This game was overshadowed by the news that came out earlier today regarding the tragic helicopter accident this morning that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others. There was a notable pall over both teams as well as the crowd, especially in the 1st quarter. The energy on the court was low, and neither team shot the ball well to start. Kawhi and Landry Shamet were cold for the Clippers, but some unexpected scoring assistance from Patrick Patterson and Moe Harkless kept the team in it.
Unfortunately, the bench was even worse than the starters. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell appeared to be out of synch, while the Magic were easily able to get to the rim and score. Terance Mann replaced Jerome Robinson, and the simple swap seemed to help a bit, providing a jolt of energy. Lou got untracked a bit to keep the Clippers within striking distance, and then Kawhi returned. Cold start forgotten, Kawhi nailed four shots in a row to give the Clippers the lead, while Ivica Zubac anchored a stout defense. The only thing keeping the Clips from a larger lead were some truly hideous turnovers.
The third quarter, as it was against the Mavericks on Friday, was the deciding period of play. Kawhi’s hot shooting carried over, and in order to stop him, the Magic started throwing double teams and hedges off his pick and rolls. This enabled Landry Shamet, ice cold in the first half, to get going, and soon the Clippers were pushing to a double-digit advantage. The turnovers, unfortunately, also carried over, and that combined with some slippage on defense from the reserves kept the Magic within reach.
The Magic made a push over the first few minutes of the quarter, as the Clippers’ reserves once again couldn’t do much of anything on either end. The offense was disjointed, the defense lackadaisical, and the pace entirely in favor of Orlando. As soon as Kawhi came back in, however, order was restored, and the Clippers never really seemed like they were going to let this one slip. Kawhi (and Shamet, to a lesser extent) came up with huge plays time after time, and the Clippers held on for a very nice road victory.
Pat Pat Steps Up: Doc Rivers took some grief early in the season for starting Patrick Patterson, and for playing him too much in general. And while Patterson has certainly had some ineffective stretches, he’s mostly played quite competent basketball, and had one of his better games tonight. He hit threes, provided tough post defense, and even got to the free throw line a few times. There’s nothing outstanding about Patterson’s game, but he rarely messes up, and his floor spacing ability is nice. He’s been a fantastic pick-up on the veteran’s minimum.
Landry Continues to Surge: The best sign for the Clippers over the past couple weeks is the play of Landry Shamet, and tonight continued that series of strong performances. Landry bounced back after a tough first half, and he made some huge threes in the 3rd and 4th quarter to break the game open and seal the contest respectively. As his shooting has returned, he’s also looked more comfortable handling the ball on the floor, and he made some nice passes tonight. Hopefully this version of Shamet will stick around when Pat Beverley and Paul George return.
Kawhi Carries Clips: My pieces on Kawhi will continue to get shorter as what he does becomes more “old hat”, but he really, really held the Clippers together in this one. His statline of 31 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists on excellent efficiency together with great defense is simply absurd, and he was possibly even better than that line in terms of impact. He’s playing at an MVP level right now.
Next up, the Clippers play the Lakers at home on Tuesday – the first game played at Staples since the passing of Kobe. The game will therefore assuredly have many tributes to Kobe, and will be highly emotional for both teams and the fans in attendance. The basketball might take a bit of a backseat to the memorials, but the game is one that probably can’t be missed for fans of the NBA.