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A PG problem: Three takeaways from Clippers-Knicks

The Clippers win, but they still have a point guard problem to solve.

Los Angeles Clippers v New York Knicks
Nicolas Batum bails out the Clippers with a buzzer-beating three against the Knicks.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers survived a fourth quarter collapse to force overtime on a game-tying three by Nicolas Batum, before belatedly beating the New York Knicks 134-128.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the way in this one, as they combined for 65 points including a perfect 19-for-19 from the free-throw line. Though Leonard did struggle once again shooting from deep, his team looked to have fixed some of the issues that were present in Milwaukee until the final frame where they once again went cold.

Thank France for Nico then, hey? Here are the takeaways…

Offensive improvements

A peek behind the curtain, here: I tend to try and draft these talking points as the game is going on. Throughout the first three quarters, I thought Kawhi and PG had looked much stronger going one on one than they had been when trying to close out against the Bucks on Thursday. In fact, it looked like a very deliberate improvement – a different energy, if you will.

However, suddenly the optimism of this particular takeaway changed as the game clock ticked over to the fourth quarter. Once again, Kawhi and PG in particular just went cold and from there the energy dropped and it seemed like we were cruising towards the same conclusion. The one thing they did clearly take from Milwaukee, as Tyronn Lue even mentioned pregame, was getting the ball to Norman Powell more when the stars were struggling.

However, as we now know, it was a pass to a certain Frenchman – on French Heritage Night – that pulled this one out of the fire…

The PG problem

The Clippers have three problems when it comes to the point guard position. Firstly, PG himself is clearly struggling as he tries to adjust to assuming the playmaking duties, finishing with another team-high four turnovers. Secondly, Coach Lue clearly likes to play with one ‘traditional’ point guard on the floor, especially down the stretch. Thirdly, the team’s current ‘traditional’ point guard options are not good enough to be on the floor, especially down the stretch.

Paul will probably have more good games than bad as the lead ball handler, so long as he stays healthy and continues to get reps as the de-facto point guard. However, Ty’s desire to still have that more traditional option on the floor down the stretch means that the easiest way to negate the weaknesses of PG, Reggie Jackson and even John Wall, is to find an upgrade at that position.

And that’s where we come onto last night’s reports…

What’s in a rotation?

The Clippers ran with just an eight-man rotation last night, despite Wall being the only scratch for health reasons. Luke Kennard and Robert Covington were the two overlooked, prompting further rumors about them being potential trade candidates. That, coupled with the Adrian Wojnarowski report about the franchise putting themselves in the running for Kyrie Irving, has some fans especially worried.

I’ll address the Kyrie stuff in a different article, but the fact that Kennard and Covington have both been so under-utilized – though the coaching staff have persistently encouraged the former to be more aggressive – will leave a feeling of what could have been if they are sent elsewhere.

As I’ve expressed on these pages before, I’m inclined to trust Coach Lue and the front office until they give me good reason not to. My biggest concern is that they may just be about to test mine – and many other fans – resolve on that.