By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

1/13/21 (7-5) New Orleans Pelicans vs (7-4) Los Angeles Clippers

Coming into the game leading the league in three-point shooting percentage the Clippers welcome to town the undermanned Pelicans who would be would be without highflying Zion Williamson and key ball handler Lonzo Ball. Though they are coming off their historic three-point shooting, by knocking down at least 20 three-pointers for the fifth game this season. Against the Pelicans, they would be challenged by the rebounding prowess, who is led by Stephen Adams who is pulling down 8.8 rebounds a game this season.

Brandon Ingram and Stephen Adams led the Pelicans with 7 and 8 points respectively in the first quarter. As may have been expected the Pelicans also led the Clippers in rebounds during that 1st quarter 14-6. However, the Clippers displayed good ball movement registering a game high 7 assists leading to 6 made three-pointers in the 1st Q. Allowing 7 out of the 9 Clippers that got in the game to gets some points on the board in that 1st quarter.

After being tied 28 all at the end of the 1st quarter, Paul George hit a last second 3 pointer at the buzzer, for his 18th point, to give the Clippers a 61-43 lead at halftime. In that half, the Clippers knocked down 11 of 20 three points shots, which is more than half way to another record of 20 three pointers for the sixth time in this young season. Additionally, they registered another 8 assists in that quarter, giving them 15 for the half.

Because the Pelicans were down a few keys players, they needed someone to step up in their absence and Nickell Alexander-Walker did just that. Alexander-Walker dropped in 26 points in the second half, while pulling down 8 defensive rebounds for the game. Alexander-Walkers 37 total points would keep the Pelicans with relative striking distance. Though Kawhi Leonard 12 points and 3 assist that led to big three’s down the stretch for them, would essentially ice the game for the Clipper giving them their 8th win of the season.

Ball movement and getting good shot has clearly been a focus of this new Clippers regime, and the players are buying in. Patrick Beverley credits the coaches for their new found offensive rhythm when he stated in his post-game talk with the media, “When it comes to the offense, you got to give the coaching staff a lot of credit. They instilled a lot of confidence in us.” Kawhi Leonard echoed similar thoughts when their offensive fluidity in his post-game comment stating, “Guys not wanting to take tough shots, if somebody on the team is open pass them the ball and it will get back to you.”

(8-4) Los Angeles Clippers vs Sacramento Kings (5-7) on 1/14/21

Going for their 3rd straight win they would tip off without Patrick Beverley (personal reasons) and Lou Williams (sore left hip). This gave Reggie Jackson a chance to start and Terence Mann an opportunity to shine minutes. The Clippers haven’t lost in Sacramento since March of 2013 and would be going for their 15th consecutive road games against the Kings in this matchup.

This was an 8-point game coming out of the halftime break when Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue said he “challenged the guys at halftime. They’re not beating us with sets, they’re beating us looking us in our face, lining us up, and driving the basketball.” The Clippers responded by giving up 16 points in the quarter meanwhile scoring 37 points of their own, led by Kawhi’s 11 points.

Though Kawhi led the team in scoring on Friday night, the play of Paul George has been nothing less spectacular this season, and his hot streak continued against the Kings. As this was George’s 9th game, of their 13 games played, that he’s shot over 50% from the floor and from 3 point range. On the season he is averaging 25.3 points per game career highs in assist at 5.2 effective field goal shooting at 63.3%

When asked about why he told his teammates “he’s coming with it this season;” Paul George said, “I’m in a healthier mind state, in healthier place; I’m coming back with vengeance! I didn’t like the fact that people saw weakness and I had to address that.”

Marcus Morris shot 7 of 12 from the floor coming off the bench and registered a season-high 18 points for the Clippers against the Kings. However, in his post-game comments, Morris applauded his fellow role players to the media stating, “T-Mann stepped up and Reggie stepped up. Kudos to them for staying ready and being ready when their number’s called.” After the game, Kings Head Coach Luke Walton told the media, “We have to understand as a group we have to be able to guard people and rebound when we get stops. Right now that’s something we have to figure out. It was evident tonight. They got what they wanted.”

(8-4) Indianapolis Pacers vs Los Angeles Clippers (9-4) on 1/17/21

The Clippers would start Ivica Zubac in place of Serge Ibaka, who would be out due to an undisclosed illness. Lou Williams also sat out his second consecutive game with knee soreness. However, the Indiana Pacers would be without a few keys players themselves, C Myles Turner, SF TJ Warren, and their recent acquisition G Caris Levert.

Even though the Clippers gave up 15 points to D McDermott in the first quarter, they were able to take a 36-26 lead at the end of the quarter behind Marcus Morris Sr.s’ team-high 7 points, and their dominance on the boards at 16-5. Kawhi pulled down four defensive rebounds to led the team, and he finished with 5 in total in the quarter.

Marcus Morris Sr led the Clippers in scoring in that first half with 17 points. After a big first quarter, they held McDermott down to 3 points in that quarter, scoring a game-high 18 for the half for Doug. Though, Justin Holiday and Domantas Sabonis each had 10 points in that second quarter.

Kawhi Leonard scored on back-to-back driving dunks on nearly every Pacer in the game midway through the 3rd quarter, which forced Nate Bjorkgren to call a timeout and have a talk with his squad. Kawhi also led the team with 11 points and five assists in that all-important 3rd quarter that saw the Clipper jump out to a 100-75 lead at the end of three quarters. I asked Kawhi about his focus coming out of the halftime break he shared with me that his “focus was trying to come out and play defense and keep sharing the ball… and play to win; that is all I did.”

Head Coach Ty Lue emptied the bench early in the fourth quarter, though not before they had a comfortable lead when Marcus Morris complied his most minutes of the season and highest plus/ minus number (35) we have seen in a while. Morris was also one of three players to amass at least seven rebounds in this game, which leads to the team season-high 52 total rebounds. Morris Sr. was extremely modest when about how he saw the game playout, stating “Sh**, I was wide open!”

Morris was also asked about the dialog between the coaches and players and how that relationship has been developing, Morris responded by saying, “It’s really like… like open. You can say what you want, everyone has a lot of respect for each other, and they listen to the players. We’re just moving forward, the dialog between the coaches and players has too strong if you’re trying to win a championship!”

The comradery and consultative environment that Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue, and his coaching staff, has developed was discussed once again in the player’s post-game press conference, and it’s clear that the players have a sense of comfort with where things are and feel inspired to excel. Kindly share your thoughts on what you’ve noticed about the Clippers team thus far, by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forward any suggestions on what topics or angles you’d like to see discussed to info@whatsgoodinsports.com.

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