Last night the Los Angeles Clippers (24-11) got revenge for their embarrassing loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (14-15) by defeating them 119-99 at FedEx Forum on the tail end of a back-to-back. The Clippers just did not have it in the first game against them in this mini 2 game series, but that was not the case tonight. They righted the wrongs of the previous loss, and looked good right from the beginning. They had the energy and focus that they had lacked before. In the loss previous they allowed the Grizz to make floater after floater almost completely unimpeded, allowing Memphis to score over 70 points in the paint.
That is just a ridiculous amount to allow, even to the league leader in that category. The Clippers must have had watched a lot of film on that at practice, as they kept the Grizzlies to 54 points in the paint in this win. Well below the previous mark. The Clippers were in complete control of the game, winning every quarter. They never let Memphis get a lead above 4 points. They had them flustered and frustrated enough for their team leader, last year’s Rookie of the Year, Ja Morant to rack up 2 late technical fouls and get ejected from the game.
STAR OF THE GAME
Elite teams bounce back from losses and the Clippers typically do so. They have the league’s best record in games after losses going back the past 2 seasons. They do this on the strength of last night’s star of the game, Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi is a proven winner, a 2 time former Defensive Player of the Year, and 2 time Finals MVP. He has very little left to prove to anyone- outside of Clipper nation- other than himself.
He was out to prove to to the NBA world that the previous loss was just a fluke leading the Clips to a 20 point win with his impressive stat line of a team and game high 30 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and a block. There was a lot more height on his shot last night as he made 8 out of 13 field goal attempts, including 3 out of 5 3 pointers. 30 points on only 13 shots is quite a feat. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and there is no better chef to serve it up than the Klaw.
There is not a lot to harp on after this W. All of their shooting percentages were good, they came out with the right mindset from the opening tip, and won every quarter. Ultimately keeping the Grizz under a 100 points for the game. The only real gripe I have is the 17 turnovers. That is too many to have in any game against any opponent. Kawhi may have been the star of the game but he led the team with 4 of them. It did not cost them too much because Memphis only scored 13 points off of those miscues, but that will not always be the case if the team continues to not take good care of the ball.
An elite opponent will make you pay for those mistakes. It may be the difference in a future playoff game. This goes back to there is no true playmaker on the team. There are guys on the team who can make plays yes, but there is no one who has it as their #1 strength. Championship teams have won it all without a prototypical point guard in the past, however I am skeptical that this Clippers team is one of those types.
Once again I am going to go with second year player Terance Mann and his 13 points off the bench. I know he has been the surprise player several times recently, so his contributions should not really be coming as a surprise anymore, but I just want you readers to recognize. I saw the talent in the guy early on in the preseason last year, and even wrote an article centered around saying that the Clippers should give him a real look as the team’s starting point guard. He is really starting to show that talent that I saw in him, as he is rounding out into a stout NBA player.
He has all but replaced Luke Kennard in the rotation. Kennard is a guy who the Clips’ front office gave a hefty extension to, and now he is being paid to sit and watch thanks to the growth of Terance Mann. I have read that Mann may be a valuable piece when it comes to trade talks, but I would hesitate to let a player with such an upside go. He very well may be a future piece to build around. Although, I have to admit it would be good to see him thrive if he were given more opportunity. As long as he doesn’t do so against the team that drafted him mind you.
Vs. Memphis Grizzlies, Friday, February 26th at 5:00pm Pacific
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