The Los Angeles Clippers continue to establish themselves and find their footing with their most recent win over the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday.
Both teams missed key players in Kyrie Irving and Paul George.
Nonetheless, the Clippers walked away victorious after leading by just one late in the fourth quarter
James Harden, who suffered a six-game loss streak with the team after arriving in LA, acknowledged his team’s growth.
“Our identity, we know what we’re trying to get to on both ends of the ball and we’re living with the results,” said Harden.
Turning point: The Clippers established an early 35-22 lead with the help of 10 first-quarter Leonard points. Harden and Russell Westbrook carried the momentum on and lifted the Clippers offense to an 18-point lead with about nine minutes left in the second period.
LA entered the half leading by 11 points, but a commanding Mavericks offense eventually cut the deficit to just seven points. Impressive shooting from Luka Doncic allowed Dallas to see a one point 98-97 lead in the fourth, but multiple threes from Harden carried LA to a 120-111 win.
What it means: The team advances to 17-10 in their first 27 games, which lands them as the fifth seed in the Western Conference. As the Clippers reach nine straight wins (tied for the longest streak in the league this season) they also become undefeated in the month of December, so far. The nine consecutive games won mark the longest winning streak for the Clippers since the 2015-16 season.
Hits: On top of a collective 55% shooting night from Los Angeles, the Clippers capitalized in the paint against Dallas as they outscored the Mavericks 60-38 in the category.
Misses: The team managed to rally to a win without the likes of star player Paul George. George was initially announced as questionable for Wednesday, but then was ruled out by Ty Lue hours before tip-off due to an illness. It’s just the second game George has missed this season.
Stat of the game: Kawhi Leonard led his squad with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. He was 12-22 from the field for 54.5% shooting. According to NBA reporter Justin Russo, Leonard’s shooting performance Wednesday is the 11th straight game that he has reached over 14 field goal attempts and made at least 50% of them. Leonard is averaging 29.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists across the last 11 games.
Up next: The Clippers now prepare for a back-to-back with the Oklahoma City Thunder set for Thursday. The Thunder are 17-8 on the year and carry a 9-4 record at the Paycom Center.
Then the Clippers will conclude December with a three-game homestand at the Cypto.com Arena. The team will host the likes of the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 23, 26 and 29, respectively.