Monday night may have just seen the Los Angeles Clippers’ biggest win of the season, as they beat the Boston Celtics 113-93, becoming the only team to hold Joe Mazzulla’s squad to under 100 points in the process.
There were many smaller reasons as to why that happened on this specific night, but as Kawhi Leonard put it in trademark fashion after the game, it simply came down to being able to get their best guys healthy and on the floor. In beating the reigning Eastern Conference champions, they proved that their health had really been the root of almost everything that’s gone wrong so far for Ty Lue’s team.
That’s not to say it was perfect, far from it.
The Clippers’ offense saw their shots fall which feels like a rarity on the evidence of this season, but they didn’t create a whole lot of great opportunities for themselves on this occasion. A combination of Jaylen Brown’s foul trouble and the Celtics’ lack of rim protection, with both Robert Wiliams III and Al Horford missing, meant that they were able to get tougher shots than normal to fall.
It’s not exactly a sustainable strategy to score so many of your buckets unassisted — especially from mid-range — but hopefully this win proves enough of a confidence booster to help them build back towards a solid offensive foundation.
Their defense, however, showed its teeth once again, limiting the opposing stars Brown and Jayson Tatum to a combined 45 percent from the field and just 21 percent from three-point range. The latter of the two had a particularly quiet night, as the Clippers made a conscious effort to throw double teams at him from the tip-off, which meant he never got to establish a rhythm in the game and looked tired. They also did well to limit the duo’s ability to make plays for others, which showed in the lack of impact from guys like Marcus Smart, Derrick White and Sam Hauser, who have been big for their team this season.
So what does a win mean for the Clippers? Well, as I said before, it’s a solid foundation to build on. They still need to work on their shot selection, but being able to establish their rotations with their stars back healthy is the key to ensuring they can do that. It helps them rediscover their fluidity on the floor and prevents their offense from going as stagnant as it has at times this campaign, it opens up the floor for their role players, but crucially it lessens the impact those guys need to have night in and night out.
While we salute the ‘next man up’ mentality of this roster, it’s unrealistic to expect their third, fourth and fifth options to be able to go out and carry the burden on both ends of the floor, which has been the case far too often already this season.
If Monday night in The Crypt proved anything, it’s that nothing is won and lost at this stage of the season. It showed simultaneously that health will be the key to the Clippers’ success at the end of this campaign and that without it, that point could come far sooner than their best performance of the year so far suggests they can still go.