Pretty much every single Los Angeles Clippers game, Kawhi Leonard or Paul George or both set the tone and lead the team in scoring, but with the stars struggling mightily Monday against the Atlanta Hawks, the Clippers bench spearheaded an unlikely rally and LA won 119-110 in Staples Center.
The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Hawks, while the Clippers won their second consecutive game for the first time in over a month. Best of all, the Clippers literally relied on their bench after going down more than 20 points and the unlikely duo of Terance Mann and Luke Kennard ended up spearheading the comeback victory.
The Clippers’ starting five was the stalwarts Leonard and George, recent anointed starter Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac and Reggie Jackson, in for the injured Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley, respectively.
LA had a good start, getting up to a 21-11 lead early. And then it was the Trae Young show.
Young posted 20 points in the first half and aside from Zubac nearly posting a first-half double-double (he had 10 points and eight rebounds), the Hawks pushed ahead in the opening half, with LA going down 18 points before the halftime break, with Atlanta leading 63-48.
The second half started terribly for the Clippers. George missed a 3-pointer and then Tony Snell hit a wide-open 3 on the other end, George missing his defensive assignment. Ty Lue was not going to let the awful start slide and called a timeout in the first 30 seconds of the 3rd quarter.
That didn’t get the expected result, and the Hawks kept controlling play.
Midway through the 3rd quarter, Lue cleared his bench, but this time it was to look for players who could help turn the game around, giving time to Mann, Amir Coffey, Nicolas Batum, Kennard and Patrick Patterson.
The tactic worked, with Mann, Patterson and Kennard in particular picking it up and really cutting into the deficit, finishing the 3rd quarter down only 90-82, with Kennard hitting a buzzer-beater from midcourt to give some hope they could get back in the game in the 4th quarter. Kennard hit all five of his shots in the 3rd quarter.
LUKE KENNARD FROM HALF COURT— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 23, 2021
@FoxSportsWest | @LukeKennard5 pic.twitter.com/WWfFxFUQQI
Lue kept the reserve group on a roll in the game to start the 4th quarter, and they kept hitting shots to pull closer to the Hawks. Midway through the quarter, Leonard and George came back in to try and push the Clips past the Hawks, a smallball group with Mann, Batum and Kennard.
Leonard and Mann found some run together and the Hawks, aside from Young, struggled to hit their shots down the stretch. Mann hit the tying basket with 4:32 to play to make it 103-103. Then Kennard hit his next shot to keep it level at 105-105.
LA took the lead with Kennard hitting a cross-court pass to Mann in the corner, Mann burying a 3-pointer in the corner to make it 110-108 with 2:42 to play, and the Clippers never looked back.
T3RANC3 pic.twitter.com/jBkVEXDqQj— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 23, 2021
Kennard had 20 points on his perfect 8-for-8 shooting, while Mann scored 21 points and grabbed 21 rebounds. Leonard hit several buckets in the dying minutes to seal the win, and finished with 25.
All in all it was a game for the ages for the Clippers. Sometimes, nothing is going your way and then everything starts going your way. This was one of those bonkers nights.
The Clippers get a day off, and then they’re back in action Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs, the first of a back-to-back against the Texas team on consecutive nights in San Antonio. The Spurs sit in 7th place in the Western Conference, and we’ll have to see if LA can keep rolling and get a third straight win.