Albeit leading by as many as 16, the Los Angeles Clippers couldn’t quite finish off their neighborhood rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, until the final seconds of the game. They collected their first win of the highly-anticipated season and added one more game to their now eight-game winning streak against their Crypto.com Arena counterparts — final score 103-97.
From load management to rotations, many things are still up in the air. But one thing’s for certain: the Clippers are very deep.
The team started with a lineup of Reggie Jackson running the point, Norman Powell offering offensive power at the two, Paul George going to work at his usual spot, Marcus Morris Sr. roaming in and out of the perimeter and the Clipper’s longest-tenured Ivica Zubac posting up inside the paint. Kawhi Leonard, to many’s surprise, started off on the bench per Tyronn Lue’s considerably prudent decision.
With Leonard being under load management, the 48 minutes of play were split evenly between eight players who all played more than 20 minutes. The team’s 103 points were also sliced nine ways, with six players scoring double digits. George and John Wall were the team’s scoring leaders, both finishing with 15 points.
But statistics don’t quite capture how scary this team looked.
Admittedly, it’ll only be a matter of time until Leonard re-joins the team’s starting lineup, but to see a two-times Finals MVP come off the bench must’ve been a frightening sight. But let me tell you who else came off the bench for the Clippers.
Last year’s best three-point shooter (his 44.9 percent three-point percentage was the league’s best), Luke Kennard can be a game-changing sniper off the bench. He cashed in on all three of his shots from long range.
A five-time NBA All-Star in Wall was the one to replace a high-scoring hard-to-guard star in Reggie Jackson. If these two players take on half of the game each night, it will be a hellish night for any point guard in any of the other 29 teams in the league.
Two tough-defending and sharp-shooting veterans, Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington, also offer Lue a multitude of options. They can be the primary defender on the opponents’ best offensive players and can also be shooters that help the team with spacing or go small at times.
And let me remind you that the team’s youngsters — the likes of Terance Mann, Amir Coffey and Brandon Boston Jr. — barely, if at all, touched the floor tonight. All three of them are hard-fighting athletic guards that can, on any given night, bring a spark off the bench. It was Mann, after all, who exploded for 39 points in the game that advanced the Clips to their first-ever Western Conference Finals.
Every coach knows the best way to break down star-stacked teams is to beat them when their best players are off the floor. But with the depth that the Clippers boast, it’s almost impossible to find weaknesses in their rotation. It’s All-Stars subbing in for superstars. Snipers for sharpshooters. And defensive juggernauts for athletic freaks.
The Clippers are here to win, and teams won’t even be able to catch their breath before the Clippers — all 15 of them — steal a win from them.