At this point in the season, the playoff picture is just about set, and the impact players are typically identified by scouts on all contenders. But the Clippers’ playoff roster is still being changed, as seen with the return of Norman Powell in tonight’s matchup against the Suns. With the recent appearances of both Paul George and Powell in the rotation providing a sense of optimism, their 113-109 win against the NBA’s top team to bring them back to .500 might give them the momentum they need in the play-in game.
The starting lineup for the Suns had only one familiar face in Mikal Bridges, so it wasn’t too surprising when the Clippers got off to a hot start. What was more impressive was the performance from George, as scored 10 points in less than five minutes after the start of the first quarter.
The second quarter wasn’t much better for the Suns, as the Clippers quickly scored 21 unanswered points. It was hard to ignore Powell’s impact on the game in the first half, not missing a single shot as he went on to lead all players with 17 points. The team’s 29 point lead at halftime was powered by well-rounded offense, but the interior defense secured their lead, marked by five blocks in the half.
The Clippers were clearly in the driver’s seat through the third quarter, but a late-game scoring surge by the Suns gave them a slim chance to win it at the end of the fourth. Ultimately, the lead built in the first half was too much for the Suns to overcome. Powell and George led the team with 24 and 19 points, respectively, aided in part by the 44 free throw opportunities that the team enjoyed. Most of all, the defensive numbers was what stood out, giving the Suns just 12 chances at the free throw line and holding them to just 39 percent shooting from the field.
The Clippers are not expected to go far in the playoffs, which would not be too much of a surprise given the many injuries that have sidelined significant contributors for extended period of time. However, this feel-good win says something for a team that continues to defy the odds.