The San Antonio Spurs fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in an all-too-familiar fourth-quarter collapse on Wednesday night, succumbing to the products of an anemic half-court offense and poor defense. Despite another tough loss, Gregg Popovich and company must regroup for the second leg of a SEGABAB against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Their Pacific Division challengers got the best of them in the first three meeting, but Silver and Black will have one last chance to pick up a win and avoid falling on the wrong end of a regular-season series sweep for the second time in 24 hours. Will San Antonio get the last laugh in La-La Land, or will Kawhi Leonard end up on top?
January 26, 2022 | 9:30 p.m. CST
See: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs: Dominick Barlow (Low — Two-Way), Charles Bassey (Low — Two-Way), Devin Vassell (Low — Knee), Blake Wesley (Low — On Assignment), Romeo Langford (Low — Adductor)
Pair of scissors: Marcus Morris Sr. (TIME Decision: Ribs), Luke Kennard (TIME Decision: Calf), John Wall (Out: Abdomen)
what to observe
- Kawhi Leonard is starting to look like the superstar player he used to be before an untimely ACL injury sidelined him for about a year and a half. The 31-year-old forward has performed at an incredible level in his last eight appearances, averaging 29.3 points, 7.0 boards and 3.8 assists on unrealistic .556/.472/.925 shooting divisions. Spurs fans witnessed the dominance of their franchise’s former face last week when he exploded for a season-high 36 points in a narrow win over San Antonio, and The Klaw will have the luxury of home court advantage. in this round. Jeremy Sochan and Keldon Johnson spent most of the night covering Leonard, but neither could find an answer to his extensive arsenal of scoring. Although adding different coverages and defenders might result in a slight improvement, the Spurs still have Paul George and Normal Powell to worry about.
- Watching Jeremy Sochan make tangible strides in his development with each passing game has been one of the most enjoyable facets of a frustrating season. The rookie forward began his tenure with the Spurs in less than impressive fashion, looking lost on the floor as he blocked more than half of his free throw attempts and missed on open 3-pointers. Since then, he’s switched to a one-handed shot on the charity strip, earned a Western Conference Rookie of the Month nomination, performed more ballhandling reps and made a trifecta in four straight contests. All of those feats are extraordinary, but his increased aggressiveness on the offensive end has been an uplifting sight for the Silver and Black faithful. Sochan has averaged 15.8 points in his last five games, making him the second-highest scorer on the list during that time period. Despite a limited repertoire, the 19-year-old has a knack for picking his spots.
- We’ve discussed San Antonio’s miserable defense ad nauseam, and the truth is that they lack the right personnel and experience to flip the script on their struggles this season. Gregg Popovich has spent less time yelling his head off on the sidelines and more time patiently teaching his youngsters the ins and outs of the game during breaks between possessions. Anyone can see how disconnected the Spurs are on the defensive end. But every night there are small individual victories, even if all the losses make it seem otherwise. Instead of ducking your head when the Clippers inevitably put 120 points on the scoreboard, look for the positive moments within the 100 possessions that fit in a 48-minute window. Jakob Poeltl, Jeremy Sochan and Tre Jones combine promising flashes that hint at a brighter future if PATFO can figure out how to supplement this roster with talented two-way pieces.
For the perspective of Clippers fans, visit Clip Nation.
Game Thread will be available tonight for those who want to chat during the game. You can also follow the action on PtR’s Twitter.