HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This hasn’t always been the case, but there is no shame in losing to the Los Angeles Clippers these days. They are among the NBA elite and one of the few squads capable of going into San Antonio and dropping the hometown team on a given night.
Just don’t tell that to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (above), whose choice words for his team after Monday night’s 92-87 loss could not be confused. Not only did his Spurs lose, but Popovich roasted them for an uneven effort against a fellow Western Conference contender in a way that only a couple of his peers (Doc Rivers and George Karl, maybe) could do without offending the sensibilities of the whole locker room.
And even if he did set off a few alarms in his locker room with his comments, Popovich has the resume (not to mention the game tape) to back up his words.
“Of all of our games, this is in the soft category,” he said calmly. “We never had five guys that competed hard enough to win the basketball game, the Clippers took it with their aggressiveness and toughness, both mentally and physically. And I thought for a portion of that game we were an embarrassment. So we’ve got to look at that and look at the film and make sure everybody understands that this is a game that has to be played with competitiveness for 48 minutes. And that’s the bottom line.”
This is the second time this season the Clippers have staggered the mighty Spurs, so maybe Popovich senses that this is more than just a bad night. The Clippers wore them out 106-84 two weeks ago today at Staples Center. Last night’s win provided the Clippers with multiple wins over the Spurs in the same season for the first time since the 1996-97 season. That fact no doubt irks Popovich even more, especially considering these two could see each other down the line somewhere … perhaps even in the postseason.
Maybe he was trying to make sure Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan recognize the threat that the Clippers have become with Chris Paul at the helm?
“They are legit,” Popovich said of the Clippers before the game.
In his team’s defense, the Spurs did lose Stephen Jackson to a broken finger (he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks). And Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps tendinitis) wasn’t available.
But that still doesn’t explain the Spurs’ second quarter meltdown that saw the Clippers outscore them 29-14 as the Spurs shot a putrid 3-for-8 from the floor and committed seven turnovers.
That might be the stretch of “embarrassment” Popovich referred to.
All that said, the Spurs are a healthy 8-3 on the season and have handed out their fair share of beatings. But 11 games seems like more than enough time for Popovich to formulate a properly nuanced message or two for his team in regards to where they stand against the rest of the best in the Western Conference.