The one-time champion filled up the box score with 33 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks, which included a huge defensive play and some clutch free throws down the stretch to ice this one.
After the game, Leonard said the Clippers have still got a lot of catching up to do, but if he keeps playing like that then this train will just keep rolling on…
The turnover game
This takeaway is all about the giveaways, no less the one forced upon Zach LaVine at the end. Considering that Tyronn Lue’s team had long been one of the worst teams in the league at looking after the ball and remain a bottom half team by that metric across the full campaign, through the past seven games they are the top-ranked team in the NBA.
In this matchup, the Clippers had just eight turnovers, and five of those came from the single source of Paul George – who continues to find the odd teething issue as he establishes ball-handling duties. Those intermittent stumbling blocks aside, they have really tightened things up when in possession.
The Bulls, on the other hand, gave the ball up 20 times and surrendered 24 points off of those. Those came by way of 15 steals from Kawhi (who had five on his own) and company, which was one of the biggest difference makers.
Sometimes you've gotta win ugly. Clips showed resolve in a game where they weren't particularly good AND dug out of a huge hole. Forcing 20 turnovers is a really good sign.— Joseph Raya-Ward (@JosephRayaWard) February 1, 2023
Slow shooting? No problem
Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, Nicolas Batum, Reggie Jackson and Robert Covington made just six field-goals between them on Tuesday night, with nobody among them making more than two. The Clippers as a whole shot just 12-for-44 from three, despite engineering a lot of good looks throughout the contest.
However, despite a particularly slow shooting night for the league’s sixth-best team from deep percentage wise, they still managed to pull this one out of the fire and showed the kind of mentality that was so badly lacking through the first half of the season.
They’ve been trending in the right direction for a good amount of time now, but finding another way to win is a very welcomed addition to their postseason armory…
Small ball benefits
OK, so this wasn’t actually the prototypical game that vindicated the Clippers going small in the non-Ivica Zubac minutes, but as Nikola Vucevic hit three threes within the first quarter, I thought to myself that the team needed to try something different to drive him off the perimeter. That, to my mind at least, is where the biggest benefits of small ball lie – though it took Coach Lue a little too long to go with the full ‘Wingstop’ lineup in this game.
A guy at Vucevic’s level putting up 23 points may have the skeptics thinking, ‘what happens when we come up against Nikola Jokic,’ but being able to throw different combinations at bigs that can stretch the floor is what will turn this team back into a tough defensive unit.
If in doubt, Wingstop is the way out…