The Clippers earned another blowout win, this time over a shorthanded Pacers team that ran out of steam in the 3rd quarter. Check out the full game recap of the Clippers’ victory over the Pacers below.
Both teams started off hot offensively. Ivica Zubac had a couple nice dunks as a fill-in starter for the ill Serge Ibaka, and also made passes out of the short roll to shooters for three. The Pacers did their best to force the ball out of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George’s hands, with the result that both stars didn’t shoot much early (though Paul George did have a vicious poster dunk). However, while the Clippers were moving the ball, they kept losing track of sniper Doug McDermott, who punished them time and again with open looks off of screens. The bench came in, and the Clippers’ scoring pace only increased with a small-ball lineup featuring Patrick Patterson at center. Buckets by Patterson and Morris were enough to give the Clippers a 10-point lead heading to the 2nd quarter.
The bench unit, bolstered by Paul George, continued to play excellent basketball. Pat Beverley was all over the court on both sides of the ball, forcing stops on defense and keeping the Clippers’ offense humming on the other end. Meanwhile, George took matters into his own hands, attacking the basket against a small Pacers lineup over and over. The Clippers pushed their lead up to 18 points, but as has happened several times this year, they then let go of the reins. A few missed open threes and bad turnovers rejuvenated the moribund Pacers’ attack, and soon the Clippers’ lead was down to six points. A Ty Lue timeout got the Clippers’ offense back on track with a Marcus Morris at center lineup, but the Pacers were still rolling, and the Clippers’ lead remained six at halftime.
In the 3rd quarter, however, the Clippers broke things open. The Pacers’ starters, especially their top four guys, had all played over 20 first-half minutes, and were visibly gassed. Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard, smelling blood in the water, went on the offensive, and worked his way into the paint time and again, including for a thunderous slam. The Clippers went small once more, and this time, not only did their offense hum, but their defense also locked down. Marcus Morris, given open threes, drained them, and the Clippers’ lead worked its way back into the mid-teens. At this point, rather than letting go, the Clippers further flexed their muscles, as Kawhi dished to Luke Kennard and Patterson for open threes, and the lead burst to 22. The Pacers tried to fight, but just had no effort left for another comeback, and the Clippers’ lead was 25 heading into the final period.
The Pacers started off the quarter with a quick 6-0 spurt, but this was quickly halted by a Kennard and-one and a George three. Those two continued to score buckets to keep the Clippers lead well into the 20s, and the last seven minutes or so were all garbage time. Fortunately, the Clippers’ reserves brought some energy, so even though their offense was abhorrent, they slowed the Pacers enough to expand the lead to over 30. And, with that, the Clippers triumphed 129-96. Unusually for a recap this season, there were no 4th quarter worries – the Clippers simply took care of business against the Pacers in this one.
Zu Quiet: While Ivica wasn’t awful in this game, he also wasn’t much of a factor, scoring six points (albeit on 3-3 shooting) and bringing in six rebounds in 16 minutes. However, he accumulated four fouls in that span, which is the main reason why he played so little. Even so, the Clippers’ offense looked much better with him out of the game, and while their defense and rebounding suffered a bit, it wasn’t by a ton against the Myles Turner-less Pacers. This wasn’t a glaringly bad performance, but Zu just isn’t reaching the impact he did last year. One good thing is that he did make a couple nice passes to shooters out of the short roll, a valuable skill when playing with the starters. So, Zu wasn’t bad, but as mentioned elsewhere in this recap, the Clippers looked better against the Pacers when he was off the court.
Patrick Patterson Comes to Play: Because of Zu’s foul troubles, the Clippers went small, with Patrick Patterson or Marcus Morris manning center. Morris shot the ball well (and hit the glass hard), but it was Patterson’s play that was notable, as he hadn’t set foot on the court in five games and was ready for action. That’s very valuable for players in the 2nd to 3rd string tier, and says a lot about Patterson’s professionalism. He hit half of his threes, scoring 10 points overall, and the team’s offense flowed well with him out there. That said, his rebounding is non-existent (zero rebounds in 18 minutes), and he offers very little defensively outside of in a straight post-up. The Clippers got away with his play here, and should be able to in the future against other smaller teams, but he’s just not feasible for more regular minutes. The fact that the Clippers turn to him over their young centers, Daniel Oturu and Mfiondu Kabengele, says a lot about their lack of trust in the youngsters at this stage.
Luke Cooks: The Clippers traded for Luke Kennard this offseason and then gave him a 4 year, $64M contract, so they’re obviously high on the young guard. So far this season, that faith had looked slightly shaky. Kennard hadn’t played outright poorly, but he also hadn’t made much of an impact, playing overly deferential on offense and not doing much else positively outside of shooting the ball. Well, in this one, he shot the ball aggressively, and with great results. He poured in 20 points on 7-12 shooting, and his outburst was what blew the game open in the late 3rd and early 4th quarters. He still isn’t handling the ball or playmaking as much as might have been expected before the season, but he’s fitting in better all the time, and his shooting has been lights out. A much-needed explosion from Luke in this one.
Batum Struggles: This might be Nic Batum’s worst game as a Clipper so far, which says a lot about how good he’s been. Nic was by no means bad tonight, but his defense slipped up badly on McDermott a few times, and he had no assists or defensive stats for the first time this year. He still made a couple threes (though he also airballed one) and rebounded well, so he was a fine presence on the court. It was just slippage from a guy who’s been the Clippers’ 3rd best player to start the season (I think Pat Beverley might have passed him now). If this is Batum’s low end game outcome as a Clipper, well, they should be just fine playing him big minutes.
That’s about all for this game recap of the Clippers’ win over the Pacers. Check out Indy Cornrows for the perspective of the other guys, and stay tuned for Lucas’ grades and an episode of TLTJTP coming later tonight.