The Los Angeles Clippers shot 39.4% from the field, 21.9% from 3-point range and 76.5% on 34 free throw attempts on Sunday night. In related news, they also somehow beat the Utah Jazz 105-94 at Staples Center.
The Clippers were paced by 30 points from Kawhi Leonard, but he shot just 9-26 from the floor and 2-8 from downtown. He did hit 10 of his 12 tries from the line, though, and he was a big part of a 40-point fourth quarter surge that helped the Clips cross the finish line. The biggest factor down the stretch was Montrezl Harrell, though, who contributed 19 points and 8 boards off the bench. 6 of Harrell’s 8 rebounds in the game came on the offensive end, including several in the fourth quarter that led to second-chance points for the home team.
Harrell’s energy on the offensive glass was ultimately the deciding factor in the game. Trezz was quicker to the boards than Rudy Gobert, who looked downright sluggish in that regard during the game’s final 12 minutes.
Utah got 36 points out of Donovan Mitchell, who kept the Jazz in the game with his aggressive exploits in the final frame. Mitchell shot 10-14 from the charity stripe on the night, and his ability to induce contact was effectively what kept the Jazz relevant in the game as the Clippers mounted their comeback.
The Jazz traded for Mike Conley over the summer in an attempt to take some pressure off of Mitchell, but Conley endured another rough night offensively against Patrick Beverley and friends. Conley contributed just 8 points in 35 ineffective minutes while shooting 2-10 from the floor. Utah’s chances of contending in the Western Conference likely hinge on Conley’s ability to play like an All-Star, but he did nothing of the sort tonight.
Frankly, this game was awful. The Clippers trailed 41-39 at the break, which felt like a win for LA considering the Jazz had countless opportunities to distance themselves as the Clipper offense stalled throughout most of the first half.
Lou Williams scored 17 points himself, but he shot just 6-18 from the field. Lou, Harrell and JaMychal Green combined to score 48 points off the bench, which was more than the non-Kawhi starters for the Clippers (25) and the non-Mitchell starters for the Jazz (39).
The fact that the Clippers were able to win this game in spite of a pretty mediocre overall effort obviously bodes well for their chances of racking up plenty of regular season wins. The vast majority of teams the Clippers will face aren’t as good as this Utah outfit, so it was still a very impressive result even if they weren’t firing on all cylinders.
Kawhi scored 18 of his 30 in the final quarter, right off the heels of his personal demolition of the Spurs in the final frame of Thursday’s victory. He wasn’t at his best, but he came up with big buckets down the stretch.
Shooting under 40% from the floor as a team is a testament to the Jazz’ stellar team defense and an indictment of the Clippers’ work-in-progress offense at the same time. Kawhi is still finding his footing with a bunch of new teammates, and they’re biding their time until Paul George comes back pretty soon. Going 5-2 through the first 7 games of the season is a pretty strong start, all things considered.
The Clips’ defense was up to the challenge tonight, which shouldn’t be overlooked. Utah wasn’t able to crack 30 points in any quarter, and holding any team under 100 points these days is no small feat. The Jazz had absolutely nothing going on the offensive end other than Mitchell’s free throw parade in the fourth, which is obviously a good sign for LAC.
The Clippers will face another tough test on Wednesday when Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks come to town.