“It felt like opening night a little bit when we came onto the court,” said Nicolas Batum of the atmosphere inside The Crypt on Wednesday, with a palpable sense that their push to go deep into the postseason starts in earnest from this point.
Nicolas Batum on the atmosphere inside the arena tonight with a fully healthy team: "It felt like opening night a little bit when we came onto the court."— (@FlyByKnite) December 22, 2022
There are, of course, still many scenarios that can unfold over the next few months, and there are still five teams ahead of the Clippers in the Western Conference, but it was clear to see that spirits were high between the players and the coach staff.
Here are the three biggest takeaways from the win…
No Injuries? No Problem
The rare sight of a barren injury report beforehand clearly had a huge positive influence on the fanbase and the team, and it felt like the first time this season where the franchise was united in their determination to push forward from such a turbulent period.
Though Kawhi Leonard had a quieter game than we’ve been accustomed to in recent times, Paul George put up a statline of 22 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, including shooting 40 percent from deep and sinking all four of his free throws.
However, there were still some teething issues…
OK, It Wasn’t Exactly Perfect
George himself had 7 turnovers and the team as a whole gave up the rock 22 times, which is still far too much and would likely have been punished by a better team than the Hornets, respectfully.
Kawhi’s quiet display was probably to be expected given his recent heroics, which John Wall is another that has featured a lot recently and also had a slow shooting night in just 19 minutes on the court. Ivica Zubac doesn’t look fully back up to speed yet, despite the spirited win, but the Croatian has proven throughout his time with the franchise that he’s a plug-and-play guy.
Robert Covington can’t be blamed for not feeling that Christmas cheer emanating from downtown L.A., playing just three minutes during garbage time last night. RoCo still deserves better than the hand he’s being dealt, and hopefully the stars being back can be a help rather than a further hindrance to his playing time.
…But Those Stars Are Aligning
It certainly helped Nicolas Batum’s time on the court on Wednesday, as he shot 7-for-10 exclusively from three-point range. The Frenchman has really started to settle into a rhythm, making the backup five spot his own and perhaps accidentally keeping Covington out of the picture with his upward trajectory.
Given the extra attention that Kawhi and PG being on the floor demands, it’s clear that role players will be able to come to the fore, getting more open looks and a fairer share of the minutes.
Let’s hope a healthy Clippers roster is more than just a Christmas miracle.
Happy holidays, everybody!