DENVER – What seemed to be the most locked in and aggressive Clippers team we have seen since getting James Harden, still resulted in a loss. Denver dominated the boards down the stretch and got stops when they needed them, while the Clippers were a “wedgie” away from sending it to overtime.
Paul George had it going tonight with 35 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals, while James Harden had his best game in a Los Angeles uniform with 21 points. Unfortunately, foul trouble and missed execution in crunchtime backed by a 32 point, 16 rebound, and 9 assist game from Nikola Jokic was enough to hold off a desperate Clipper team in Denver, 111-108.
The Clippers are now 3-7 and have lost six straight games to fall ton their worst start since 2010.
Here are my three takeaways:
Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies and Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets were the best games the Clippers have played since the Lakers game a few weeks back. The team played with desperation in Denver, playing excellent defense for the most part and playing through the best player on the team, Paul George. George has been sensational as of late, and has now fully established himself as the number one option on the team over Kawhi Leonard.
Terance Mann also played very well in this one, playing extended minutes for the first time since coming back from the ankle injury. Essentially, Mann was stretched to play close to starter minutes in the fourth quarter and gave the Clippers energy, rebounding and slashing.
This team looks like its starting to gel a bit and although it isn’t resulting in wins, I do feel like they are headed in the right direction offensively.
Harden looked a lot more aggressive scoring wise against Denver on Tuesday night, getting over 20 points for the first time as a Clipper. Although the team has slowed down a bit, Harden looks to be getting back into game shape and using his quickness to get by defenders again. Not only that, but his shot is falling from outside of the paint as well. I know a ton is made about his passing ability and getting his teammates involved, but when Harden looks to score first, he can be dangerous.
I have said previously that Ty Lue is not to blame for a lot of the mess surrounding the Clippers right now and I do still stand by it. It is very tough to come out of training camp with a gameplan and philosophy, to then switch it 4 games in by revamping the roster.
However, over the last two games, there have been some head scratchers in the rotation. The Denver Nuggets closed on a 17-5 run when Russell Westbrook was pulled from the game in the fourth quarter. Westbrook hasn’t closed in either of the last two games when he was bringing the team energy, rebounding and excellent defense at the guard position. He should be closing games.
Not only that, but the fact that the final play drawn up for Paul George was very questionable, along with the inability to throw bigger guys at Nikola Jokic with Mason Plumlee out. Kobe Brown and Moussa Diabate need to be a part of the current rotation, along with Bones Hyland, who has looked fantastic this year before being benched.
There is a lot to sort out, so I will give the staff the benefit of the doubt, but there needs to be some different decisions made.
The Clippers will head back home to take on the upstart Houston Rockets in Los Angeles. Tip-off is set for 7:30.