The Clippers had one of their worst games of the season, but a monstrous performance by Kawhi Leonard was enough to get them a victory over the scrappy Thunder. Check out the full recap of the Clippers’ game against the Thunder below.
The Clippers started out the game looking extremely sharp. Carrying over from Friday night’s win, they attached inside early, with Serge Ibaka feasting against Isaiah Roby. The Thunder started increasing their help, and this led to open threes for the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard was particularly aggressive, taking three after three and draining a couple of them. The ball movement continued to impress, with the rock zinging around the court for open shots. A couple of sloppy turnovrs by the bench got the Thunder out in transition, and they made a bit of a run, but the Clippers surged right back, and held a commanding 17-point lead entering the 2nd quarter.
The second quarter was a far uglier affair. The Clippers bench simply could not hit shots, with Lou Williams and Patrick Patterson combining for 0-9 shooting and 0-7 from three, all on wide open looks. Fortunately, the Thunder were just as frigid, and while they made a nice dent in the Clippers lead (getting it down to 8 at one point), the Clippers continued to hold an edge. Both teams sharpened up at the end of the half with the starting units back in, and shots began to drop once more. Kawhi Leonard in particular remained surgical, and kept the Clippers’ advantage at 11 going into the second half.
Patrick Beverley was ruled out of the game with knee soreness during halftime, so Reggie Jackson took his spot. And, after not playing in the rotation for a few games, Reggie played great, hitting multiple catch and shoot threes as well as a pull-up jumper and a floater. This was nice, because no other Clippers besides Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka could score at all. The brickfest continued, with Paul George being the primary culprit, and the Clippers’ defensive effort also waned for much of the period. However, with their lead cut to five, the Clippers renewed their focus, and a flurry of buckets by Kawhi got the Clippers lead back to 12 going into the final frame.
The fourth quarter mirrored the second in terms of ugliness, with neither team being able to shoot well at all, throwing up brick after brick. Lou Williams got to the free throw line and made a three before reverting back to being icy cold, while Paul George was simply dreadful on both ends. Fortunately, the Thunder were just as bad, with Mike Muscala and Aleksej Pokusevski matching the Clippers brick for brick. When Kawhi Leonard came back in, order was briefly restored, as he dished two gorgeous passes to Batum and George for threes, giving the Clippers a 100-83 edge. Then, however, things fell apart, with the Clippers going back to stagnant isolation offense and the Thunder working free. A Reggie Jackson-Luke Kennard backcourt duo was particularly bad on defense, as George Hill knocked down three consecutive threes to key an 11-0 run. Fortunately for the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard made just enough plays to keep them ahead, and the Clippers pulled out the 108-100 victory.
Bev Ruled out of 2nd Half Knee Soreness: The worst part about this game was Pat Beverley being ruled out at halftime with knee soreness. Beverley has had knee troubles before, and hopefully this is not a portent of anything more serious, but just a minor bruise or weakness. The Clippers desperately missed his rebounding, defense, and steady hand in the second half, even with Reggie Jackson’s strong play, and have an awful record without Beverley in the past few seasons. They really need him healthy, because while they can scrape by without him, he’s hugely important to this team’s success – as mentioned elsewhere in the game recap, the Clippers were out-energized by the Thunder with him out. Prayers up for Pat.
Clippers Dominated on Defensive Glass: One of the easiest signs to detect the Clippers’ lethargy, particularly in the second half, was their weakness on the glass. The Thunder pulled in an incredible 12 offensive rebounds, and it felt like a lot more. Patrick Patterson collected 0 rebounds in 12 minutes, and Reggie Jackson brought in the same in 20. Kawhi and Zu did their best to clean up defensive rebounds, but just did not receive enough help from their teammates. Beverley helps a ton here, and while Marcus Morris is a mediocre at best rebounder, he’s still better than Patterson. Still, the Clippers looked sleepy far too often on the glass, maybe the area where sheer effort is most important in basketball.
PG Doesn’t Close: Paul George did not play the last 4:30 of the game, and despite how awful his performance was (4-13 shooting, 4 turnovers, uncharacteristically bad defense), he was still missed down the stretch. Ty Lue said after the game that he had some hamstring tightness coming in, and it acted up late, preventing him from closing. That tightness could explain his overall poor effort. Hopefully, similar to Beverley, it’s just a minor setback and he’ll be fine going forward. If not, maybe a game or two off would do the trick.
Zu Dominates: Ivica Zubac played the final quarter-plus of the game, never leaving after checking in for Serge in the late 3rd quarter. He fully deserved that run, being the only Clipper outside of Kawhi Leonard to do much positive on that end. Zu was a stalwart on the glass (11 rebounds in 24 minutes), dominated the painted area (2 blocks and several others that were altered), and finished with authority on offense. He’s really woken up over the past couple of weeks, and it’s been great to see “old Zu” back in action. Ibaka had a solid game in his own right, but when Zu is playing like this, he’s nearly impossible to take off the court.
Kawhi Leonard Unstoppable: Kawhi had one of his best games of the season, putting up 34 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists with 0 turnovers, and doing so on efficient shooting. He simply carried the Clippers from start to finish, and looks every bit like the top-5 player that he is.
Well, that’s about it for this game recap of the Clippers’ ugly win over the Thunder. The Clippers have won seven games in a row, despite some inconsistent play, and will now face a surging Hawks team on Tuesday.