INDIANAPOLIS – Behind the all around play of Kawhi Leonard and incredible 4th quarter scoring of James Harden, the Clippers annihilated the Pacers in the second half. The Clippers are now winners of 8 games in a row and notch a blowout win in the first game of a 3 game road trip.
The Clippers are now 16-10 and 6th in the Western Conference.
Here are my three takeaways:
It has been a slow and steady grind for Harden in a Clipper uniform. After a rough stretch to open his tenure, Harden had 35 points, 9 assists and 3 rebounds with 8 three-pointers. He had 21 points in the fourth quarter alone and sent the Clippers bench into oblivion with four straight three’s before coming out of the game. Harden has not only been scoring, but his defense has been excellent, getting multiple steals per game, reading passing lanes and looking engaged while on the ball. If the Clippers can use Harden’s elite playmaking to get Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in their spots, and transform Zubac into the best version of himself as we are seeing now, this team will continue to play like this consistently.
With their 8th straight victory, the Clippers still have the longest active winning streak in the NBA and are looking like one of the most dangerous teams in the league. This has been a complete turnaround for a team that many (including myself) selfishly ruled out of contention early due to inconsistent play and lack of effort. Now, the focus and mentality looks exactly how it did coming out of training camp and preseason, and with the roles and rotations now ironed out, it looks like this Clipper team is primed to make noise in a loaded Western Conference.
Tyronn Lue and the coaching staff have now made the right moves in the rotation, Russell Westbrook has completely bought into his role and provided a spark off the bench, and the starting lineup has some of the best metrics in all of basketball. I have to give a lot of credit to everyone in the organization for taking things one day and game at a time and figuring things out amidst all of the talk and scrutiny amongst the media.
There is a certain level of calm and level headedness to this squad, which is something that fans seldomly saw last year. Not to mention, they have maintained a clean bill of health and taken care of their bodies and regimen, which many have always said was the only thing getting in the Clippers way of winning at a high rate.
I know this goes without saying, but when you win it does help the vibe and chemistry of a team. That is on full display here with the Clippers. They have scored 140 points or more in the last two games and have had the ability to rest the core in the half of each 4th quarter. That is much needed for an older team, but it also allows more camaraderie. After James Harden’s 4th quarter blitz in points, the team proceeded to jump off the bench and explode with excitement. That is something that just a month ago, heck, just two weeks ago would’ve sounded like a pipedream.
We all did need to give this team some time to gel and find one another, not just on the court, but off. I do believe that this is a close squad, despite the narratives from the outside that are trying to split them up. There is a confidence in this team that I haven’t seen since 2021, which is when they made their first ever Western Conference Finals. I know it is still December, and there is much basketball to be played, but this Clippers team has the talent and mentality, now they just need to stay healthy.
The Clippers will travel to Dallas on Wednesday to take on a great Mavericks squad. Tip-off is set for 5:30 PM PST.