The Clippers weren’t great, but played more than well enough to beat the defense-averse Wizards on the road in Washington.
The first half of this one was entertaining if you like offense and a snooze if you care much about defense or intensity. The score after the first quarter was 37-35, which would have put both teams on pace for 140+ points. Things slowed up a bit in the second quarter, but it was more due to missed shots than any real improvement on defense. Kyle Kuzma carried the Wizards with 23 points on 9-15 shooting while Corey Kispert chipped in 13. For the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard was the leading man with 19 points on 8-15 shooting while Harden filled in as sidekick with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Still, the Clippers led only 66-60 at the half.
Things shifted in a hurry in the 3rd, with the Clippers suddenly interested in playing defense. The Wizards attack, facing resistance, quickly fell into turnovers and chucked shots, and while the Clippers’ offense wasn’t humming, an 18-6 run over the first 6:30 of the quarter put the Clippers up 19. The bench started trickling in, and the Clippers’ offense really kicked into gear, attacking the already-defeated looking Wizards and relentlessly getting to the rim. When the dust settled, the Clippers led 106-79 with a massive 27-point advantage.
Both teams kept their regular bench units in to start the 4th quarter. The Clippers didn’t play great, but made enough shots to keep their lead in the high 20s. Ty finally pulled Harden at the 7:03 mark, with Norm and Russ staying in a bit longer. The Clippers’ garbage time unit continued their streak of miserable play and the Wizards got the lead all the way down to 14, but the outcome was never in doubt, and the Clippers secured the 125-109 win.
Kawhi and Harden Dominate: Kawhi Leonard and James Harden were by far the two best players in this game, and they played like it. Kawhi had 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists in 30 minutes while Harden logged 25 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 4 blocks in 33 minutes. Ideally those minutes counts would have been a bit lower, but that’s just quibbling on what were very good nights for the Clippers’ two best players. Kawhi was awesome on defense and a machine on offense while Harden got the Clippers open looks nearly every time down. Just another day at the office.
Amir Continues to Brew: Amir Coffey’s return to the rotation happened nearly two months ago when he filled in for Paul George as a starter against the Warriors. He was great in that game and has been a rotation fixture since. That’s all to say he started this game for PG again, and was terrific, scoring 17 points in 21 minutes on 5-7 shooting (2-2 from three and 5-5 from line) while playing his usual solid defense and not making bad decisions. It seems like he will be the fill-in starter for any of Kawhi, PG, or Terance when they’re out, and for good reason. Just a great player to have connecting good lineups.
Nice Boston Minutes: It has been a long time since we saw decent Brandon Boston minute in the NBA, much less in non garbage time minutes. Now, one could argue that playing the Wizards in general isn’t much above garbage time, but let’s be generous. When the game was in the balance, Boston played well, not forcing shots, getting to the rim, and looking fine (or no worse than anyone else) on defense. He continued his strong play in actual garbage time, finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, an assist, steal, and block. It was a nice showing for Boston, who has mostly ridden the pine this year and been pretty bad in the few games he has appeared. Hopefully this is a turning point.