Recapping Christmas Day Slate
Christmas day means so much for so many different people. To some it is all about loved ones. To others it is about the religious implications. Some are even most excited about giving and receiving gifts. For NBA fans however, Christmas usually means watching 5 of the best games of the season. After a couple of disappointingly lopsided early games and an upset in The Bay, the real headliner was set to take place. The Clippers hit their home court for an away game against the hometown rival Lakers in The Battle of LA.
Clippers Finally Locked and Loaded
Coming into the Christmas day battle with the Lakers, the Clippers had yet to field all of George, Leonard, Williams, Beverley, Shamet, and Green in the same game. All of these players had missed at least a couple of games due to injury. The holiday headliner in LA would prove to be different, as the Clipper’s entire projected 10 man rotation was absent from the injury report. It could not have come at a better time as this was arguably the biggest game of the season for any team.
Lakers Lead Early
Despite Kawhi Leonard’s masterful performance, the Lakers managed to jump to a 12 point lead heading into the half. This was in no small part to Kyle Kuzma’s unexpected 15 point outburst in the 1st quarter. Even more impressive is the fact that LeBron shot 3 for 11 from the field with only 8 points before half time. The Clippers inability to make FTs proved to be detrimental as they finished the half shooting 44% as a team. The 2nd half would prove to be a different story.
Clippers Climb Late
The 3rd quarter provided a glimpse into truly how good this Clippers team can be defensively. They held the LeBron and AD led Lakers to a mere 23 points on 39% shooting as a team. Even more impressive was their three point defense. Holding players like Green and Kuzma, among others, to a combined 10% 3P% in the quarter as no small task. Kawhi’s 35 total points on 57.9% shooting was just enough to compensate for poor offensive performances from George and Williams. Williams shoot 1/6 (16%) from the field. This performance was so bad it can’t possibly sustainable (right?). Having his usual 2nd half scoring will be huge for this gelling Clippers squad moving forward.
The undisputed hero however, has to be Patrick Beverley. His impact was felt throughout the game, both on and off the box score. He only finished with 8 points, but his impact is more easily noticed in his 9 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, and 1 blk. No stat was bigger than his game clenching strip on a LeBron James three point attempt with 3.4 left in the game, Clippers up 109-106. The out of bounds call was reviewed and eventually the Clippers were awarded possession, all but sealing the game. After a couple of Paul George free throws, the Clippers escaped their hometown rival with a 111-106 victory.
Up Next for Both Teams
The Lakers hope to end their four game losing skid in an away game against a rising Trail Blazers squad Saturday. Though the team is only 6-4 in their last 10, they have reclaimed the 8th seed in the West over the Spurs. The Clippers find themselves back on their home court against an expected playoff lock Jazz team. The Jazz are also 6-4 in their last 10 games and hope to improve on their 7-9 road record Saturday night in LA.
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