In a game that effectively resembled a belated NBA All-Star exhibition matchup, the Los Angeles Clippers fell to the Sacramento Kings, 176-175, in double overtime.
It was the second-highest scoring game in the league’s history, as both sides shot the lights out and played at an unbelievable pace right up until the final buzzer. However, 25 turnovers ultimately killed the home team, in front of a packed crowd there to witness Russell Westbrook’s first game as a Clipper.
With that being said, here are the takeaways.
A wild Westbrook appears
Well, have a debut then, Brodie. Russ had 17 points on 7-13 shooting from the field, with 14 assists and 5 rebounds in 40 minutes. As a starter, he helped the Clippers push the pace, driving to the paint, applying rim pressure and allowing them to keep up with a Kings squad who have spent the entire season making their opponents run marathons before beating them anyway.
17 points— NBA (@NBA) February 25, 2023
Russ put in work as the Clippers fought a wild 2OT battle with the Kings on his debut pic.twitter.com/PJTuNxHM1x
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to beat them this time, and there were moments when Westbrook was on the floor that played straight into De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk’s hands especially. The backcourt duo were able to get into the paint and punish the Clippers with too much ease, while Russ himself turned the ball over seven times, which proved fatal.
So there were some things to like about his debut, but there is still an awful lot to figure out, including...
Ty doesn’t use Mann
There were 58 minutes of basketball played in The Crypt in total last night. Terance Mann only featured in just shy of 18 of them, the least amount of time he has featured in since the New Year’s Eve loss to the Indiana Pacers. In his 18 minutes he had 10 points on 4-5 shooting from the field, with 3 rebounds and 4 assists, finishing with a team-high +6.
After the game, Tyronn Lue admitted he was still learning with this team and that Mann “was good,” and “should have played more.” While that is an infuriating sentiment for skeptics of the Russ acquisition because of the impact it would have on Mann’s minutes, the flip side is that it’s good the coach can see he was wrong with this one so hopefully that’s the end of that.
Terance Mann has played so incredibly for the Clippers. It’s inexcusable he got only 18 minutes tonight. And he was a team-high +6 anyway. Ty Lue has veteran options now but Mann’s minutes shouldn’t be cut so much.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 25, 2023
Ty always said he wanted a 15-game run with this team to see what he had, so he has left himself with five games to play with, which could be all they need because...
No one is unbeatable right now
I was just as frustrated as anybody with this loss, but it’s still important to keep perspective. The Denver Nuggets are comfortably the best team in the West and pose the biggest matchup threat to the Clippers during the postseason. We also don’t typically match up well against the Grizzlies, but they have shown some real signs of weakness this season too, and don’t have much by way of playoff experience.
As for the Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks, and whoever makes it through the play-in tournament – assuming that is the way those chips will now fall – this team should still feel confident.
The Suns have all the top-end talent in the world now, but any argument you could make against this Clippers team you could also make against them just as fiercely. The Mavs will feel confident after the addition of Kyrie Irving, but they still have many of the same issues they’ve always had. The play-in teams may present different wildcard threats, but they’re all teams we can be confident against over seven games.
So why am I so confident? Mostly because Kawhi Leonard is absolutely rolling. He is back to looking as good as he has ever looked, and so long as he stays healthy, there’s every reason to believe he can paper over any cracks this roster still shows when crunch time comes.