While maybe not the dominant blowout that Clippers fans were hoping for, this was still a straightforward, wire-to-wire victory for the Clips at home. The contest started out choppy, with the refs blowing a ton of foul calls and slowing the game to a crawl. Neither team could get in a rhythm, and there were a whole lot of free throws. However, in the middle of the 1 st quarter, things got untracked, and soon both teams were putting up points in abundance. The Clips were led by a scorching hot Kawhi Leonard, who remained unstoppable and put the Clippers up by eight entering the second.
The second quarter, by contrast, was a chore to watch. The Clippers bench continued its recent struggles by turning the ball over and failing to slow the Wolves. If it weren’t for the Wolves’ misfires from deep, Minnesota might have retaken the lead. As it was, the Clippers let a double-digit lead slip away and went scoreless for several minutes in the middle of the period. Only the return of Kawhi Leonard returned order, and Leonard singlehandedly pushed the Clippers lead up a bit again, scoring on all manner of shots and from the free throw line.
The third period went much the same way. Kawhi and Paul George hit back to back threes right after halftime to push the lead to 13, and it seemed like the Clippers could blow the game open. However, they were not able to sustain that kind of lead, mostly due to their fouling on defense. Rather than staying in front of opposing players, the Clippers seemed content to bump or hit them, sending the Wolves to the line time and again. Fortunately, after a quite first half, Lou Williams got going a bit, scoring several buckets in a row to get the lead back to double digits. From there, Paul George took the baton, knocking down a couple tough jumpers and flexing a little.
George continued feeling himself in the fourth, and his ability to score from all three levels was on full display. The Clippers, behind PG’s scoring outburst, broke the lead open to 18 points, and from then on cruise controlled to the finish. The Wolves were able to close the gap at various points, but they never felt like a real threat the rest of the game, and the Clippers were able to score just enough baskets to keep the game out of reach. The final result was a comfortable 118-106 Clippers victory with all key players getting a nice amount of rest.
- PG Sharp: In Paul George’s second game back from a troublesome hamstring injury, he looked as he has since the start of the season, shooting the ball aggressively while also attacking the basket and securing rebounds in traffic. His defense might not be quite at the rarified air that he’s attained in previous years, but his ability to take over games offensively was crucial for the game-winning run in the late 3 rd and early 4 th quarters. The Clippers don’t have many shot creators, and George adds a much-needed element to the Clippers attack in that regard. This might not have been MVP-level PG, but it was certainly All-Star PG, and with Kawhi playing at the level that he’s at, that’s plenty to beat most teams.
- Doc’s Healthy Rotation: This was only the second game the Clippers have played all season with a fully healthy roster (the other being Christmas Day), so we finally got to see Doc Rivers’ regular rotation. He played 10 guys in non-garbage time minutes, with no surprises. Rodney McGruder is the clear 10th man, and the player who would be most likely to have his minutes cut entirely in a playoff game, or given to someone else. Meanwhile, Landry Shamet, even though he didn’t start, played by far the most minutes of any Clipper with 33, and seems like a strong candidate to close out some games as well. Doc did say after the game that “eight or nine” guys seem to be “obvious” in the rotation, which does leave a couple spots up for grabs, but this is the rotation that was predicted before the season and makes the most sense now. Patrick Patterson is the most likely candidate to break in, especially against bigger teams, but expect this configuration on most nights.
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