I’ll keep this short and sweet, because the game itself was brutal and felt like it lasted a lifetime. The Clippers were awful in this one from start to finish, especially defensively. They moved like they were stuck in quicksand, rotated as if they’d never played with one another before, and generally lacked the intensity that has been the hallmark of the franchise over the past two years. They either underestimated the Suns, had a wild Halloween outing last night which had aftereffects that lasted into the game, or had their will sapped by the Monstars, because this did not appear anything like the Clippers team of the first two games. Credit to the Suns, who played hard, and played well, but this was a miserable effort from the Clips on defense. They were somewhat better offensively, especially after the first quarter, but it was still a sloppy effort, and the Clippers could not string together enough stops to make a real push anyway. This one stunk.
Starters out of sorts: While the entire team was off defensively, the starting lineup was egregiously bad on both ends of the court. Kawhi Leonard put up 27 and 10 (on 23 shots), yet even he had to struggle for a lot of his makes, and didn’t look nearly as comfortable as he did in the Clippers first two games. As for the rest of the starters? Well, the less said about them the better. Patrick Patterson faded hard after a throwback performance against the Warriors, looking slow and with a flat shot. Landry Shamet was invisible aside from missed threes (the Clippers really need to get him going), unable to free himself for easy looks and missing those he did get. Ivica Zubac reverted to game one form as a non-impact player, and was thoroughly outplayed by both Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky. Pat Beverley was at least acceptable, yet he too made some uncharacteristic mistakes, including passing up several wide open threes and hesitating on a few more. He needs to let fly without hesitation, and has not done so thus far this season. The starters as a whole have struggled offensively outside of a couple stretches against the Warriors and the Kawhi-Zu pick and roll, and a change in personnel or tactics appear needed. Hopefully Doc delivers soon.
Suns Impress: I briefly mentioned this above, but wanted to expound on it a bit more — the Suns really did play quite well in this game. Missing two of their starters, the Suns picked up the pieces with a team effort, including standout performances from Frank Kaminsky (!) and Jevon Carter (!!!!). They played tough defensively, made big shots when needed, and never gave up when the Clippers made a run. In short, they played much like the 2019 Clippers did, and were able to slay a giant, just as the Clips did so frequently last season. Monty Williams has this group looking like a different bunch through three games — maybe Suns games won’t be gimmes anymore.
Moe Harkless Slips: After an incredibly impressive preseason and first two regular season games, Moe Harkless flashed some of the inconsistencies tonight that have prevented him from reaching the next level in his NBA career. He disappeared offensively, going just 1-4 from the field and 0-2 from three, and didn’t seem to make any plays with the ball in his hands. He played ok defensively, but had his share of slip-ups, and also committed five fouls, a couple of them of the fairly silly variety. He’s not always going to be as good as he was in the first couple games (if he would, he’d be getting paid a hell of a lot more than he is), but the Clippers need at least a base level of consistency from him, especially defensively. He just wasn’t quite there tonight.
The Clippers’ next game is against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night. Charlotte is another team that came into the year with low expectations and has played well so far, so hopefully the Clippers don’t fall into the same trap that they did tonight.