The LA Clippers played the first of a two-game set against the Golden State Warriors with a 108-101 win Wednesday at the Chase Center.
After a narrow loss at home against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, the Clippers starting unit shined to bounce back and return to the win column, moving to 6-3 on the young season. Paul George returned after missing the Spurs game and Kawhi Leonard played both halves of the back-to-back set for the first time since 2017.
Ty Lue kept his regular starting lineup so far this season of Leonard-Nicolas Batum-Serge Ibaka-George-Patrick Beverley, even with the return of Marcus Morris Sr. for his season debut. Reportedly, Morris asked to come off the bench on the night to keep the starting five’s flow going.
The Clippers got off to a solid start, leading most of the 1st quarter and ending it with a 21-15 lead, Nicolas Batum getting off to a hot start with seven points and four rebounds. Morris did enter the game and quickly buried his first two shots of the night, a good sign for a player who missed eight games plus the preseason with a sore knee.
The 2nd quarter, however, was far more ragged for LA, with neither team really hitting a rhythm. While LA pushed their lead to nearly double-digits, the teams entered halftime with the Clippers leading 52-51. Serge Ibaka led LA with nine points at the half, while Eric Paschall paced all players with 15 through two quarters.
The Warriors took a one-point lead with just under eight minutes left in the 3rd quarter, but LA came right back as George set up Leonard on an alley oop that he converted, before hitting the free throw to make it a 3-point play to make it 62-60.
The 3rd quarter was still not altogether fluid, but both teams hit a bit of a groove and in the final minutes both teams began trading baskets. At this point, the Clippers had returned to a double-digit lead, so they were content to keep dropping shots and preventing a Warriors rally. They half-succeeded, finishing three quarters with an 83-77 lead.
The rally was full on in the 4th, with the Warriors taking the lead in the opening minutes. Andrew Wiggins had a good shooting night for Golden State, with 19 points and a 66.7 percent shooting percentage.
With the teams tied at 91, LA made a big defensive stop, Ibaka blocking Paschall, before Leonard hit a tough floater in the paint to put the Clippers up again. Stephen Curry, who was largely kept in check, hit a lay-up to tie it up, before Draymond Green dragged down Leonard hard on the next play, Green picking up a flagrant foul. Leonard buried the free throws to put the Clippers ahead again.
With the game close, Ibaka showed again and again his ability to move the ball around on offense, and Beverley and Batum hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to maintain the lead as the minutes ticked down. George and Leonard paced the Clippers with 21 points apiece, Ibaka led with 14 rebounds, and Leonard led with four assists on the night.
It was a performance that was far from flawless, but the Clippers kept pushing and the returns of George and Morris offered a boost to the lineup. Lue maintained a 10-man rotation until garbage time, an indication that playing time to young players may be doled out a little more slowly than expected when he was hired head coach.
The Clippers get a whole day off after this latest back-to-back, with the next game scheduled for Friday, also against the Warriors and again at Chase Center.