3-pointers to lead the Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge (18) and Gasol were the other San Antonio players in double figures.
The Spurs led 23-22 after one quarter, but the Clippers outscored them 30-20 in the second to take a nine-point halftime lead. L.A. ended the the half on a 13-3 run after a nine-foot turnaround jumper by Aldridge put the Silver and Black up 40-39 with 4:29 left in the half. That was the last time the Spurs led.
Leonard scored 15 of his 28 points in the third period, but the Clippers ended the quarter on a 10-2 run after the Silver and Black had closed to 72-68. That's as close as the Spurs got the rest of the way. Leonard made 5 of 6 shots, including 3 of 4 from the 3-point line, in the third quarter. The Clippers outscored the Silver and Black 30-27 in the third quarter, with Griffin leading the way with 10 points.
Three other Clippers -- Jamal Crawford (12), J.J. Redick (11) and Luc Mbah a Moute (10) -- finished the game in double figures.
The Spurs shot 42.5 percent overall (34/80) and 36.4 percent (8/22 from the 3-point line. They finished with 14 turnovers that led to 13 L.A. points.
The Clippers shot 50 percent (42/84) and were 27.3 percent (6/33) from beyond the arc. L.A. had eight turnovers that the Spurs converted into five points.
The Spurs finished 31-10 at home after going 40-1 at the AT&T Center last season. They tied the 1985-86 Boston Celtics’ NBA record for most home wins in a season.
Leonard was asked who on the team needs to set the tone for the playoffs.
"Me, the veteran guys, guys that have been there before, that know what it takes to have a great playoff push," Leonard said.
Leonard added that the Spurs "definitely" will benefit from playing their last two games of the regular season with a full roster.
"Playing Portland, them being in an eighth seed trying to secure their position, that's going to be tough playing them at home," he said. "These are the type of games we want to play. We just don't want to walk over teams. We want teams to give their full effort, and we need to as well. It's going to be a great last two games for us."
The Spurs played without starting guard Danny Green (left quad contusion) and rookie point guard Dejounte Murray, who has missed 15 consecutive games with a groin injury.
Popovich said before the game that Green is OK.
"I'm just keeping him out another night just to make sure," Popovich said.
Here is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the Clippers-Spurs game Saturday night:
Final: Clippers 98, Spurs 87
Fourth quarter (3:45): Clippers 96, Spurs 85. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge returned to the game with 7:29 left, but the Silver and Black haven't been able to generate any momentum.
Fourth quarter (5:55): Clippers 92, Spurs 83. Kawhi Leonard has scored 28 points and has nailed 5 of 8 shots from beyond the arc. LaMarcus Aldridge has 18 points.
Fourth quarter (8:34): Clippers 87, Spurs 76. Former Warriors player Maurice Speights hits a 3-pointer and Jamal Crawford followed with another basket to put L.A. up 87-74. Spurs respond with a basket by David Lee.
End of third quarter: Clippers 82, Spurs 70. Kawhi Leonard scored 15 of his 25 points in the third period. L.A. ended the quarter on a 10-2 run after the Silver and Black had closed to 72-68. LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol have scored 16 and 11 points, respectively, for the Spurs. Chris Paul leads the Clippers with 19 points.
Third quarter (4:50): Clippers 68, Spurs 60. Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has scored 13 of his 23 points in the third period.
Third quarter (8:46): Clippers 60, Spurs 53. Kawhi Leonard has hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points in the first three minutes of the period. He has 18 points.
Halftime: Clippers 52, Spurs 43.
First-half notes: The Spurs led 23-22 after one quarter, but the Clippers outscored them 30-20 in the second to take a nine-point halftime lead. L.A. ended the the half on a 13-3 run after LaMarcus Aldridge scored on a nine-foot turnaround jumper to put the Silver and Black up 40-39 with 4:29 left in the half . . . Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs in the first half with 14 and 10 points, respectively . . . The Silver and Black shot 40.9 percent overall (18/44) and 20 percent (2/10) from the 3-point line . . . Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan led the Clippers with 13 points each. Paul had six points in L.A. 13-3 run to end the half. J.J. Redick had eight points in the first half and nailed 2 of 4 long-distance shots . . . L.A. shot 51.1 percent overall (23/45) and 30.8 percent (4/13) from beyond the arc . . . The Clippers outrebounded the Spurs 27-22 . . . L.A. had only one turnover and the Silver and Black had two.
Second quarter (2:53): Clippers 44, Spurs 40. L.A. has scored five unanswered points since the Silver and Black went up 40-39 on a shot by LaMarcus Aldridge.
Second quarter (5:55): Clippers 37, Spurs 36. Pau Gasol have nine points off the bench for the Silver and Black.
Second quarter (9:47): Clippers 29, Spurs 26. L.A. guard Jamal Crawford has scored five points in the first two minutes of the period.
End of first quarter: Spurs 23, Clippers 22. LaMarcus Aldridge has scored 10 points for the Silver and Black. Chris Paul leads L.A. with seven points.
