Lull in the Schedule
The Clippers’ week included two below-average teams and a surging Pelicans squad. Even with their recent success, however, injury and growing pains from their young players have kept the Pelicans grounded for much of the season. The other two games of the week against the Cavs and Magic provided the Clippers with a couple of practice runs. Despite pulling out a 3-0 week, the Clippers still have some issues to address heading forward. Perhaps the most prominent is the team defense after allowing monstrous quarters from teams that aren’t known for their explosive scoring.
Through three games this week, Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard averaged 38 points, five assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals, and one blk per game. This included a 43 point performance through only three quarters against the Cavs. All the while, he is shooting nearly 59% from the field. Upwards of 52% from three-point range and don’t forget that all of this was done with Paul George sidelined. The last thing this team needs is more injuries, but George missing a few games may have been a blessing in disguise for the now surging Leonard. Perhaps with one superstar finding his rhythm, it will take some pressure off the other while finding a rhythm of his own.
Clippers vs Cavs (128-103)
The Cavs (12-31) came into this contest at the bottom of the East. They are in full rebuild mode. This season has been about trying to develop their young draft picks while actively looking for a trade partner to provide picks and youth for Kevin Love. This provided the perfect starting point for the team to right the ship after several shaky games in the last few weeks. The team as a whole stepped up defensively, not allowing a 25+ point quarter until garbage-time minutes in the fourth.
However, the real tale of the tape has to be Kawhi Leonard’s performance. He finished with 43 points on 64% shooting (60% 3PT), four assists, three rebounds, two steals, and one block. The most impressive part of this stat line? Kawhi didn’t play a single minute in the fourth quarter.
Clippers vs Magic (122-95)
The second home game in a row against a below .500 Eastern Conference opponent provided a similar result. This time, the team would not even allow the Magic to reach the 100 point mark. Another stellar performance from Kawhi led the charge as he put up his fourth consecutive game of at least 30 points. Also getting in on the act was Montrezl Harrell with an efficient 21 points on 60% from the field. Landry Shamet seemed to regain some confidence as well as he contributed 13 points on 37.5% from deep. This is a development worth monitoring since Shamet’s floor spacing could be vital to this team’s success down the road.
Clippers @ Pelicans (133-130)
The Pelicans took to their home floor and proceeded to punch the Clippers in the mouth early. Shooting a staggering 52% from three, the home team took an eight-point lead into the halftime break. However, despite the poor defensive showing, Kawhi would continue his hot streak of 30+ point games. He found his spots in the paint and finished with a 39-point, 54% FG performance.
As crazy as it sounds, Leonard was not the most significant factor late in this game. Lou Williams found his way to the FT line 15 times, taking advantage of the Pelicans’ inexperienced guards. His dagger 3PT shot with under 20 seconds to play in the game gave him 32 points on the day. It also gave the Clippers a 6-point lead that, despite JJ Redick’s best efforts, was too much for the Pelicans to overcome.
Clippers Week Preview
The Clippers are set to play four games in the next seven days, including another dreaded back to back. This entire week will be spent on the road as a part of the teams’ seven-game road trip. One of the games will be in Staples Center as Lakers’ home game. This week will likely prove tougher than last week as the team will match up with contenders from both conferences.
Their next game will be in Dallas against the young and amazing Luka Doncic’s Mavs. Then it’s a stop in Atlanta to face the young Hawks. This will be the second night of a back-to-back, so Kawhi will likely sit in this one. With Paul George tagging along for this road trip, this could likely be his first game back from injury. Then it’s on to Miami to face the surprise team of the year, the Miami Heat in the primetime slot on ESPN Friday night. Finally, the team stays in Florida for a matchup against the Magic for the second time in as many weeks.
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