Now, this is more like it.
For a month, the Clippers talked about how they had everything they needed on the roster, they were just lacking consistency. Now, they’ve strung together three wins, two of them in dominant fashion after laying waste to the Spurs on the front end of a back-to-back, 134-101.
Kawhi Leonard was particularly rude to his former team, leading the way with 25 points along with seven rebounds, three assists, and five steals. His game popped beyond the box score, as he had some mean finishes at the rim, and generally exerted his will with his physicality. That started from the jump as Leonard had 12 first-quarter points, including three at the free-throw line.
Leonard wasn’t the only Clipper to get off to a fast start. Marcus Morris Sr. hit his first three 3-pointers and had four in the period, matching Leonard’s first-quarter point total with 12. In all, the Clippers had 41 points in the opening quarter, their highest-scoring first quarter of the season. To do that against the sixth-best defense in the league was an especially impressive feat, and the offense continued to pour it on as the night proceeded.
LA was equally locked in defensively, building a 12-point lead before the first commercial break. The Spurs managed to cut the advantage to five in the second quarter, but the Clippers ended the half on a 7-0 run on a team effort from Terance Mann, Nicolas Batum, and Leonard. Their lead wouldn’t fall below double digits in the second half, and they held at least a 15-point advantage for the entire fourth quarter.
It’s hard to find anything that went wrong for the Clippers on the night. Ivica Zubac was once again outstanding in the starting lineup, continuing to make a permanent case for that spot even when Serge Ibaka returns. LA was a team-best plus-27 in Zubac’s 32 minutes.
The Clippers collectively shot 17-of-33 from 3-point range, in spite of Paul George’s 0-fer from distance on six attempts. They earned 30 trips to the foul line even though the Spurs concede the third-lowest free-throw rate in the league. Mann brought great energy off the bench yet again, and Lou Williams reached 15,000 career points.
The best part might have been that the Clippers were able to get their starters out with 5:39 to play, saving their legs for the second game of the set tomorrow in San Antonio.