Before Monday’s matchup between the Clippers and Trail Blazers, Chauncey Billups noted that he was looking forward to the “chess match” of coaching against one of his closest friends and former boss in Ty Lue, a coach who had done a masterful job of shutting down his Portland team a year ago.
By the time the game began, though, it seemed like the Clippers were playing chess and the Blazers were playing checkers. L.A. threw down the gauntlet early and kept the pressure going throughout in a 116-86 victory, their first win of the season.
The big push was made by the bench trio of Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, and Isaiah Hartenstein. The Clippers were up 15-14 when the second unit came into the game; they led by 14 at the end of the first quarter, and the lead never got below double digits the rest of the way.
That trio had beautiful chemistry on the offensive end, as all three are willing passers who can create with the ball in their hands. Any of them can initiate the action, get the ball into the paint to score or kick out to keep the play going. There was a beautiful sequence when Hartenstein brought the ball up, swung it to Mann, who then drove and kicked to Kennard for the triple.
Kennard was rolling, as everything he touched hit the bottom of the net. He was excellent moving off the ball to get clean shots, often off screens from his big men. Kennard ended the night with 23 points, tied for his second-highest total as a Clipper on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, including 6-of-7 on threes.
Ohhhh I really like this quick set— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) October 26, 2021
Clippers show a HORNS look with Zubac and Kennard (!) at the elbows.
Kennard fakes the screen for Bledsoe, then immediately comes around to get the Zu handoff. Bucket. pic.twitter.com/6Ggex3Jh6f
Mann chipped in 13 of his own on similarly efficient 5-of-6 shooting. He rediscovered his touch around the rim after missing a number of bunnies in the loss to Memphis. He also had the highlight of the night, crossing up Nassir Little and draining the stepback three with acres of space in front of him.
Terance Mann shook Nassir Little and drilled a 3pic.twitter.com/wNgwcHBymj— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) October 26, 2021
That bucket hit Lawler’s Law for the Clippers when the Blazers were at 65 points, a testament to the first quality defensive effort of the season. L.A. held Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum to 32 points on 11-of-31 shooting with only six free-throw attempts. Portland shot 35.4 percent from the field through the first three quarters, otherwise known as the competitive portion of the game, and had 21 turnovers for 24 points. Eight of those giveaways came as a result of Paul George steals, who had a career-high in thefts.
It was a complete effort for the Clippers, who needed to get into the win column and did so emphatically. Lue will be even happier than usual to see Billups today.