The Clippers won their fifth game in a row on Saturday night, beating the Hawks 120-113 behind star performances from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
The Clippers got off to an early lead, mostly behind multiple threes from Paul George, who was sizzling to tart. However, over the first quarter, the Hawks were able to work their way into a small lead of their own, as the Clippers’ offense went dormant over the second half of the period. The bench working their way in did not help matter, and the Clips trailed by six after one.
The Clippers’ bench did not look great on defense to start the quarter, so even though Norm, Nico, and Reggie all hit threes, the Hawks’ lead remained at around the nine to 11 point mark. That all changed when Zu returned for Moussa Diabate, as he strengthened the Clippers’ defense significantly and ate the Hawks up around the rim. PG continued to hit shots and find Zu in the short roll, and the Clippers eventually took the lead back around the mid-way point of the quarter. The rest of the half was frantic, with both teams turning the ball over and going up and down the court quickly. When the dust settled, Kawhi, PG, and Zu (39 of the Clippers’ 58 points) had the Clippers up five at half.
The third quarter was really mostly uneventful outside of Kawhi going off, as he scored 13 points in the period to keep the Clippers ahead. Nobody else on the Clippers really got going, but their defense was effective enough in holding the Hawks to 28 points, maintaining a three-point Clippers lead entering the final frame.
The Clippers had a 9-1 run to start the period sparked by seven points from Reggie Jackson, who looked in control and like he was having a ball. The lead briefly hit 12 after a Norm three before Trae Young restored order, and the Clippers lead was down to seven in the blink of an eye with 8:11 to go. Kawhi Leonard came back in to settle things down, and the Clippers right away got to work, with a Kawhi middy, Norm drive, and Reggie three swiftly getting the lead back to 12. Zu made a couple of free throws and had a dunk after a fantastic hustle effort by him and Mann to keep the ball alive, but a couple Murray drives brought the Hawks to down just 10 with 4:21 to go. Kawhi quickly answered with an and-one, dragging the lead back to 13, but the Clippers then fell apart, turning the ball over three straight times and gifting the Hawks a 9-0 run that brought the Clippers’ lead down to four with 2:09 left. Kawhi got to the line and made both free throws, at which point Nico checked in for Norm. Hunter scored, but PG answered with a very tough jumper, and after a Murray miss, Nico buried a corer three to put the Clips up nine with 49 seconds left. Some poor defense an sloppy execution made things interesting, but the Clippers made their free throws and won 120-113.
Eight-Man Second Half Rotation: Moussa Diabate filled in for RoCo as the second unit backup center in the first half, but recorded no stats in five minutes and was totally ineffective. In the second, Ty responded by excising Moussa and going with just three bench players. Mann returned early for Zu, allowing a Reggie-Norm-Mann-Kawhi-Nico unit to end the third, with PG coming in for Kawhi in the 4th. The result was very high minutes for all key Clippers – Kawhi had 39, Zu and PG had 37, Mann logged 35, and Norm, Nico, Luke, and Reggie were all in the low 20s. It worked for this one, but the Clippers can’t to this strategy much, so hopefully RoCo and Morris return soon.
Kawhi and PG, Dominant Again: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are the driving factors behind the Clippers’ win streak, and both played very well in tonight’s game. George dished six assists to two turnovers while collecting seven rebounds, and his threes and free throws made up for his 7-18 shooting. Kawhi scored 30 on 12-20 shooting and brought in 8 rebounds, all while not forcing the issue and consistently passing early out of double teams. The Hawks, much like all other NBA teams in the past month, simply had no answer for the Klaw. 10 assists to four turnovers isn’t an incredible ratio, but the Clippers will take it, especially on a night the stars scored 55 points on 38 shots. If they continue to play at this two-way level, the Clippers will continue to look a whole lot better.
Terance, Connecting: This was a fantastic Terance Mann game. Although he only scored two points and took three shots in 35 minutes, he collected eight rebounds and handed out seven assists to just one turnover while playing great defense. It would be nice to see him more aggressive in looking for his shot, but when he’s doing stuff like this it’s hard to complain.