The Clippers set the tone from the game right from the jump, swarming the Hawks on defense while moving the ball confidently on offense. Paul George was razor sharp, demonstrating his full toolbag of offensive skills by getting to the line, draining threes, and finishing through contact. He seemed a step slow on defense, but any of his deficiencies were more than made up for by Rodney McGruder and Moe Harkless, who seemed to be everywhere at once on defense. The Clippers bench let go of the rope defensively, however, and the Hawks reduced what had been a significant deficit to single digits by the end of the quarter.
The second quarter started off just as poorly. The Clippers free-flowing offense bogged down in isolations, and the Hawks began to get to – and finish – at the rim with ease. The Clippers lead shrunk to four, and the game seemed like it was back up in the air. Then, the starters came back in, and order was once more restored. McGruder continued to limit Trae Young, George continued to sizzle, and the Clippers defense led to easy buckets in transition. The lead was pushed out to double figures by halftime, and the Clippers halfcourt offense had rediscovered its groove.
The Hawks were able to keep pace with the Clippers for the first part of the third quarters, hanging around for a handful of minutes mostly due to Clippers’ hesitancy offensively. However, the Hawks simply could not get shots to fall, and the Clippers’ transition offense gradually burgeoned the lead. Soon, the Clippers were up by over 20, and the game transitioned from semi-competitive into garbage time. Paul George returned to start the 4th quarter, presumably to help knock off more rust, and made several highlight plays before getting pulled, with the bench taking over the rest of the way. What followed was a highly entertaining 4th quarter where Terance Mann, Jerome Robinson, and the other Clippers youngsters made their presence felt, maintaining defensive pressure while swinging the ball around the court and draining threes. The end result? The Clippers largest margin of victory in franchise history, a 150-101 walloping of a defenseless Hawks squad.
Paul George Dominates: Paul George has put up historic numbers in his first two games as a Clippers. His 70 points scored are the most by any Clipper in their first two games, his scoring of 30+ points in back to back contests is unprecedented, and his 37 in his home debut also set a franchise high. George looks completely healthy and absolutely deadly. He’s getting to the line at will, with his quick first step and highly effective handle enabling him to beat defenders and draw fouls on drives to the hoop. His shot has been buttery smooth, and George appears more than willing of launching threes with even the tiniest amount of airspace – something this team desperately needs. Really, he’s been nothing short of unstoppable, and while his defense remains a bit rusty, he’s everything that was promised and more. What a start to his Clippers career.
Clippers Makeshift Starting Lineup Excels: With Kawhi Leonard, Pat Beverley, and Landry Shamet out, and the Clippers coming off back-to-back losses, Doc Rivers adjusted his starting unit, placing Terance Mann as the point guard alongside McGruder, George, Moe Harkless, and Ivica Zubac. While the unit was offensively carried by George, the lineup as a whole looked fantastic, and really won the game for the Clippers at the start of the 1st and end of the 2nd quarters. They moved on a string defensively, and had the size and length to lock down both the perimeter and interior against a high-scoring Hawks team. McGruder’s defense on Trae Young was extremely impressive, and Moe Harkless made numerous steals and deflections that led to easy buckets. Zubac continued his monstrous play, with several blocks inside and a few nice passes when confounded in the post on offense. Mann, too, excelled, playing his finest game as an NBA player thus far and running the offense like a seasoned vet. This unit might struggle to create enough offense against stronger defensive units than the sieve-like Hawks, but the defense looked for real. Doc might have something here.
Jerome Has Career Night: For one night, Jerome Robinson looked like a second-year lottery pick who’s starting to figure things out. He shot the ball confidently, nailing five of his seven shots from long range, and effectively handled the ball as a secondary playmaker. Yes, a bunch of his points came in garbage time, but he had a nice stretch in the 1st half as well, and just generally looked like a competent NBA scorer. Jerome did have several gaffes defensively on Trae Young, yet has mostly been solid on that end as well. This was just one game against an awful defensive team having a really bad night, but 21 points, four rebounds, one assist, two steals, and two blocks is a good night for anyone, and was by far a career-best effort from Jerome. Hopefully this is a sign of more to come.
Well, this one was a ton of fun, and was absolutely needed for this Clippers team after two tough losses on the road. Staples was raucous and appreciative of the Clippers’ efforts, the veterans got some much-needed rest, and the whole team was ebullient after the game. Hopefully this gives them some momentum going forward, even with Kawhi and Pat Beverley both potentially dealing with injuries. This game showcased the starpower the team has on display as well as their incredible depth, and was a welcome sight for fans.