Despite a strong effort in the first and fourth quarters, a stymied offensive effort in the second and third quarters led to a 137-113 Clippers loss to the Bucks.
In his Clippers debut, Norman Powell didn’t waste much time before he quickly showed just why Clippers fans were so ecstatic about this trade: hitting a couple of shots, getting back in defensive position, and overall fitting into the Clippers culture. In his first six minutes, Powell scored nine points.
Robert Covington must have wanted a piece of the action as well, as he quickly hit his first shot as well: a catch-and-shoot three. It wasn’t long ago when Covington was a premier 3-and-d wing, and if the Clippers can coax out some more winning basketball and minutes from him, too, this team can be even more potent on the defensive end. He finished with 13 points in 23 minutes tonight.
To that end, even when the Clippers were faced with a scoring drought in the first half of the second quarter, they were able to compensate with continued engagement on the defensive end and stay in the game. To their credit, the Clippers shooting just 3-for-19 in that frame was definitely influenced, in part, by the staunch defense of the Bucks, but the point still stands.
Giannis and his relentless assault in the paint, however, was a challenge for the Clippers defense all night. Milwaukee’s intimate awareness of the game on the defensive end also continued to bother the Clippers offense.
When a Giannis three expanded the Bucks lead to 23 halfway through the third, the defending champs seemed to have the Clippers on the ropes. It would take another monumental effort to dig back into this one. The Clippers, never one to back down from a challenge, hoisted their best attempt to do just that. Their best weapon to do that is a characteristic Clippers run in the fourth quarter.
After that run cut the lead down to single digits, the Bucks responded with a 9-2 run of their own. At times down the stretch, Holiday, operating from the left corner and baseline, singlehandedly orchestrated the Bucks offense. And a three-point effort from him that graced through the net shifted the momentum firmly back into Milwaukee’s favor.
Every loss has a silver lining, and this game’s was undoubtedly the play of Powell. In his first game in a Clippers uniform, he contributed 28 points in 24 minutes. Already tasked with being the offensive engine at times tonight, Powell powered the Clippers towards 18 made threes. That, coupled with a hearty defensive effort, showed Powell’s exciting fit within Lue’s system and this Clippers team’s culture. Familiarity and consistency will only improve from here. And if this is a sign of things to come, I genuinely cannot wait.