Clippers fade, lose after Spurs’ late scoring run

The Clippers had the thread – and then they didn’t.

The San Antonio Spurs used a 12-2 run over the final 7:24 of Saturday’s game to wipe out a third-quarter surge from the otherwise offensively challenged Clippers, who lost 101-94 on before a crowd of 13,223 at AT&T Center in San Antonio.

Afterward, the Clippers lamented the long scoreless swaths of the game that led to their second consecutive loss – even though they grabbed a season-high 21 offensive rebounds and took a season-high-tying 100 shots – 17 more than the Spurs.

“We played good enough to win the game,” Clippers Coach Tyronn Lue said. “Just couldn’t score the basketball. Had too many six-, seven-minute stretches where we didn’t score the basketball.”

The Clippers were plagued by another poor shooting night, going 38% from the field and 31.6% from 3-point range.

Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. – the starters who the Clippers most rely on for offense with All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George injured and sidelined indefinitely – finished 3 for 14 and 6 for 17, respectively.

Even so, the Clippers, now 21-23, had a chance to pull back to .500 thanks largely to Amir Coffey, who continued his recent ascent and led the Clippers with 20 points, and Serge Ibaka, the veteran center who scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

Their contributions allowed the Clippers to at least crack 90 points for the first time in three games – although they couldn’t reach the 100-point threshold for the third consecutive game and the 14th time this season.

The Spurs (16-27) earned the tiebreaker with the victory because Saturday’s game was the third and final meeting between the teams after they split a pair in L.A. earlier this season.

The Clippers endured another clunker of an opening half Saturday, when they shot just 35.3% from field and 23.8% from 3-point range. Even so, they trailed just 57-46 at halftime.

And they finally finally found a semblance of rhythm in the third quarter, outscoring San Antonio 33-29 as Coffey went 4 of 5 in for 10 of his 20 points in the third to help the Clippers claw to within 77-70. Ibaka – who also had 10 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass – scored six points in the period.

Then the Clippers started the fourth quarter 4 for 4 to extend a 16-2 run that gave them an 88-85 lead less than two minutes into the final frame.

Ibaka’s energy was going a long way to fuel their in-game resurgence, with plays such as when the veteran ripped away an offensive rebound from three Spurs and, realizing the ball hadn’t hit the rim as the shot clock was winding away, lofted a heady hook right back up for his 10th points of the game. That pushed the Clippers’ lead 92-87, the was the largest it would get.

“Just bring some energy and just play hard,” Ibaka said. “Just try to do my job and be myself.”

When Ibaka – who started 0 for 5 but finished 4 for 11 – checked out after 13 consecutive minutes of action, he was spent and smiling with 5:12 to go in the fourth and the game tied 92-92.

But the Clippers’ momentum left the court with him.

They scored only two more points on Terance Mann’s cutting layup with 4:18 to play and missed their final seven field goal attempts thereafter.

“I felt we got a little stagnant at the end,” said Coffey, who in his last five games as a starter is shooting 53.2% from the floor 48.1% from 3-point range and averaging 14.2 points. “We had some open shots and missed them but we had some momentum going and kind of started going back and forth.”

The Clippers didn’t even have to contend with Jakob Poeltl, who had 17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks against the Clippers in their last meeting, but who missed Saturday’s game with an ailing back.

In stepped others; Derrick White, in his first game back after missing five contests in health and safety protocols, led the Spurs with 19 points.

Six other Spurs finished in double figures, including Dejounte Murray (18), Keldon Johnson (17) and Keita Bates-Diop (13). Jock Landale, Devin Vassell and Lonnie Walker all chipped in with 10 – Walker scoring nine of his points in the first three minutes of the game.

And they hurt the Clippers on the free-throw line, going 22 for 27 – compared with the Clippers’ 6 for 8 free-throw shooting tally.

In his first game since suffering a sprained ankle on Dec. 18, Isaiah Hartenstein subbed in for Ibaka with 9:48 to play in the second quarter and promptly made all three of his shots – a dunk and two floaters – in his only six minutes Saturday.

Morris Sr. tallied 15 points and Nicolas Batum (4 for 9) had 13 for the Clippers.

The teams tied on the boards, 54-54 and the Clippers had the rare-for-them edge in offensive rebounds, 21-15.

And although the Clippers closed the second quarter on a 9-2 run that cut what was a 16-point lead to 56-47 entering halftime, it didn’t matter: The Spurs would weather the Clippers’ rally and can now boast a 13-3 record this season whenever they build a lead of 15 points or more.