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Clippings: Welcome back, Luke Kennard

This is what the Clippers were missing when Kennard was in the protocol.

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LA Clippers v Washington Wizards Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Ty Lue could not stop talking about how much the team missed Luke Kennard and the spark he brings to the team offense when Kennard was out of the lineup and in the health and safety protocols to start the month (he missed nine games in total). The Clippers score 3.5 more points per 100 possessions with Kennard on the court, the second-best mark on the team behind Isaiah Hartenstein.

When Lue was talking about a spark, though, it’s fair to say Lue didn’t mean seven points in the final nine seconds and the game-winning four-point play, but hey, that’s what Luke Kennard can do.

Kennard was averaging 11.7 points per game while shooting 44.1 percent from three before he tested positive for Covid. Since then, his scoring average isn’t much lower (10.3 points per game), but his efficiency has taken a hit, as he’s made 7-of-26 three-pointers, or 26.9 percent of them, over the past three contests.

The Clippers as a whole have gotten on track on offense, but their full potential becomes realized when one of their best scorers — and certainly their best shooter — is on his A game.

What a time for Kennard to find it.

In 30 minutes, Kennard had 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-8 from three-point range. He made all four of his free throws and added eight rebounds and six assists. The Clippers outscored the Wizards by 26 points when Kennard was in the game. His shooting allowed the Clippers to play multiple non-spacers, like Justise Winslow and Isaiah Hartenstein, extended minutes, because their ability to find Kennard as passers in transition and in the half court (off of handoffs and all the other little magic Hartenstein does) was valuable.

“Just for Luke to finally start getting his rhythm back up after being out so long, the team trusting in him,” Lue said postgame. “He made, like you said, two big shots to win that game. Like I was thinking tie it up, but then when they fouled and then it went in, you get the four-point play to win the game. That was a huge win for us.”

It was a big moment for Kennard in his road back, and he called it the best shot of his NBA career, even if he’s not sure if it’s the only game-winner. All he wants to do is be able to impact the game, though perhaps not as dramatically as this one each night out.

“I knew it would take a little time,” Kennard said of finding his rhythm. “We’ll see what happens next game. Yeah, starting to get my breath back, my lungs, and breathing and getting my legs under me a little bit. It’s definitely getting a little better. Feeling good.”

Hard not to feel good after a historic win like that one.

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