The Clippers needed a bounce back win in a big way and got one in Sacramento. James Harden and Kawhi Leonard led the way in scoring, but it was a total team effort. The Kings, coming off of a gritty win against the Warriors, had no match for the disciplined and methodical Clippers.
The Clippers are now 8-9 and 10th in the Western Conference.
Here are my three takeaways:
The starting lineup came out and played exactly how they should have played Monday against the Denver Nuggets. James Harden was looking to score and did so with ease, Kawhi Leonard stormed out of the gates with efficient scoring, and Ivica Zubac was a menace inside. This is the type of game that the Clipper are capable of playing every single night and a big reason why the front office made the blockbuster trade in the first place.
Although there have been some tremendous downs, the highs have been very good. The bench unit provided some spark to hold the lead and when the starters came back in, it was pure domination of a really good Kings offense, albeit them being on a back to back.
I went scorched earth on James Harden recently, and called his play out as a big reason why the Clippers have gone on a run yet. Wednesday, Harden put on a clinic and proved to the NBA and to Clipper fans that he still has it. He finished with 26 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists. The biggest stat that will probably go unnoticed however is that Harden had 5 steals. His defense has been better than expected so far in his tenure with the Clippers, and he is getting his hands in passing lanes in ways that I have never seen.
In the first quarter alone, it looked like vintage Harden, draining three pointers, getting teammates involved, and finishing at the rim. If he can continue to provide that type of aggressiveness and scoring output, this team could look to utilize him as the number 1 option as they did Wednesday.
I was very critical of the coaching staff’s reluctance to play players that are stuck at the end of the bench. It seems like they read my article, because the first round rookie out of Missouri, Kobe Brown, played 11 minutes against the Kings and looked decent with some of the starters as well. Clipper fans have been clamoring internally about how they would rather see Brown play than P.J. Tucker (who was a DNP- Coach’s Decision Wednesday). Ty Lue says that “Kobe is going to be in the rotation.”
Although Bones Hyland, Amir Coffey, and Moussa Diabate should see minutes as well, inserting Brown into the rotation for the time being is an excellent move, and one that should’ve been made earlier. He can play defense, is young and spry, and a significantly better offensive player than P.J. Tucker, which forces teams to have to guard more spacing, thus opening more shots for the offense for the Clippers. Getting younger and having more size is the movement in the league right now, so why not give the kid a shot?
The Clippers head to the bay to take on a hungry Golden State Warriors squad. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM PST Thursday.