LaMarcus Aldridge demolished interior defenders, putting up 38 points and seven rebounds to hand the San Antonio Spurs a 122-111 holiday road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
“[Aldridge] destroyed all of our bigs tonight,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “We went one-on-one. Decided not to trap. We don’t like to trap, overall and they took advantage of it.”
Marco Belinelli scored 11 off the bench for the Spurs. Demar DeRozan snatched 13 rebounds and contributed 25 points. Rudy Gay posted 12 points. Derrick White supplied 12 points in 29 minutes.
“They were far more physical than us,” Rivers said. “We’ve just got to go look at it and see what we didn’t do right.”
Tobias Harris scored 16 points and shot 5-of-6 from the foul line. Avery Bradley chipped in 10 points, dished out four assists, grabbed seven rebounds. Harrell brought 21 points and five rebounds off the bench. Patrick Beverley (eight points) and Lou Williams (16 points) helped spark the Clippers offense.
“I think it was a bad game overall,” said Williams. “We didn’t play our best basketball. You could see the difference of how important the game was and they took it to us.”
The Spurs began second half play on fire, quickly outscoring the Clippers 8-2 to gain an eight-point lead. Derozan scored five straight points and White converted an and-one for San Antonio. Gay scored two consecutive baskets, including a one-handed jam after floating down the right lane.
“That first six minutes of the third is when the game really changed,” Rivers said. “They came out and went downhill every time.”
Derozan, Aldridge and White combined for six straight San Antonio points. Davis Bertans laid in an open shot off another Clipper turnover, and the Clippers suddenly found themselves trailing 81-64 seven minutes into the third quarter. Patty Mills made two straight 25-foot 3-point jumpers to extend the Spurs lead to 91-68. San Antonio outscored the Clippers 39-19 during the third quarter.
Gay fouled out with 3:03 left in the game, with San Antonio leading by 16. Harrell cut the San Antonio lead to 10 with nearly two minutes remaining. DeRozan converted on two foul shots to push the Spurs’ lead back to double digits.
“Against a team like the Spurs who have been playing well the past month, you’ve got to play for 48 minutes,” Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari (21 points) said.
The Clippers (21-15 overall) loss to San Antonio is their first defeat in city edition uniforms. The Clippers drop to 2-2 over their last four games. San Antonio improves to 9-3 over their last 12. The Spurs (20-17 overall) are currently in a battle with Sacramento for the eighth spot in the Western Conference, but are also just over two games away from reaching the top five.
Oddly enough, the Clippers shot 45 percent from behind the arc. San Antonio made just 26.1 percent of their 3-point attempts, but gained advantages elsewhere. The Spurs hit 28 of their 31 free throws, while the Clippers shot above 78 percent. Los Angeles committed 17 turnovers. San Antonio outscored the Clippers in both fast break points (26-16) and points in the paint (48-42).
Derozan spun off Harris, bulldozed to the rim and ferociously dunked to ignite Spurs faithful who made the trip to Staples Center. A San Antonio turnover led to Williams pushing the pace in transition and banking it in off glass plus a foul. Derozan fell victim to a technical foul, but Williams shot 1-of-2 at the line. Harrell poked away a Gay pass attempt and Beverly nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner to end the first quarter. San Antonio held a narrow 32-30 advantage after one.
The Spurs opened action on a 14-4 run behind seven points from Aldridge. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Bradley responded out of a Rivers timeout with two straight 3-pointers to stop San Antonio’s run. Gay blazed through the passing lane, stole a sloppy Clipper pass and slammed it at the other end. After two straight Gallinari midrange buckets, however, the Clippers pulled within five.
Beverly splashed his second three-point shot of the first half from the right wing to give the Clippers their first lead at 42-40, roughly four minutes into the second quarter. White converted from the outside to put San Antonio back in front. Harris and Aldridge followed by trading baskets. Harrell missed inside and Bryn Forbes (10 points) made a 3-pointer, forcing Rivers into a timeout.
San Antonio led by four with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. Beverly drove to the rim and kicked to Mike Scott for a right corner trey to end the first half. The Clippers and San Antonio headed to the break all knotted up at 56. Aldridge poured in 22 points in the first half to lead all players.
“We were not able to impose our game and our basketball,” Gallinari said.
Next up for the Clippers, Philadelphia (23-13 overall) comes to Los Angeles for a New Year’s Day clash.
“Hopefully we can have a great push and second half of the season in 2019,” Gallinari said.
Three of the Clippers next four games are at Staples Center. The Spurs take a 2-1 regular season series lead over Los Angeles, with one more game at Staples to be played Jan. 20. The Spurs begin a three game homestand on Dec. 31 against Boston (21-14 overall), followed by matchups with Toronto (26-11 overall) and Memphis (18-17 overall).
Blake Atwell is a multimedia journalist and sophomore at Santa Monica College.