Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both had quiet nights by their usual high standards, as Norman Powell and Terance Mann were the team’s leading scorers with 24 and 21 points respectively. The Mavs, led by the newly-acquired Kyrie Irving, shot the lights out during a first quarter explosion in Los Angeles and the home side never recovered enough to even take the lead.
Given the time that has passed, here are some bigger picture takeaways…
Team in transition
The Clippers, like it or not, have really got themselves back on track in most areas of their game. Their worst stretches in recent games have generally been down to overall weaknesses in the roster — some of which were corrected before the deadline — or lapses in moments from their stars.
If there’s anything on a bigger scale that it would be worth the coaching staff looking at, it would be their transition defense. Tyronn Lue’s team conceded 24 fastbreak points to the Mavs on Wednesday night, and they were already a bottom 10 in the NBA for opponent points off turnovers and opponent fastbreak points.
Improving that could be the final key to unlocking their full potential ahead of the postseason…
A standing count
That loss for the Clippers initially sent them down to the sixth seed, losing the opportunity to win the season series and secure a tiebreaker over the Mavs. That coming just prior to the news that Kevin Durant was heading to the Phoenix Suns felt like a hammer blow to our chances of securing some hardware at the end of the season. It also caused a wider fear to spread about the Kawhi/PG era’s championship window closing.
It is, of course, a concern that they couldn’t get this one over the line and secure what would have been a valuable boost to their playoff seeding, especially with the teams closest to them making blockbuster moves.
However, this one can be counted as something close to a schedule loss, coming off the back of a huge road trip and with the stars being put back onto a minutes restriction to manage the load that stretch put onto their bodies.
So it’s not all doom and gloom, then?
The rest of the runway
Actually, from this point on, things could really open up for the Clippers. They face tough opponents on paper between now and the all-star break, but then they face an unprecedented restful run until the end of the regular season.
The Clippers come back from the All-Star break with 21 games remaining, fewest in NBA history. 13 are at home. They have no Eastern Conference road games remaining. Their longest road trip is 3 (@ MEM/@ MEM/@ NOP). They will only leave California 4 times the rest of the season.— Lucas (@LucasJHann) February 9, 2023
That combined with their stars being managed carefully and you’d have to say well given their recent runs in the team, a few new guys coming in to bring some new energy and fill some of the voids, sets this squad up for a potentially steady end to what has been a roller coaster year so far.
There’s no doubt there will be more twists and turns to come, it is NBA basketball after all. But if you don’t like that…