It wasn’t the perfect game by any means and the Mavs still have a lot of problems of their own, but this one felt like a playoff performance from Tyronn Lue’s team, and the entire coaching staff will no doubt really like what they saw from their guys in this one.
On that note, here are the takeaways…
Rotational concerns have been the bane of the Clippers’ existence this season, but through recent weeks they’ve been trending in the right direction in that department, and tonight we may have just seen the best yet. With Norman Powell at the one and a small-ball, wing-heavy lineup also featuring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers were able to blow this one wide open.
Lineups with Norman Powell as the lone guard and no center were +21 in 48 minutes coming into today. Today was the first time all season he played extended minutes in those lineups alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. https://t.co/0MhlL50DmZ— (@FlyByKnite) January 22, 2023
It seems that it is still likely that the front office makes a move for a backup center before the trade deadline, and rightly so, but it was good to finally see some small-ball success. It was a crucial aspect of the run to the 2021 Western Conference Finals and it will be necessary again if they’re to make another deep playoff run.
This one was an all-round effort, though, with even more positive signs beyond the starting and closing fives…
That bench lineup had some serious juice tonight and it was great to see Robert Covington getting big minutes, especially after a relatively ineffective display in the first half that may have seen him benched in previous games. Powell continues on an absolute tear, while Reggie Jackson showed some of that “Big Government” form and Nicolas Batum finished with a team high +23.
The bench actually outscoring their opponent pic.twitter.com/pCSZLTRIQm— Joseph Raya-Ward (@JosephRayaWard) January 22, 2023
Positive minutes from the pine have become a part of the Clippers identity through recent years especially and, although the opponent reserves won’t score a mere nine points every night, it’s another aspect of the performance that was so refreshing to see again and hopefully bodes well going forward.
Yet there was one performance that was the biggest reminder of what this team has got at the top end…
Playoff Kawhi has arrived
It feels a long while back now that members of the mainstream media were questioning whether Kawhi was done and insisting that he still didn’t look right coming off the back of the injury, but since that point he has been trending to the moon. Tonight, Leonard looked as mean and lean as ever, as he finished with 30 points on 10-for-18 from the field and pulled down nine rebounds.
Kawhi Leonard's last 7 games:— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) January 22, 2023
29 PTS - 7 REBS - 4 ASTS - 2 STLS
33 PTS - 9 REBS - 4 ASTS - 4 STLS
24 PTS - 8 REBS - 4 ASTS - 1 STL
30 PTS - 6 REBS - 4 ASTS - 2 STLS
27 PTS - 4 REBS - 1 AST - 1 STL
36 PTS - 4 REBS - 7 ASTS - 2 STLS
30 PTS - 9 REBS - 3 ASTS - 1 STL
The boardman loves playing against Dallas and there’s every chance he’ll be seeing them again in the playoffs, because it feels like we’re doomed to face Luka Doncic until infinity. However, if we have to face off with them through yet another seven games, we can rest assured that we have the perfect antidote to the Slovenian’s generational talents.
Leonard has had to carry the team somewhat in recent games, but if he keeps playing the way he did tonight then the rest will eventually catch up and we can start to dream again…