The Clippers came into Monday night’s game feeling good despite the absence of two starters. They had won five straight games with their makeshift starting lineup, playing some of their best ball of the season.
Then Paul George was ruled out as a late scratch, and there might have been a little worry that the Milwaukee Bucks would be able to take advantage of the opportunity. Instead, LA showed off their depth in George’s absence, blowing out the Bucks regardless, 129-105.
Four Clippers finished with at least 20 points for the first time in over a year, and the team moves within half a game of second place in the Western Conference.
Both teams got off to hot shooting starts, but Milwaukee’s was more surprising considering Giannis Antetokounmpo was part of that jumper spree. Seeing Luke Kennard and Marcus Morris Sr. connect from deep is far more routine, and it made sense that LA’s hot streak continued longer, as the Clippers built a five-point lead five minutes in. This came despite Paul George not being available with right foot soreness, in addition to the previously announced absences of Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley.
The wheels started to come off once the bench came in, and the Bucks reeled off a 13-0 run to end the quarter against the backup frontcourt of Nicolas Batum and Patrick Patterson, taking a 12-point lead into the second. Jrue Holiday was particularly effective in the period, with 12 points and five assists, accounting for 25 total points when LA collectively had 26.
The Clippers righted the ship in the second when the starting frontcourt got back onto the court. Ivica Zubac’s rim protection against Antetokounmpo was outstanding. First Antetokounmpo tried to post him up, and Zubac foiled that. Then, the reigning MVP got a running start driving in from the wing and Zubac still forced him into awkward wrong-sided finish. The LA center followed that up with a hook of his own on the other end to add insult to injury.
It’s hard to ask Ivica Zubac to do much more defensively when Giannis is on the attack. This is a great play by the Clippers center. He’s able to keep Giannis in front of him and contest without fouling. pic.twitter.com/IVLnxjuhym— Positive Residual (@presidual) March 30, 2021
The second quarter was also a strong showing for Terance Mann, who gave the Clippers all the energy they needed to get back into the game — and more. Mann once again was the lone Clipper driving to the basket looking to score. Once a couple of those fell down, he was able to dip into his bag and kick out to shooters, further activating the team’s already potent offense. The 12-point deficit was fully erased by halftime, and a Batum three with eight ticks left on the clock gave the Clippers a one-possession advantage at the break.
Not too much to say but Terance Mann has been ballin' lately for the Clippers. He has really shown a ton of development. pic.twitter.com/rnuBnglLpq— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) March 30, 2021
After the break, the game became the Reggie Jackson show. Jackson popped off for 15 points in the third to give the Clippers their own double-digit lead. A former no. 1 option, Jackson was scoring in every way possible, whether that was in the midrange, from deep, or getting all the way to the cup. Even Jrue Holiday was powerless to stay in front of the current starting point guard.
Morris continued to ride his hot hand throughout, and he joined Jackson and Kawhi Leonard at the 20-point mark with the first score of the fourth-quarter, a 3-pointer that extended LA’s advantage to 13, the biggest lead for either team to that point.
From there, it was Luke Kennard’s turn to bring the Clippers home. The Bucks had pulled to within seven when Morris found Kennard for his first three of the second half. The spot starter then proceeded to hit three more 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. At that point, the Clippers were up 17, and it was all academic from there on out.
This may have been the team’s best win of the season considering the circumstances. What an effort from a shorthanded squad to comfortably take out a championship contender.