NEW YORK – The second game for this new Clippers squad looked a lot like the first one. In Brooklyn, the Nets played with more fire, energy and tenacity, while the Clippers looked like a team that had no answers for a lot of questions.
After the first quarter, it seemed the Clippers were on the right track, leading 21-13, with Paul George in a rhythm, low turnovers and balanced defense.
In the second quarter, the momentum switched a bit in favor of the Nets, with Brooklyn getting seven points off of six turnovers in the first half as well as having six offensive rebounds. This led to more second chance points, which has been an issue for the Clippers in every one of their losses this year so far.
The second half was a disaster yet again as Brooklyn took advantage of more turnovers and disjointed offense again from the four stars in the Clipper lineup. Cam Thomas was even ruled out of the game, along with Ben Simmons and Nic Claxton, but the Nets bench took full advantage of their opportunity to lead by two after three quarters.
The fourth quarter was almost a mirror image of what happened in the previous game against the Knicks. The Nets pulled away from a Clipper team that looked lethargic, one step behind, and just out of sorts in every way. Although a short run cut the Nets deficit to only four late, a Spencer Dinwiddie dagger three pointer off of another mismatch with Ivica Zubac put the game away for good.
The Clippers are now 3-4 on the season.
Here are my three takeaways:
The Clippers “Big 4” combined for 24-of-63 field goals (38%) and 6-of-26 on three pointers (23%). Paul George had a great first half scoring wise but ended up shooting 7-of-20 from the field and Russell Westbrook shot 6-of-18 from the field. Although Kawhi Leonard never found a rhythm, he still went 7-of-16 from the field and James Harden went 4-of-9 on field goals.
Harden has not been looking to score often so far in his two games, and I really think he should. There was a spurt in this game where he took the ball up the court on about two or three straight possessions and scored with ease on his defender. Harden and Leonard seem to be deferring too much in these first two games and as much as I know it is too early in the season to be panicking, there has to be more of a sense of urgency from this group.
In the five games without James Harden, the Clippers looked like one of the best teams in all of basketball, with a high pace with efficiency on offense and tenacity on defense. They ranked near the top of the NBA in offensive rating and top 10 in defensive rating. Now, it seems all of the momentum, flow, and intensity that they had throughout training camp, preseason, and the early part of the regular season is all but gone. Is it concerning? Yes. Should anyone be worried? Probably not.
I was always weary of making a trade this early in the season, especially with how crisp and balanced the team looked with Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington in the rotation. Now, my worries are coming to fruition with this team earlier than I expected.
I have said that this team is now thin at the power forward and center position, but seeing it on the court now makes it even more worrisome. The Nets and Knicks are dominating the Clippers on the boards, tiring them out, and it is now leading to turnovers on the offensive end.
This team will get it together eventually, but they need to get back to the ferociousness and “backs against the wall” mentality that they had in training camp before it gets too late.
I have been pretty negative to say the least, but let’s change up that vibe. Terance Mann made his first appearance of the season Wednesday night in Brooklyn after a 6 game absence due to an ankle sprain.
Mann is a huge addition for a team that needs all the help it can get on the boards and with slashing and cutting. With the James Harden trade, Mann will now come off the bench in the second unit and he made an impact right away on defense in the matchup against the Nets.
Although he didn’t score, Mann had active hands and four rebounds in 19 minutes. Look for Mann to round out that second unit and build his way back up in the twenty minute range on a game-to-game basis.
The Clippers travel to Dallas to take on their rival Dallas Mavericks Friday night. Tip-off is set for 5:30 PM PST.