Wed, 29 Mar 2023

Rising Clippers square off with slumping Spurs

Field Level Media
26 Jan 2023, 20:19 GMT+10

Fresh off one of their best victories of the season and starting to play as they expected, the Los Angeles Clippers will take their new-found success up against the visiting San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.

The Clippers are on a three-game winning streak, a run that started with a 131-126 victory at San Antonio on Friday. It is their longest string of victories since a three-game streak in the middle of December.

The Clippers finally have stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in a flow after both struggled with injuries and inconsistency this season.

The injury bug has been a roster-wide problem for Los Angeles, as sharpshooter Luke Kennard (calf) has been out for three weeks and backup point guard John Wall (abdomen) has been sidelined for two weeks. In addition, Marcus Morris Sr. left the Clippers' 133-115 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday due to a rib injury.

Without Morris for most of the game, the Clippers still were able to do plenty of damage with Leonard and George combining for 52 points while going 22 of 36 (61.1 percent) from the field. Norman Powell, who added 22 points, has averaged 24.3 the past four games.

"Offensively, we scored 133 points scoring the basketball with P.G. in a rhythm, Kawhi in a rhythm," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. "That's kind of what you envision coming into the season. We're still not there yet, we have a long way to go, but I love the process and I love our guys putting in the work."

Against the Spurs on Friday, Leonard put up 36 points, taking it to his former team with his highest scoring game of the season. Since leaving San Antonio following the 2017-18 season, Leonard has averaged 25.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists in 10 games against the Spurs.

While Leonard forced a trade out of San Antonio, he has no animosity toward Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. The two shared a cordial embrace after the Friday game with the veteran coach even getting the stoic Leonard to crack a smile.

"He's one of the finest players in the league," Popovich said. "We're talking about the very top of the list. He's with those guys."

San Antonio will be playing for the second time in two nights at Los Angeles after falling 113-104 to the Lakers on Wednesday. Keldon Johnson scored 25 points and Zach Collins added 16 as the Spurs lost for the eighth time in their last nine games and the 11th time in their past 13.

Jeremy Sochan added 14 points for San Antonio but left in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury and did not return.

"The effort was there," Popovich said. "We're getting better day by day. We just got to keep the faith and work on everything that we think we need to shore up and that's a lot of different areas. But they're a willing group and great to work with. We can't get frustrated. We have to keep on playing. That's the only choice."

The Spurs have lost six of their past eight meetings with the Clippers, including all three this season, with Thursday's game the completion of the season series. San Antonio has been swept in a season series by Los Angeles just once, in 1996-97.

--Field Level Media

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