(The Sports Xchange) - The understood goal of any second unit in the NBA is to do all it can to hold its ground while its team’s starters get time to rest. So when the reserves add to a lead or flip the flow of the game from one team to another, it’s an unexpected bonus.
San Antonio’s bench and defense were all the difference Tuesday as the Spurs’ reserves helped turn a close game into a rout in the fourth quarter and walloped the Los Angeles Clippers 108-87 Tuesday night.
Kawhi Leonard poured in 20 points to lead five San Antonio players in double figures. But the Spurs (57-10) led by just a point heading to the final quarter before running away from Los Angeles in the first four minutes of the period and never looking back.
Reserve David West had all eight of his points in that fourth-quarter run, and reserve Patty Mills had seven in that stretch. The Spurs eventually expanded their lead to 99-79 and wound up winning by 21.
“They turned up the intensity and the pressure a little bit and put a 37-point fourth quarter on us,” the Clippers’ Chris Paul said. “There are a lot of things that happened over the course of the game for that separation to happen.”
The victory was San Antonio’s 33rd straight at home to open the season and extended the club’s home-game regular-season win streak to a franchise-best 42 games, dating back to a loss to Cleveland last March. The Spurs’ home streak the third-longest in NBA history, behind Chicago’s 44-game regular-season run in 1995-96 and the continuing streak by Golden State (49 games).
LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points for the Spurs, while Mills had 15. Manu Ginobili hit for 13 points, and Danny Green scored 12 on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
“Our guys competed and we got a big-time spark off the bench,” Aldridge said. “David (West) was huge and Patty (Mills) brought a lot of juice and energy for us. They definitely carried us down the stretch.”
Chris Paul led the Clippers with 22 points and eight assists. DeAndre Jordan added 16 points and 14 rebounds for Los Angeles, and Jeff Green and J.J. Redick scored 15 and 14 points, respectively.
The San Antonio bench outscored the Clippers 51-20. The Spurs outrebounded Los Angeles 42-27 and had 25 assists to the Clippers’ 15.
“It was one of those nights when out second unity just didn’t have a lot,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “In the first half (our second unit) got great shots and missed them all — I think they had three points in the first half. The same thing happened in the second half and then I thought they lost their spirit.”
The Clippers (42-24) took things right to San Antonio in the opening minutes, starting the game with an alley-oop pass from Paul for a dunk by Jordan and building 10-6 lead. The Spurs grabbed the momentum and the lead on an Aldridge left-handed hook and boosted their advantage to 18-15 on two free throws by reserve Kevin Martin.
However, the Clippers finished the period with a flurry, as two baskets by Paul and two free throws from Jamal Crawford granted Los Angeles a 21-19 lead at the end of the quarter.
San Antonio’s bench provided a huge boost at the start of the second quarter, fashioning a 13-1 run that handed the Spurs a 31-22 lead. That margin grew to as many as 12 points, at 45-33 on a turnaround jumper by Aldridge, before the Clippers started chipping away, outscoring San Antonio 11-3 in the final minute to get back to within 48-44 at halftime.
Paul led all scorers with 18 points at the half, while the Spurs got 14 from Leonard and 13 from Aldridge in the first 24 minutes of play.
The intensity was increased in the third quarter, and the teams played a nearly even period. Green’s 3-pointer from the right wing brought the Clippers even, and Crawford’s pullup jumper with 14.7 seconds to play gave Los Angeles its first lead since the first quarter.
San Antonio snatched back the advantage on a running baseline jumper from reserve Kyle Anderson that went through the net with no time on the clock, and the Spurs led 71-70 heading into the final period.
The Spurs opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run that was keyed by three inside baskets by West and a ringing 3-pointer by Ginobili. San Antonio ended up making 15 of its 21 shots in the final period while Los Angeles made just six of 16.
“We adjusted well and we played a way better second half — everyone could see that,” Ginobili said. “We were more energetic and aggressive and more focused. The bench players try to make a push every time, and last year the Clippers’ second unit created a lot of trouble for us. Today we were more successful.”