PHOENIX – For the first time since the playoffs in April, the Clippers were back in Phoenix, and they looked determined. With a fully healthy squad, the big three of James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George took the brunt of the workload and played a complete game to seal the victory. A late Suns comeback was not enough to slow down George’s hot start, Harden’s clutch distribution, and Leonard’s methodical two-way playstyle.
The Clippers are now 21-12 and the 4th seed in the Western Conference.
Here are my three takeaways:
The Clippers have won 18 of their last 23 games, 13 of their last 15, and won 11 straight with Kawhi Leonard in the lineup. That is an insane stretch of winning that has brought them from the dead up into the top 4 of the Western Conference. Only the Celtics, who have the best record in basketball, have a better record since December 1st of 2023, and the trio of Harden, George, and Leonard have not lost a game since November 30th.
Health is a huge reason why this has happened, and it seems the players are finally taking the regular season to heart. Whether it be playing back-to-backs, many games in a few days, or sacrificing roles for the better of the team, the Clippers look, feel, and sound like a completely different team. Of course, this is a long season and we will wait to see what this looks like come April.
Over the summer there was plenty of talk between Devin Booker and Paul George after a few remarks back and forth on George’s podcast (Podcast P). There has been beef between the two since 2021, where multiple scuffles occurred in the regular season and postseason, but now Paul George finally got the chance to prove himself.
George finished with 33 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 3 pointers made, with 21 in the first quarter alone. There was a different bounce and aggressiveness to PG-13’s game on Wednesday night, and I think we all know why. When he plays like this, he is one of the top 15 players in basketball, and against a familiar foe that he didn’t get the chance to compete against last playoffs, George was locked in.
If there is any wood to be knocked around, find it immediately. There was a clean bill of health going into this game against the Suns, which is something Clippers fans unfortunately have rarely gotten to see. It just goes to show the work and determination that the players have put into the regular season compared to years in the past. When you play more games together and you build up your body game in and game out, these are the results you get.
Not to mention, the chemistry is off the charts with this squad. Mason Plumlee went to the coaching staff and advocated for Daniel Theis to remain the backup center so as to not disrupt chemistry, even though they are both fully healthy. Russell Westbrook’s decision to come off the bench sparked this fantastic run as well, and Bones Hyland, PJ Tucker and the rest of the bench have stayed ready and look like they are locked in and having fun. This team knows this year is extremely important and they are acting like it so far.
The Clippers travel to New Orleans Friday to take on the thorn in their side, Pelicans. Tip-off is set for 5:00 PM PST.