James Harden and the Clippers show flashes of dominance while running over the Spurs

Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — If you’re an NBA team trying to find out who you are, it helps to face an opponent stuck in an even more troubling spot.

The Clippers arrived in San Antonio having just broken their six-game losing streak. Against the struggling Spurs, however, they looked like the juggernaut they hope to become in the months ahead.

With San Antonio committing 15 turnovers and making only nine of its 36 three-pointers, and rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama unable to make a dent with only nine points in 12 shots, the Clippers led by as many as 28 points and barely needed to play their starters in the final quarter.

And just like that, as one streak ends, another begins — a two-game winning streak that leaves the Clippers 5-7.

Paul George scored a game-high 28 points, with Kawhi adding 21 points. Backup center Daniel Theis was a revelation with 19 points in only his second game.


James Harden scored 13 points in 12 shots, but he was at his best as a facilitator. In the first quarter, as he assisted on five of the Clippers’ first 11 baskets, he found Leonard for three-pointers and centers Ivica Zubac and Theis at the rim. He finished with 10 assists that led to 23 points.

The Clippers built an 11-point lead in a remarkably clean first half during which they finished with 14 assists and only two turnovers. Harden and George each recorded five assists in a first half where the biggest difference between the teams was free throws, with the Clippers attempting 11 more.

San Antonio turned heads around the NBA by sweeping Phoenix on the road twice during the season’s second week as Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall draft pick, refused to wilt against Kevin Durant.

But there are reasons the Spurs (3-11) have been in free fall since, losing their last nine games. Even when the Clippers made just two of their 12 three-pointers in the third quarter — with Harden personally making one of his six attempts — San Antonio missed all six of its tries. Seven of its possessions in the quarter were ended by Clippers steals.

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