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Clippers dominant from start to finish in rout of Spurs

Clippers' Kawhi Leonard passes the ball as he is defended by San Antonio Spurs' Drew Eubanks and Keldon Johnson.
Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard passes the ball as he is defended by San Antonio Spurs’ Drew Eubanks, left, and Keldon Johnson during the first half Wednesday in San Antonio.
(Darren Abate / Associated Press)

The roster used by the Clippers was unstoppable to start Wednesday’s first quarter, clinical to end the second and dominant during the second half of a 134-101 victory in San Antonio.

There’s no guarantee that roster will look the same when these teams meet again Thursday night.

With two open roster spots and championship ambitions, the Clippers are expected to remain active leading up to Thursday’s noon PDT deadline for trades, even if the team has been said to feel largely content with the team’s makeup as is. Their front office has made two trades the day of the deadline each of the past two seasons and this year, league observers have said help beyond the perimeter has been the primary target. Their search could extend beyond the deadline based on options available in the buyout market.

As someone who was traded five times in 11 NBA seasons, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he didn’t address deadline talk as the team departed for San Antonio and focus was never an issue once the game started.

The Clippers followed an 11-2 start with a 12-2 run, and after their 18-point lead was trimmed to five in the second quarter, their 7-0 finish to the second quarter pushed their buffer to 14 at halftime. The Spurs never cut their deficit to fewer than 10 again en route to a third consecutive loss.

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“No one’s discussing trades or trade rumors,” said Kawhi Leonard, who scored a team-high 25 points. “We talking about the basketball game, that’s all you can control.”

Luke Kennard shows he could help the Clippers fill some roles come postseason because of his recent performances.

Even with Paul George missing all six of his three-point attempts, the Clippers won their third in a row by making 53% of their shots from deep. Marcus Morris scored 20 points by making five of his seven three-point attempts, including four in the first quarter. It marked a league-high ninth time this season the Clippers have made more than 50% of their three-point tries.

The Clippers (29-16) committed only eight turnovers, their fourth time in their last five games with nine or fewer. San Antonio (22-19) — the league’s best at limiting turnovers entering Wednesday — turned the ball over 16 times, leading to 28 Clippers points. Leonard had five of the Clippers’ 10 steals.

“Active, disruptive,” Lue said. “Brought a physicality to the game.”

The performance came two days after a 22-point rally to beat Atlanta sparked by Lue’s decision to bench his starters en masse. After Luke Kennard’s 20-point performance against the Hawks, Lue said the guard who had fallen out of the rotation had “earned something,” and that meant first-quarter minutes against the Spurs. Kennard was inserted alongside Nicolas Batum and Terance Mann, the pair of reserves who, along with Kennard, helped spark the comeback.

Kennard finished with six points in 13 minutes, while Mann had seven points and Batum 13.

Lou Williams, who had been offered in trade talks to start the season but as of last week was no longer expected to be dealt, reached 15,000 career points by scoring 16 points. After not playing in the second half against Atlanta, he scored 11 points after halftime inside AT&T Center.

“In my eyes, he’s the greatest sixth man ever,” Morris said.

The showcase of last year’s deadline was a three-team trade that netted starting forward Morris. There’s no indication whether the Clippers will be able to pull off a move Thursday that could shake up their rotation to that degree.

From Ralph Lawler to Doc Rivers to Elton Brand, many were touched by the leadership of Elgin Baylor, the former executive and Lakers great who died.

Though they own a slew of second-round picks, they don’t own their first-round pick outright until 2027 and their willingness to part with other pieces of a roster that has produced the league’s fourth-best net rating is not believed to be strong, as one league source said this month. As the Clippers left the All-Star break, the belief was that the team would count on better health and moves it could make around the margins to set up their playoff roster.

As the Clippers’ most promising young player, 23-year-old center Ivica Zubac has heard his name in trade rumors. He underscored his value again Wednesday, with 14 points, eight rebounds and two highlight-worthy dunks starting in place of the injured Serge Ibaka. Lue said he did not know the timeline for a potential return for Ibaka (lower back tightness) and guard Patrick Beverley (right knee), who have each missed at least the last 10 days.

Zubac said this week he didn’t sense a tense atmosphere around the team as the deadline approached.

“If I didn’t get on social media I wouldn’t really know it’s the trade deadline,” he said. “It is what it is. We all know how NBA works. It’s a business so there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Three takeaways

  1. Despite continuing the team’s first win streak in more than five weeks, Kawhi Leonard said “we not there yet” when asked about the team’s consistency.
  2. Coach Tyronn Lue has asked for better defensive effort, and that was led by Leonard against the Spurs. “Kawhi took the challenge and whenever he starts the game it sets the tone for us, he gets everybody else to follow him,” Lue said.
  3. The Clippers have taken one of the NBA’s smallest percentages of shots at the rim but took 23 of their 88 shots there Wednesday. Lue said he’s seen a shift recently in the team’s intent to attack the basket more often.

UP NEXT

AT SAN ANTONIO

When: 5:30 PDT, Thursday.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330.

Update: The Spurs are now 5-10 at home against Western Conference opponents. The Clippers are 7-0 this season on the second night of a back-to-back.


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