The Clippers’ bench stepped up big, scoring 51 points and powering a 4th quarter blowout of the Rockets on the road in Houston.
The Clippers started the game moving the ball well, even though PG was ice cold shooting the ball. Marcus Morris and Luke Kennard were the main beneficiaries, as George and Reggie Jackson were able to find them open for three, to good results. On defense, the Clippers were solid – nothing special, but they kept in front and refrained from fouling much. The starters played for 9:30 before Nico checked in for Morris, followed closely by Norm and Terance Mann. Finally, Robert Covington came in for Zu. This lineup held steady, getting the Clips to an eight point lead, 31-23 after one.
Amir Coffey came in for George, giving the Clippers one of their “wingiest” lineups they’ve had in a while. And shocker, with only one small-ish guard on the court, the Clippers’ switching halfcourt defense was actually effective, forcing the Rockets’ bench into turnovers and awful shots. The Clippers grew their lead up to 16 before the Rockets’ starters began returning. As the game shifted to the halfcourt, the Clippers’ point guard lacking unit was exposed on offense, committing several turnovers of their own and prompting Ty Lue to bring back his own starters. There was then a few minute long stretch where both teams were awful on offense before some Morris jumpers got the Clips going again. The Clippers went small to close the half, and the lineup was fairly effective, with the Clips solidifying a 12-point edge at the half.
The Clippers’ started shakily, with more bad turnovers and some hesitation on good looks by Luke and Morris. However, after a tech on Porter Jr., the Clippers got going, with George in particular shaking loose for some buckets and assists. For much of the rest of the quarter, George, Jackson, and Morris were all making shots – but the Clippers could barely grow their lead due to turnovers. On the other end, Jalen Green cooked, keeping the Rockets in range. The bench unit with just Zu (Coffey for PG) couldn’t do much, and the Clippers led by 11 after three.
RoCo came back for Zu with the diet wingstop lineup once more, and at the start of the quarter, the seesaw affair resumed. Norm Powell drew free throws and hit a three, but the Rockets were getting the rim constantly and were on the verge of cracking single digits multiple times. However, they never did, and the Clippers’ defense slowly tightened up. Their forced stops and turnovers got them out in transition, and the Rockets simply had no answer for Mann or Powell crashing to the rim. Multiple and-ones later, and the Clippers were all of a sudden up 20 points. The Clips slowed down a bit, but the Rockets couldn’t make them pay. At the 5 minute mark, still up 19, Moses Brown came in for Nic Batum, and Silas cleared his bench a moment later, with garbage time closing the game out.
Bench Wingstop: The most potent takeaway of the game was the effectiveness of the Clippers’ bench, which has been meh to awful most of the season. True, the Rockets in general are bad, and their bench is particularly putrid, but still, the Clippers’ reserves looked like a true unit for the first time in a while. Playing without a true point guard allowed them to successfully switch everything, and while they did concede some shots at the rim, generally they played very well defensively – and, crucially, didn’t allow a ton of offensive rebounds. Meanwhile, though there were some struggles in the halfcourt, the defense was good enough to keep in them in transition or semi-transition a lot, and in that context Mann and Powell thrived going downhill. While Robert Covington looked a bit rusty, his combination of defense, rebounding, and smarts on offense (a beautiful sequence in transition with Mann was one of the plays of the game) was critical to the unit’s success. Overall, while Amir Coffey had some rough plays on offense, it was a great night for the Clippers’ bench.
Reggie Steps Up: Reggie Jackson had maybe his best game of the season, scoring 17 points on 6-11 shooting and dishing six assists, all in just 23 minutes. More importantly, he actually looked comfortable out there, not forcing any shots and getting to his spots on the court. His speed still doesn’t look quite 100% of the way there, but this was a nice, under-control performance for Reggie in a way we just haven’t seen much of this season.
Rest: Not only was John Wall able to sit this one out to play tomorrow, but the entire Clippers’ roster was able to keep reduced minutes. George led the way with 29 minutes, with key vets such as Reggie and Morris logging minutes in the mid-20s. Considering the Clippers face a much stiffer test tomorrow in Dallas, their being able to put this one away early and primarily through the bench unit is a massive win.