In a tale of two halves, the Clippers started with a dreadful first but ended on an aggressive, heroic, poetic second half to beat the Wizards 116-115.
The Clippers dug themselves into an early hole, trailing 19-4 just seven minutes into the game. And while the typically notorious defense struggled early on, it was actually aggression from the NBA’s 27th-ranked offense that brought the deficit back down to more manageable territory. The Wizards lead, which peaked at 18 points in the opening period, was cut in half as the Clippers entered the second quarter trialling 32-23.
When the Clippers offense stalled at the start of the second quarter, however, the Wizards took advantage of the Clippers’ inability to string together consecutive and consistent stops on defense to rain down threes and bring the lead back up to 19 points.
Another airball from Los Angeles, this time by Brandon Boston Jr., was the mark of how this first half went. The Wizards, on the other hand, passed out 16 assists, shot 61.3 percent from the field (including 60 percent from three), and made 20 points in the paint en route to a 54-25 lead. Those same stats for the Clippers? Eight assists, 27.3 percent from the field, and 12 points in the paint. In those six and a half minutes to start the second quarter, the Wizards outscored the Clippers 22-2. Yeah.
And while you must credit a staunch Wizards defense, many of those missed shots came on open (or at least very good) looks. I don’t like to blame the Basketball gods for the Clippers poor play, but the amount of open shots that spun around the rim before falling out tonight is a pretty strong testimony that 1) they exist and 2) the Clippers have somehow angered them.
But things turned around in the second half. Maybe it was the younger, more aggressive lineup Ty Lue started with after intermission. Perhaps it was the opportunity to regroup during halftime. Or perhaps, it was just the wrong side of the court. After all of those changes, the Clippers started the third outscoring the Wizards 16-8. Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, and the Clippers bench (who Lue opted to keep in for the entire quarter) continued through the rest of the quarter outscoring the Wizards 24-19.
The Clippers, who trailed by 30 going into the half, dug back in the third quarter to get within 17 points.
Some stellar play from Jay Scrubb to start the fourth quarter continued to cut into the Wizards lead. What once was a 35-point deficit was cut to just eight, despite the fact that, in the entire second half, Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka, Ivica Zubac, and Nic Batum never saw the floor. In doing so, the Clippers outscored the Wizards 80-49 after halftime.
Coffey once again proved that he deserves a spot in the rotation and in the NBA. With a 29-point, intense performance tonight, the Brewmaster was the spark that the Clippers needed tonight. And with Paul George joining Kawhi Leonard on the injury report for the foreseeable future, Lue will likely continue relying on Coffey’s sense of urgency and aggressive motor.
The hero tonight, however, has to be Luke Kennard. When the game seemed all but over, Kennard produced. A couple of insane heroic heaves from three-point land from Kennard (including a game winning 4-point play) won the game for the Clippers. He let them go with nothing but a prayer. And yet, maybe the Basketball gods really do listen.