LOS ANGELES — It looked bleak throughout a majority of the game, but the Clippers locked in in the fourth quarter and got a tough win against a scrappy Detroit Pistons team that had been playing well coming in. Paul George too had a bounce back performance, scoring 33 points on 14/24 shooting to lead the way. Kawhi Leonard also contributed a solid 24 points on 7/18 shooting as well, but what kept the Clippers in the game was the play of the bench duo. Amir Coffey poured in 12 points and Russell Westbrook added 13 points to supplement the scoring while Norman Powell (who left with a bloody blow to the head) was injured. A win is a win for the Clippers, especially in an afternoon game where they usually falter.
The Clippers are now 35-16 and are the 3rd seed in the Western Conference.
Here are my three takeaways:
It was only a matter of time before George got back to the level of play that made him an All-Star this year. With his 33 points on Saturday, he finally broke out of his shooting slump that has held him under 20 points in every game since the Celtics game in Boston. Having some time off of that groin injury definitely helped, and the upcoming All-Star break should help even with George participating in the game.
While the team has certainly excelled with George playing as underwhelming as he was, a healthy and efficient PG13 takes this team to another level as we had seen before this nagging injury. I expect him to round back into his superstar form after the break, but the game on Saturday is certainly a step in the right direction.
It is evident that this team just has not had the energy they once had in January amidst their torrid stretch of wins. In some ways I do understand it, as every team goes through lulls of some type throughout the dog days of the season. But on the other hand, every game is insanely crucial in seeding and building momentum towards the playoffs, even in February. There is a logjam at the top of the Western Conference, and the Clippers had the top seed for a whole 24 hours before losing one game to New Orleans being knocked all the way down to the four seed.
Even though the strength of schedule was in favor of the Clippers in a majority of games recently, they have come up flat in a few games where they could really put teams away. Is it a concern? Sure. But this team has had the seriousness and integrity of one that cares more about what’s done in the playoffs, rather than what is in front of them currently from time to time.
In the fourth quarter, Powell went up amongst a few Detroit Pistons players and when he came down it seemed to be an inadvertent elbow to the head. Usually those types of plays seldom result in anything serious but after being down for some minutes, Powell had to be helped to the locker room. Obviously the initial fear in real time was a lower leg injury but on replay, it was as gruesome of a head injury as you will see. Pools of blood were around Powell as he started to bleed immediately after being hit, which led to towels and pressure being applied to his head.
Thankfully these types of instances require stitches and players are usually able to get back into the lineup sooner rather than later if a concussion is avoided. In this instance, we will see how Powell responds, but his postgame comments made it seem like he won’t miss much time, which is a blessing for the Clippers, who need his efficiency and scoring in the lineup.
The Clippers will now face the dangerous Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday in Los Angeles. Tipoff is set for 7:30 PM PST.