The Clippers got one of their best wins of the season as Kawhi Leonard’s career night helped them survive a shootout against a red-hot Zach LaVine and Chicago Bulls club to pull out a 130-127 victory. Check out the full recap of the Clippers’ game against the Bulls below.
The Clippers started off the game a little cold on offense, with Paul George missed a couple midrange jumpers and Batum going 1-2 at the free throw line. On the other end, they looked a step slow on defense, enabling Coby White and Zach LaVine to shake free for jumpers and various rim attacks. The Bulls continued to push, and the Clippers found themselves down double digits. Luke Kennard came in early for Pat Beverley, and the Clippers went on a quick 10-1 run with a few stops and threes in transition. Unfortunately, when Ivica Zubac and Marcus Morris checked in, the Bulls went on a run on their own, and went back up 12. The Clippers finally inserted Lou Williams for the last possession, and a small lineup generated a George three that got the Bulls’ lead down to nine.
The Clippers went with a new rotation to start the quarter, with Pat and Paul George alongside the bench unit. After an ugly minute where Zu blew a dunk and then bobbled a pass, he blocked Coby White and then dunked the ball going the other way in transition. Seemingly fired up, Zu’s improved play on both ends helped the Clippers cut into the deficit. Unfortunately, an overaggressive Pat Beverley picked up his 3rd foul, and Lou took over as the lone guard. From here, the Clippers continued to push in transition and made some threes, but were unable to cut into the deficit. Every time they scored, the Bulls, especially LaVine, answered. And so, despite solid enough play in the second quarter, the Clippers trailed by seven at halftime.
The Clippers looked far sharper to start the quarter, scoring on a beautiful play for George cutting to the rim, and then a Kawhi steal and dunk. However, Zach LaVine exploded, hitting three after three with Clippers defenders (notably Serge) sinking too far in drop coverage. On the other end, Kawhi went off himself, nailing a series of threes and midrange jumpers to keep the Clippers on pace with the Bulls. The Clippers were able to get the lead to 2 when LaVine missed a couple shots, but then Pat helped too far off him, and he nailed a corner three. After Pat picked up his 4th foul, Lou Williams came in, joining Luke for the first time. Serge then had a rough minute stretch, blowing a bunny around the rim and giving the ball away under the basket, and the Bulls regained the lead, before a Serge offensive putback and Lou midrange jumper tied the game going into the 4th.
The Clippers opened with another mixed starter-bench unit to start the 4th, a lineup which paid immediate dividends. The Lou-Zu pick and roll, which has been virtually non-existent since the opening games of the season, forced several fouls and go the Clippers a narrow edge. Then Zach LaVine came back, and the Bulls’ offense got back on track. The same drama played out in the 4th as in the 3rd, but this time it was Lou Williams and LaVine trading blows, and the Clippers who were nursing a small advantage. To close out the game, Lue went small with Marcus Morris at center, Lou at point guard, and the starting wings, and while the interior defense was invisible, the offense was potent enough to keep the Clippers ahead. A clutch four point play by Batum and then a steal and dunk by Lou got the Clippers a six point lead, and while the Bulls were able to get close with another ridiculous three by LaVine, the Clippers made the free throws needed to ice the game.
New Rotations – After the Clippers’ recent poor stretch, and the various struggles of the bench unit, Ty Lue switched things up in a big way in this one. Rather than going with three small guards in Reggie Jackson, Luke Kenanrd, and Lou, Ty got all the way down to one of them by eliminating Reggie from the rotation and staggering Lou and Luke. Outside of a single offensive possession to close the 1st quarter and a couple minue stretch in the 3rd when Pat was in foul trouble, Lou and Luke did not share the court. The result was improved defense (while the Bulls scored 127 points, they were also abnormally hot shooting the ball) and much clearer defined roles. The Clippers played well for the bulk of the game, with the ball zipping more on offense and the defense playing a lot larger and more physical. Running a nine-man rotation throughout the regular season can be difficult at times, but is certainly doable – and Reggie and others will get more chances due to injury or foul trouble. Closing ultra-small was also good on a night Serge didn’t have it, and Lue’s willingness to experiment paid huge dividends in this one.
Kawhi’s Explosion – The reason the Clippers survived Zach Lavine’s explosion in the 3rd and 4th quarters (and career high 10 triples) is due to Kawhi Leonard’s own dominant offensive performance in the 3rd quarter. He scored 21 in the period and made 5 threes of his own, both career highs for him in a single quarter. Leonard looked fluid shooting off the catch and the dribble, and when the Bulls closed out too hard, he attacked the basket. Kawhi was quiet in the 4th (outside of a clutch shot late), but his 3rd quarter showing is what allowed the Clippers to finally gain even footing with the Bulls. He’s had a “quiet” start to the season (by his standards), but was fully locked in tonight, and it was great to see.
Lou Will Unlocked: On the broadcast today, Jim Jackson mentioned that the Clippers coaching staff sat down with Lou yesterday and told him they wanted more focus on scoring and less on playmaking. Perhaps empowered by having the ball in his hands more by not playing with Reggie or Luke, Lou did as asked, putting up a vintage Lou performance with 21 points on 10 shots and 4 assists to just a single turnover. He was a game-high +16, and poured in 13 of his points in the 4th quarter. Simply, he looked like the Lou of old, which has to be a great sign for the Clippers. His quickness and smarts are still there, and when he had the ball in his hands, good things happened. Lou’s continued effort on defense remained, as he nabbed a few huge steals, including one late in the 4th quarter. He will never be good on that end due to his lack of size and strength, but the extra effort is appreciated. He was just huge tonight.
Paul George Continues to Play Well: George never had a powerhouse stretch like Kawhi did in the 3rd or Lou in the 4th, but he contributed buckets and strong play throughout the game, finishing with 28 points on 19 shots. Notably, this was a great shot distribution game from George – he took 8 threes (making 5) while also getting to the line 9 times (making 7). Sure, a few of those were fouls to close it out, but he was still aggressive in attacking the basket. PG also added on seven rebounds and nine assists – to only two turnovers. It was just a great day for George, who has been the Clippers’ most consistent player to start the season.
Well, that was a nice change, as the Clippers pulled out one of their better wins of the season today. Hopefully this game recap did the Clippers’ win over the Bulls justice: leave your own comments and thoughts below!
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