The first three quarters of this game looked awfully and depressingly familiar to Clippers fans, as they were near mirror images of the Clippers’ previous few games. Turnovers ran rampant, with the Clippers dropping the ball out of bounds, forcing silly passes, and miscommunicating with far too great a frequency. When the Clippers were able to hold onto the ball, they were rarely able to score, misfiring from three and failing to get to the free throw line. On the other end, they were a step slow on rotations, allowing the Warriors to get numerous open shots as well as offensive rebounds. The only thing keeping the Clippers in it was the Warriors’ awfulness, as the Dubs couldn’t hit any shots of their own and largely failed to capitalize on the Clips’ various miscues.
All that changed in the 4th quarter, as the Clippers played perhaps their best and most fun quarter of basketball since their win over the Lakers on Christmas. The defense turned up several notches, with the Clippers rotating crisply and defending every inch of the halfcourt. Their ability to force turnovers, block shots, and secure rebounds was in full effect, and the Clippers looked nigh-overwhelming defensively, albeit against a toothless Warriors squad. On the other end, the Clippers largely cut out the turnovers, moving the ball around well and attacking the basket with aggression. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell got cooking, with Lou draining several of his patented ridiculously difficult shots while Trez knocked in a few tough ones around the basket. With other guys going, Kawhi Leonard was able to shake free as well, and scored whenever the Clips needed a basket. Once the Clippers had a lead of even a few points it was clear that they had in the game in hand, and ended up winning 109-100.
Kawhi Dominates: The only reason the Clippers were in striking distance in the 4th was Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi was aggressive from start to finish, continuously attacking the rim and throwing down a couple monstrous dunks. His length and strength enabled him to easily clear space and rise up over defenders in the midrange, where the Warriors could not stop him. While he had several bad turnovers, Kawhi also moved the ball well and unselfishly, and would have had far more assists if his teammates had hit open shots. On defense, he was as good as we’ve see him thus far this season, ripping the ball away from offensive players and closing the game out with a ferocious block. Not many players can put up 36 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals, much less on fantastic efficiency with great defense, and Kawhi happens to be one of them. He’s quite good.
Pat Almost Snags a Triple-Double: Pat Beverley was a mere one assist away from a triple double as he had 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists on the night, along with three blocks. His rebounding was, as always, a massive boon for a Clippers team that played small most of the evening, and he came up with some huge boards to secure crucial possessions for the Clips. His shot continued to misfire, as it has for much of this season, but he kept shooting, and that’s extremely important. This was the exact type of game that makes Beverley so valuable and difficult to replace, and the Clippers needed every bit of his hustle, intangibles, and overall skills to win this one.
JaMychal Stands Out: JaMychal Green closed this one out for Doc Rivers, and for good reason. On a night most of the Clippers were lethargic and ineffectual, Green was hustling from the start. He did miss all five of his threes, which is tough for a player whose outside shooting is one of his main strengths, but his rebounding and defense were huge throughout. On offense, Green had several nasty dunks (all of his buckets came on throwdowns, actually), all of which came out key moments for the Clippers. He came down hard on his back at the very end of the game, which made Clips fans hold their breath, but he got up ok, and Doc said after the game that he avoided an injury. That’s good, because the Clippers need him.
Rome’s Nerves Are Bad: Jerome Robinson is not playable right now. Shockingly, considering his prospect pros and cons coming out of Boston College a year and a half ago, it is offense which is the problem for Robinson, not defense. Tonight, there was a play where Jerome was wide open behind the arc and received the ball off good movement - it was a shot he absolutely needed to take. Instead, he hesitated, and instead took a few hesitant dribbles towards the paint before passing back to JaMychal. That kind of thing happens far too frequently for Jerome, who is in a horrible slump right now and has no confidence in his shot. His leap on the defensive end of the court is encouraging, and a good sign for his professional career. But there’s really no excuse for playing him over Derrick Walton Jr. right now, who has been better than Jerome all season and plays a more competent and less scared brand of basketball. Maybe a stint in the G-League to get a ton of shots and reps would be good for Jerome, because he needs a boost of confidence in the worst way right now.