The Spurs savoured their finest shooting performance of the season. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points, and San Antonio made a season-high 15 3-pointers to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 120-107 on Tuesday night.
“We had 33 assists, which is a great unselfish game, really good. A lot of people participated. Making shots does make things simpler,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “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 the combinations that are out there right now.”
San Antonio set several season-highs in capturing its third straight win. The Spurs had a season-best 12 steals and 33 assists, and Danny Green, Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol all set or matched their best scoring output of the season. Green scored 24 points, Gay had 22 and Gasol added 19. The trio combined to make 11 of 15 3-pointers.
San Antonio finished 15-for-28 from beyond the arc. The Spurs were dominant in the third quarter for the second straight game. After routing Phoenix by 21 points in the third quarter Sunday, San Antonio outscored the Clippers by 19 (40-21).
“Because of the way the first half went, it was a winnable game for both teams,” Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said. “But the difference was they came out and executed the same way in the second half on both ends and we didn’t.”
The Clippers shot 8 for 21 in the third quarter while committing six turnovers. The Spurs trailed 55-52 entering the second half, but opened the third on a 23-11 run and extended their lead to 17 points in the final minute of the quarter.
“We came out in the third quarter with a much better mindset defensively,” Gasol said. “That’s always going to be a factor and kind of key. See if we can extend for longer periods of time so we don’t give up 55 points in the first half like we have the last two games.”
The Spurs made six 3s in the quarter, with Gay and Green both making two. Green and Aldridge each had eight points in the third. Aldridge, Gasol and Green all made a 3-pointer in the first five minutes as the team shot 6-for-9 on 3s to open the game.
Green finished 8 for 15, including 4 for 6 on 3-pointers. “When he’s doing that, teams are kind of hesitant to double team,” Aldridge said.
The Clippers shot 51 percent from the field in the first half but committed 18 turnovers.
Austin Rivers led Los Angeles with 24 points. Blake Griffin added 15 points on 4-for-13 shooting. The Clippers played without starting small forward Danilo Gallinari for the first time this season, while the Spurs continued without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker.
Clippers: Gallinari did not play after battling a strained left glute for about a week. Following Sunday’s home loss to Miami, Gallinari told reporters he could barely walk on it. It was the first game the nine-year veteran has missed this season. … Wesley Johnson made his first start of the season. … The Clippers had been undefeated on the road. They are 2-4 at home. … Los Angeles is 1-4 since winning its first four games.
Spurs: Reserve forward Joffrey Lauvergne missed his eighth straight game with sprained right ankle. … Aldridge blocked a shot for the 18th straight game, the league’s longest active streak. … Spurs rookie Derrick White will have to wear a cast for four to five weeks after fracturing his right wrist on Saturday while playing for San Antonio’s G League affiliate in Austin. … San Antonio’s previous high for 3-pointers was 12 against Boston on Oct. 30.
Shouting could be heard from the Clippers’ locker room as they held a players-only meeting that lasted almost half an hour after the game ended.
The players did not comment on the meeting but mentioned the team’s defence needs to improve.
“We have no excuse, to be honest,” Austin Rivers said. “We have the best defensive five in the NBA. We have the best defensive point guard in the NBA. I consider myself an elite, top five shooting-defensive guard in the league. We have too many good defenders. We should be a top-five defensive team without a doubt.”
Popovich said before the game that Leonard’s rehabilitation from a quadriceps injury has been slower than Parker’s. Parker, who’s coming off left quadriceps surgery, has worked out with San Antonio’s G League affiliate and has been shooting before home games. He’s expected to return in mid-to-late November.
Leonard, meanwhile, has made slower progress in rehabilitating right quadriceps tendinopathy. “(Leonard) is just coming along more slowly, for whatever reason,” Popovich said. “It’s just been more difficult for him to get through the rehab routine. His body hasn’t reacted the same way. Tony is at the point where he has been going five-on-five and that sort of thing. … It will be a few more weeks, but he’s definitely going in the right direction, and so is Kawhi. It’s just been taking a little bit longer.”
Popovich said Leonard will go through the same workouts before he returns. “Sure, I wouldn’t want him to go right from rehab to jumping on the court,” Popovich said. “He’s got to go three-on-three, five-on-five, feel comfortable. … You’re really not until you’re mentally ready to go.”
Clippers: Visit Oklahoma City on Friday night in the Thunder’s first home game after a three-game road trip.
Spurs: Host Milwaukee on Friday night in the fifth of a six-game homestand.