The Slovenian superstar had 43 points, including 16 successful trips to the free-throw line out of 21 total visits, but it wasn’t enough to stop Kawhi Leonard securing the W for his team by putting up 33, including some huge plays down the stretch.
Here are the takeaways from a breakthrough night in Los Angeles…
Terance is the Mann
The biggest decision from the first tip was Terance Mann’s role as the starting point guard, and it’s a decision that Tyronn Lue got right. The 26-year-old spent over 41 minutes on the court and had a team-high +24 despite just having a humble 12 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block. Once again, it was the energy he brought that made all the difference, helping them secure a rare wire-to-wire win.
Coach Lue clearly learned from the Atlanta Hawks loss, in which Mann sat for too much of the fourth quarter, with the squad losing their momentum as a result. Ty would have felt particularly vindicated as his makeshift point guard rose to swat away a Christian Wood drive as the Mavs tried to make a run in the fourth.
Asked Kawhi Leonard tonight about— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) January 11, 2023
a. What he expects from a point guard
b. His role in getting Terance Mann up to speed in his new role
Leonard: "For T. Mann, I'm just playing off of him... I think it's just going to be an experience thing." pic.twitter.com/GPsj24qFqd
However, it wasn’t the only big lineup decision that worked in the Clippers’ favor…
RoCo is a go-go
Finally Robert Covington saw extended minutes on the court, and finally he got to remind the world exactly what he was made of. Like Mann, his base stats don’t leap off the box score, but RoCo finished with a second-best in class +13 which included four offensive rebounds in a smothering defensive display off the bench.
Fans have been crying out for the ‘Wingstop’ lineups to get more run time, but also to see more of Covington in particular as the small-ball five, and this game showed exactly why. Patience has worn somewhat thin with Coach Lue’s tinkering, but it may be easier to stomach as long as we revisit these two lineup calls that are definitely boosting the team.
Season high 31 minutes for Robert Covington, who finished +13.— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) January 11, 2023
After all, we’re starting to see what he thinks doesn’t work…
Hitting a Wall
After being benched for the entire second half of the Hawks loss, Reggie Jackson was a ‘DNP - coach’s decision’ in this one, while John Wall finished as the only Clipper with a negative +/- in his 15 minutes on the court. That doesn’t necessarily mean the two can’t still make a meaningful contribution this season, just that neither are likely to feature in the best defensive lineups – which won’t come as a huge surprise to many.
Once the team figures out their offensive rhythm, it will be easier for Reggie and Wall to find their place within that, and the return of the pair’s good friend Paul George is likely to play a big part.
That should be cause for excitement now. Instead of wondering just how the Clippers can find a way to win, the task now becomes how they can build on this win and find new ways to do so.