Clippers Take Down Spurs 98-87 Despite 28-Point Game from Kawhi Leonard

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2017

Apr 8, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; LA Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) dribbles the ball as San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) defends during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers (49-31) needed a win Saturday night to keep pace in the race for the Western Conference's No. 4 seed, and they achieved that feat with a 98-87 triumph over the San Antonio Spurs (61-19) at AT&T Center. 

Chris Paul led the charge as the Clippers rattled off a fifth straight win dating back to March 29, and he finished with 19 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in a commanding performance. With the win, L.A. locked up a top-five seed and provided the playoff picture with some more clarity, according to CBS Sports' Matt Moore: 

DeAndre Jordan showed up with a stellar effort as well as he controlled the paint to the tune of 17 points and 17 boards. 

He also operated as Paul's primary lob partner on a night when the Clippers repeatedly imposed their will below the free-throw line, as the team's official Twitter account documented: 

And while Blake Griffin struggled at times and managed 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting, the Clippers had to be pleased with the collective effort they put forward. 

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Matched up against a San Antonio defense that entered the night ranked tops in efficiency (100.7 points per 100 possessions allowed), according to NBA.com, the Clippers shot 50 percent from the field and outscored the Spurs 48-32 in the paint. 

The Spurs, on the other hand, shot 43 percent from the field and leaned heavily on Kawhi Leonard to carry the offense on a night when they had three players finish in double-figures. Conversely, the Clippers boasted six double-figure scorers. 

Leonard, who finished with a game-high 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting, was particularly effective in the third quarter when he dropped 15 of the team's 27 points, as the San Antonio Express-News' Jabari Young illustrated: 

LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points and provided some stout defense on Griffin in the first half, per ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright, but the Spurs simply didn't have enough offensive juice to keep pace with the Clippers as Paul orchestrated a well-oiled attack with aplomb: 

However, the Spurs have nothing to fret about.

While it would have been nice to close out their home slate with another victory, they're already locked into the Western Conference's No. 2 seed and a first-round matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Clippers, on the other hand, are in a battle for for the No. 4 seed and can move into a tie for that spot if the Jazz fall to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night. The Clippers hold the tiebreaker.

However, they'll have to fend off the Houston Rockets on April 10 and the Sacramento Kings on April 12 to have a good shot at snaring home-court advantage throughout the first round of the playoffs. 

As for the Spurs, road games against the Blazers and Jazz are on deck before the postseason rolls around. 

Postgame Reaction

After the win, head coach Doc Rivers and shooting guard J.J. Redick provided their thoughts on the team's recent surge, via the Clippers' official Twitter account:  

On the Spurs front, head coach Gregg Popovich said he won't be resting his starters for the final two games of the regular season because they've already had the luxury of resting, according to Wright

Among those in favor of that move were center Pau Gasol, who said the Spurs had room to improve Saturday night: 

Popovich later told reporters he was disappointed with the way Paul "sliced and diced" the Spurs' defense, per the San Antonio Express-NewsMelissa Rohlin

In other words, expect the Spurs to wash away Saturday's woes and round into form quickly as Popovich readies his squad for a deep postseason run. 

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