Tobias Harris: 28 pts, 9 rebounds, +13
Lou Williams: 17 pts, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
Marcin Gortat: 8 pts, 10 rebounds, 6 assists
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 13 pts, 6-7 from field, 1 turnover
The Big Picture:
A big trend for the Los Angeles Clippers so far this season has been their affinity for playing down to their competition, then regrouping late to scrape out a win that probably shouldn’t have been close. This game started out just like this, as Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon were scoring and rebounding at will, and the Clippers couldn’t buy a basket early. The running joke on Twitter is that “L.A. nightlife is undefeated”, and that early Saturday and Sunday games are usually a lethargic affair. Most of the Clippers starting five must have been at Greystone last night, as they came out flat-footed and every shot was short. The only Clipper player with any rhythm was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was playing with pace and getting to the rim well. The Clippers were turnover-heavy and having problems with the Magic’s length, as guys like Mo Bamba and Vucevic were torching the Clips inside. Orlando had 18 points in the paint in the first quarter. L.A. finished the first frame down ten despite Lou, Trez and the bench providing some late energy.
In the second quarter, the Clips woke up a bit, with Tobias Harris putting in ten points in the quarter. Shots started falling for everyone as a result, and the defense picked up. The Magic, being an average team at best, started to wilt and get lazy defensively, and the Clippers took advantage of this. Danilo Gallinari also hit two threes in the frame and Marcin Gortat filled up the stat sheet. The Clips won the frame by eight, but were still down by two at half.
The third quarter started very strong, as the Clips took a ten point lead off multiple SGA buckets and dishes as well as Harris drives to the rim. The offense was running smoothly, the defense was strong and causing turnovers, and everyone was getting involved. However, the bench was inserted with four minutes to go and the Magic stuck around, eventually getting within one as they hit some shots and got to the line. While the Magic kept the game close in the third, one watching the game could tell that the Clips were in control and that the fourth quarter would end well with a strong start.
While the first few minutes of the final frame were a bit lackadaisical, everything picked up when Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell started to play their normal, efficient pick-and-roll game, and Lou started dialing in jumpers. Harris continued his strong play after an 0-for-6 start, finishing with 28 points, all in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters. He was getting to the rack, hitting free-throws, jumpers and playing great defense. Using a 17-2 run, the Clips got the lead to 15+ and never looked back. The Clips also won the battle of the paint in the second half, scoring 34 to the magic’s 14. Trez looked phenomenal too as he took advantage of his strength and got multiple showstopping dunks to fall. The game was in hand with two minutes left, and the Clips ended up winning by 10, 106-96. The Clips are a top four team in the Western Conference once more.
First Clippers’ points for Johnathan Motley: Motley made his debut against the Phoenix Suns on Friday but only played 26 seconds. In the two minutes he played, Motley had two buckets and a rebound ,including a very nice dribble drive move and tough finish. With less than 45 games left this year, Motley can stay on the Clippers active roster for the rest of the season.
Gortat has all-around game on Polish Heritage Night: Gortat showed out on his country’s night in Staples Sunday, as he filled up the stat sheet to the tune of eight points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. He picked up his defense against Vucevic after the first quarter, only allowing five points the rest of the game after he had 11 in the first. When Gortat plays well, this team looks different, and can play more comfortably.
SGA has nice game after slump: SGA hit a mini rookie wall late in December, only averaging 7.2 points a game after Dec. 20. Today was a different story as SGA scored 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He was able to get to his midrange shot easily and only had one turnover, knocking down a three as well. It was a good sight to see, and hopefully he carries this momentum into the rest of the month.
Gallo has off night shooting: It honestly didn’t even seem like Gallo went 2-for-10 from three today. He still played decently and provided 13 points and five rebounds (and a +11 on plus/minus), helping the Clips get a needed win.