First quarter (4:15):: Clippers 15, Spurs 15. J.J. Redick has five points for L.A.
First quarter (8:02): Clippers 10, Spurs 6. J.J. Redick and Chris Paul have hit a 3-pointer each..
Pregame notes: Spurs guard Danny Green (left quad contusion) will sit out Saturday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers."Danny will be OK," coach Gregg Popovich said in his pregame session with reporters. "Just keeping him out another night to make sure." Green has been inactive the previous four games. He hasn't played since logging 18 minutes in the Silver and Black's win at Oklahoma City on March 31. "I'm fine," Green said . . . Jonathon Simmons started for Green . . . Rookie point guard will miss his 15th consecutive game with a left groin injury. "He's getting closer" to playing, Popovich said. "Possibility that maybe (he'll) play the next game or two."
SPURS GAMEDAY: Silver and Black play Clippers in regular-season home finale
Los Angeles Clippers (48-31) vs. Spurs (61-18)
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, AT&T Center
Season series: Clippers lead 2-1
Last meeting: Spurs 105, Clippers 97, Feb. 24, Los Angeles
Clippers' last game: Beat Dallas Mavericks 112-101, Wednesday, Los Angeles
Spurs' last game: Beat Mavericks 102-89, Friday, Dallas
Clippers' last 10 games: 8-2, won last four
Spurs' last 10 games: 8-2, won four of last five
Notable: Spurs starting guard Danny Green (left quad contusion) and rookie point guard Dejounte Murray (left groin) are out for Saturday night's game.
SAN ANTONIO – What a difference a year can make.
After tying an NBA record with only one home loss last season, the Spurs are one defeat from finishing their 2016-17 campaign with double-digit losses at the AT&T Center.
The Silver and Black are 61-18 overall and 31-9 on their floor heading into Saturday night’s regular-season home finale against the Los Angeles Clippers.
San Antonio’s 2015-16 team went 40-1 at the AT&T Center, tying the 1985-86 Boston Celtics’ league record for most home wins in a season.
The Spurs, who have three regular-season games left, beat the Mavericks 102-89 on Friday night in Dallas to push their road record to 30-9. This is only the second season in which the Silver and Black have won at least 30 games both at home and on the road.
The Clippers (48-31) are fifth in the Western Conference standings, trailing fourth-place Utah (49-30) by only one game. Both teams have three regular-season games left.
San Antonio, which has clinched the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, will face No. 7 Memphis in the first round. Game 1 of the series will be played either April 15 or 16 at the AT&T Center.
The Grizzlies secured the seventh seed with a 101-88 home victory over the New York Knicks on Friday night. The Spurs swept an injury-depleted Memphis team in the first round last year.
The Clippers lead the season series against the Spurs 2-1, but the Silver and Black won their last meeting 105-97 on Feb. 24 in Los Angeles. The game marked the return of center Pau Gasol, who had missed 15 consecutive games with a broken left hand
Gasol finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. He hit 5 of 7 shots from the field, and was 3 for 3 from the 3-point line, matching his career high.
In his 16th NBA season, Gasol talked about the veterans on the team sharing their playoff experience with their younger teammates.
“What we’re trying to do is build the right habits during the season, so when the playoffs start, it’s a smooth transition,” Gasol said. “It’s not like you have to change, but you have to experience it.
“When I first started playing playoff games, the intensity and physicality would go up, but until I got to it and I felt it and struggled at first, it’s hard to explain the difference. We’re excited about the opportunity we do have here and let’s see what we do with it.”
A six-time All-Star, Gasol won championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010. He played the previous two seasons with Chicago before signing with San Antonio as a free agent last July.
The Silver and Black won Friday night despite playing without seven players, including four starters. Kawhi Leonard (rest), LaMarcus Aldridge (rest) and Danny Green (left quad contusion) did not make the trip to Dallas. The fourth starter, Tony Parker, suited up for the game but never left the bench.
Key reserves Manu Ginobili (right quad) and Pau Gasol (rest) also stayed in San Antonio. Rookie point guard Dejounte Murray missed his 14th consecutive game with a groin injury.
The player of the game for San Antonio was rookie guard Bryn Forbes, who led the team with 27 points and six assists. He hit 10 of 19 shots, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, and scored 22 points in the first half. Forbes, who had 17 points in the second quarter, became the first Spurs rookie since Tim Duncan in 1998 to score at least 20 points in a half.
Forward Davis Bertans, another rookie, finished with 19 points and was 5 of 9 from 3-point range. Bertans, who has made 62 shots from beyond the arc, passed Parker (61) for second in 3-pointers made by a rookie in Spurs history.
Since Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rested so many players Friday, he’ll probably play his starters for at least a half against the Clippers.
Saturday’s game will be the fourth in five nights for the Silver and Black, who end their regular season on the road against Portland on Monday and Utah on Wednesday.
Next up for the Spurs after Saturday’s game: vs. Trail Blazers, 9 p.m., Monday, Portland