It wasn’t particularly pretty, but a win is a win. Even if it comes against a depleted team missing its top two scorers.
The Spurs socked away another victory on Monday night at the AT&T Center, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 109-91 in Kawhi Leonard's home debut this season.
Veteran guard Manu Ginobili said he was “kind of satisfied” with the win that pushed San Antonio’s record to 21-10.
“I think the ball movement was there,” he said. “We looked better offensively, but again, we played a team that is struggling, and that is missing a lot of players. I think we could have played better. But at the same time, I think there were some signs of more aggressive defense, of moving the ball sharper. So, some things we get from this game.”
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs in scoring for the 26th time in their 31 games, finishing with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He also had eight rebounds.
Point guard Tony Parker had one of his best games since returning to the lineup after overcoming the worst injury of his career. He hit 7 of 9 shots, scored 16 points and dished out seven assists in 23 minutes.
“I know better than anybody else,” backup forward Rudy Gay said, when asked to assess Parker’s progress since returning from such an extended absence on the court. Gay tore an Achilles tendon last season when he played with Sacramento.
“When you go through an injury, you have to get your confidence back, get your legs under you first, and then get your confidence back,” Gay said. “He’s doing that pretty quickly and in limited minutes, so he’s doing a great job.”
The Clippers (11-18) played without five injured players, including starters Blake Griffin, guard Lou Williams and forward Wesley Johnson.
Starting point guard Patrick Beverley has been out since having season-ending knee surgery last month, and backup forward Danilo Gallinari missed Monday night’s game with a left glute contusion.
Griffin, an All-Star forward, averaged 23.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists before going down with a sprained left knee Nov. 27. He is expected to miss two months.
Williams, sidelined with a right foot sprain, is averaging career highs in points (19.9), assists (4.9), minutes (30.9), three-point shooting (39.1 percent) and free-throw shooting (89.8 percent). He has taken up the scoring slack in Griffin’s absence.
Asked if it was difficult to play against such an undermanned team, Spurs point guard Tony Parker said: “Not really because we are going through the same thing. We don’t have everybody and we have a lot of guys in minute restrictions and stuff like that. Other teams are coming at us and we have to do the same thing. We have to respect them, and everybody can play in the NBA.”
While the Spurs aren’t missing as many players as the Clippers – backup forward Kyle Anderson has been sidelined with a left MCL sprain – they face the task of adjusting to playing with All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard again after he missed the first 27 games of the season.
Leonard played 16 minutes Monday night, finishing with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting and four rebounds. It was only his third game back since returning to the lineup last Tuesday. Leonard had been sidelined with tendinopathy in his right quadriceps since before the start of training camp.
Leonard had scored in double figures in 110 consecutive games before falling short Monday night.
“It’s going to take some time,” Parker said, referring to developing chemistry with Leonard. “I think it’s his third game back, and only playing in the first half. Like I said, it’s going to take some time for him to get back his rhythm and then make sure everybody finds their role in the team. We’re definitely going to need Kawhi Leonard at his best if we want to do anything this year.”
Parker missed the entire preseason and the Spurs’ first 19 games before making his debut Nov. 27. He has played in nine games since his return and performed well in the win over the Clippers.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Parker said, when he was asked about his confidence after coming back from the worst injury of his career. “I just have to be patient. It’s going to come slowly but surely. I’m just happy to be out there and just play. Me, too, I’m on a minute restriction and can’t play back-to-back. I just have to be patient and it will come.”
The Spurs led 31-17 after one quarter and 57-49 at the half. The Clippers drew to within two, 67-65, on a three-pointer by Jamil Wilson with 5:33 left in the third period. But the Silver and Black squelched the rally with a 16-1 run that put them ahead 83-66 with 2:55 remaining in the quarter. The Spurs went on to finish the period on an 18-5 run.
Ginobili led the bench with 13 points and five assists. Gay (12) and Patty Mills (11) rounded out San Antonio’s double-digit scoring. Pau Gasol paced the Silver and Black under the boards, finishing with 12 rebounds.
Wilson and DeAndre Jordan led the Clippers’ scoring with 13 points each. Austin Rivers had 12 points, followed by Montrezl Harrell (11) and Willie Reed (10).
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was asked what he thought about the Spurs.
“They have a lot of talent, number one,” he said. “Number two, they are extremely well coached, and they play together. They play like a team. That’s what makes them so good.”
The Silver and Black start a three-game road trip at Portland on Wednesday.