Things looked dim shortly before tip-off, when Kawhi Leonard was ruled out with a leg contusion, but the Clippers would draw great performances from their supporting cast and crush the Clevelend Cavaliers, 128-111, to extend their winning streak to 3.
Clippers vs Cavaliers Game Summary
The Clippers had some wrinkles to iron out early tonight as Ty Lue played an unorthodox starting lineup that featured Patrick Beverley, Reggie Jackson, and Lou Williams all playing together alongside Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka. The team had 2 points in the first 3 minutes of play as they got used to each other… then they turned on the afterburners and didn’t look back, putting up 30 points in the final 9 minutes of the opening frame and surpassing that output with a staggering 38 points in the second quarter, with Luke Kennard’s back-to-back threes serving as an exclamation point to end the half.
With a 70-58 halftime lead and a couple of friendly bounces to begin the third quarter, the Clippers found themselves with a quick 20-point lead and I found myself thinking that even if the team didn’t keep up their great run of shot making, they had built a pretty strong buffer to hold on to as the Cavaliers scrapped back.
That wasn’t meant to be. Lou Williams was a maestro in the pick-and-roll, Marcus Morris continued his elite run of form from behind the three-point line, Serge Ibaka had his best game as a Clipper on both ends of the floor (though he should buy Lou’s dinner as a thank you for all of his easy looks in the pick-and-roll), and Patrick Beverley picked his spots brilliantly to accent those three main contributors. If you only tuned in at the end of the night to watch Mfiondu Kabengele pick up a bad miss and a couple of fouls, you wouldn’t even know that Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were out–it was just like any other Clippers game.
While a number of Clipper role players had strong outings tonight, Williams was the clear star of the show as he finished with 30 points on 10-22 shooting to go with 10 assists (and just 2 turnovers) in 32 minutes–an offensive masterpiece. And those assists weren’t just “make the extra pass to the shooter in the corner” plays. Lou was beating his defender downhill, making something out of nothing, drawing help, patiently reading the defense, and dishing out dimes all night. Marcus Morris, who now has 14 double-digit outings in his 19 games this season (including 10 of his last 11), poured in a highly efficient 23 points on 7-14 shooting and stuffed the box score with 6 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and 2 blocks.
- Caffeinated: Amir Coffey was back with the Clippers today after being recalled from Agua Caliente in the G-League’s Orlando bubble. Coffey hadn’t been with the team for a little over a week, playing two games with ACCO, before presumably being brought back to provide insurance with George and Leonard both sidelined on the wings. Daniel Oturu had already departed the G-League bubble after picking up an injury last week, so the Clippers are currently without any roster players with Agua Caliente.
- Underground GOAT: As noted by The Athletic’s Law Murray, tonight was the 5th 30-10 double-double of Lou Williams’ career–all of which have come with the Clippers. In his last 6 games, Lou is averaging 21.7 points and 5.5 assists while shooting 53.6% from the field and 45.8% from deep. He’s always going to run hot-and-cold, but his offensive upside is still very important for this team, particularly on nights like tonight. I had opined that Williams should be starting in place of Paul George even before Leonard’s absence; here’s hoping that Lou can parlay this positive momentum into continued efficacy when LAC is back to full strength.
- The Cavs: Cleveland has now lost seven straight games, beginning with their 22-point loss to the Clippers two weeks ago. Their average margin of defeat during this losing streak is an unconsciable 20.7 points per game. I’m not here to rain in the parade of the Clippers cruising to a blowout win without both of their stars–this result is worth praising regardless of who they were lined up against–but the Cavs are in a very, very bad place after a relatively promising start to the season.
- Back-to-Back: The Clippers are back in action again tomorrow night, this time against the Miami Heat, who have won four of their last five games as they attempt to claw back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture with multiple key players returning to the lineup in recent weeks. If George and Leonard remain sidelined, managing fatigue will become crucial for a Clippers team whose offense is currently revolving around 34-year-old Lou Williams, who played 32 minutes in tonight’s game. 213Hoops’ Michelle Uzeta will have a full Clippers-Heat preview for you in the morning.
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