The second game of the Clippers’ James Harden era went even worse than the first one, as the Clippers dropped 100-93 to a short-handed Nets team in a brick and turnover fest.
This game may have broken my brain because of how bad it was. The short-handed Nets lost their leading scorer Cam Thomas in the early 3rd, didn’t even play well, and still beat the Clippers by seven in a game that wasn’t as close as its score indicates. That’s how bad the Clippers were. No traditional recap or blow by blow since this game didn’t deserve it, so let’s just hop right into notes.
Shot Distribution Uneven: As Shap pointed out on the post-game TLTJTP, you could always tell when the Clippers of the past couple years were moving the ball well when Nic Batum got up a lot of shot attempts because he is such a smart player that he usually only takes wide open looks. This game was the opposite, as PG took 20 shots, Westbrook 18, Kawhi 15, and nobody else more than 9. The Clippers bricked a ton of open shots, but they also did not move the ball well or generate much flow in the halfcourt. Instead, each star player in turn forced shots, with the Clippers looking good when they did (PG had a flurry in the 2nd) and bad when they didn’t (the entire rest of the game). The stars just need to be integrated together a lot more, and that will take time.
Turnovers, Turnovers: The Clippers somehow only had 15 turnovers in this game. It felt like 50, maybe because eight of them came in the 4th quarter. While the Nets are a solid defensive team and have lots of length on the perimeter, most of the Clippers’ turnovers were completely unforced. Again, some of this is just new teammates figuring each other out, but a lot of it is the sloppiness we’ve seen far too often in the 213 era.
Terance Returns: After missing the first six games of the season with a sprained ankle, this was the first game of the 2024 season for Terance Mann. While Terance didn’t score and missed both of his threes, his defense and energy were as good as ever, and he also got four rebounds in his 19 minutes. Not a great outing by any means, but a fine showing for Terance to shake off some rust.
Good PJ: This was by far PJ Tucker’s best game as a Clipper, as he scored three points in 21 minutes (making his first field goal), brought in six rebounds (three offensive and defensive), had three assists, had a steal and a block, and was a team-leading +10. The activity on the offensive glass was great, and he was solid defensively (though he can no longer hang with quicker perimeter players). I also liked that Ty Lue brought him in early for Zu, so that he could play with the starters more and have his weaknesses offensively and defensively offset by the size and skill of PG and Kawhi. That being said, he gets offensive rebounds because nobody bothers guarding him, and he really cramps spacing. He’s an option but is not someone that should be relied upon like this.
Bones Was Left Out: If anyone has seen Deadwood, yes, this is a reference to EB was left out. Anyway, Bones Hyland did not play in the second half, logging just six minutes in this one. It figured that Bones would get squeezed with the Harden trade and the return of Mann, but it really hurts to know that his role is going to shrink considering how many positives he does bring. It’s just hard to roll out a lineup with him, Norm, and Harden defensively – though that could be improved by staggering Russ instead of Harden with the second unit.