The Clippers, after proving that they were capable of maintaining a high level of offense for 48 minutes in this Sunday matinee game, beat the Hornets 115-90.
Los Angeles started out rushed, perhaps pressured by the pace of the top-three rated offense in the NBA. Against the Hornets’ bottom-five rated defense, however, that pace allowed the Clippers offense to convert at a point of the game when they have struggled to do so of late: early.
LaMelo Ball’s propensity to grab rebounds and orchestrate the fast break, however, continued to punish Los Angeles for their turnovers and rebounding deficiencies this afternoon. The reigning Rookie of the Year led the Hornets to a 25-24 advantage after the first quarter. Contributing 23 points and 10 assists through a (at least for the first three quarters) competitive game, the young star is making his case heard for an all-star selection this year.
Despite the Hornets shooting below 35 percent from the field in the first half, they only trailed by four. Some lucky misses from Charlotte, however, must be acknowledged. But a truly engaged Clippers defense, led by the all around energy of Justise Winslow, cannot be appreciated enough. Throughout the game, that defense held the Hornets to 32.7 percent shooting from the field and 23.5 percent shooting from the three-point line.
Their poise may be a testament to the Clippers’ experience with Sunday matinee games through this and the past few seasons. Compared to the Hornets, who at times settled for worse shots on offense and took a while to power up defensively, the Clippers’ ability to stay engaged and active all game allowed them to play most of the game defending a lead, instead of battling back from a deficit.
Perhaps no one embodied that readiness to play as well as Marcus Morris Sr., who returned to the lineup this game. After missing the last three games for personal reasons, Morris Sr. returned and immediately contributed 16 points on 50 percent shooting, as well as a series of impressive hustle plays. He was joined on the starting lineup by Reggie Jackson, who led the Clippers with 19 points and five assists today.
The bench, however, was the deciding factor. Luke Kennard’s emergence as a playmaker and distributor, as well as Brandon Boston Jr.’s increased aggression as a slasher today are further proof of both the efficacy of the Clippers development team and the hard work of the players behind the scenes. One such Kennard dish to Boston Jr. dunk extended the Clippers lead to 93-78 with 9:08 left in the game.
While plus/minus does not tell the whole story, the bench five of Winslow, Kennard, Boston Jr., Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Hartenstein posted an average plus/minus of plus-25.4. They were given the reins to the game by coach Ty Lue, who closed out the game with his starting five on the bench.