The Los Angeles Clippers (28-16) pulled off a remarkable come from behind victory last night against the surging Atlanta Hawks (22-21) 119-110 at Staples Center. The Clips got off to a good start by blocking shots at the rim and Marcus Morris Sr. knocking down shots from deep, building a 10 point lead in the 1st. That lead quickly dissipated as Atlanta showed why they were currently on a 8 game win streak. Trae Young and John Collins led the way to building as much as a 22 point lead for their team. They stifled the Clippers in the 2nd beating them in that stanza 34-18. The Clippers were still playing hard, they just could not seem to make wide open shots.
Old School Coaching
Being ice cold from the field affected their play on the defensive end and prevented them from gaining any sort of momentum. Since bringing on Nate McMillan on as head coach the Hawks had been surging while The Clippers have been up and down. It seemed those trends were going to continue until about half way through the 3rd. That’s when Coach Ty Lue called timeout and made a complete lineup change by pulling his starters. He brought Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, Amir Coffey, Nicolas Batum, and Patrick Patterson. This unit played with the focus, fire, and ferocity that the starters seemed to be lacking as they completely stole the momentum from the Hawks.
Kennard was the standout as he caught fire and did not miss a shot. He capped off the 3rd by banking in a half court heave at the buzzer to cut the deficit to single digits. The bench kept playing solid into the fourth quarter. They continued cutting into the Hawks’ lead and eventually talking a slight lead of their own. All the momentum was with LAC when Kawhi Leonard was subbed in. He helped lead the Clips through the tape with some blocked shots, forced turnovers, and a couple of clutch late 3 pointers. The Clippers somehow broke the Hawk’s streak and started one of their own for the first time since mid February. This was the most exciting win of the season so far. It should go a long way in galvanizing the team.
STAR OF THE GAME
Luke Kennard and his 20 points 7 rebounds 4 assists and a block. He did not play at all in the first half, but he certainly made up for his lack of playing time by playing like a man on fire. He did not miss a shot the whole night going 8 for 8 and 4 for 4 from 3. Luke had been all but replaced by Terance Mann in the rotation, and was only seeing garbage minutes at most. To his credit he has stayed ready for whenever his number would be called. He got his chance last night to prove he should be out there on a nightly basis and he did just that.
The Clippers do not get this victory if it were not for him. It was him leading the way for the team as they made their rally. His buzzer beater to end the 3rd that gave the team the confidence that we were going to pull off the comeback. I’ve been critical of Luke this season, and skeptical of the contract extension he had been given. He proved that he was very deserving of that payday as he played like the player the Clippers expected him to be. If we can get this version of Luke on a night in night out basis, the Clippers will have a valuable weapon come playoff time.
How the team handles getting out to leads. When the Clippers get out to a lead, they have a tendency to get complacent and allow the opposition back into the game. This was a BIG problem for them last year in the playoffs after getting out to a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets. They let the the Nuggs take 3 games in row and the series from them after they had significant leads in each one. Coach Lue and the bench is not going to be able to pull off a miracle move like this every time the Clippers get down.
The team is going to have to learn that when they have a team down they should not take their feet off the gas and just stomp their opponent’s throats. This was a terrific win to the say the least, but the Clippers should never have allowed themselves to get down by 22 in the first place. I expect Coach Lue to make some adjustments to the rotation to prevent this in the future.
Terance Mann and his double double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. This guy has been the surprise player kind of a lot lately, so it shouldn’t really be coming as a surprise anymore, but putting up a 20 and 10 game sure surprised me. It was his tenacity on the defensive boards and confidence to take the ball to the hole that helped LAC seize control of the game. We have come to expect close to double digits scoring out of him, so him putting up a 20 piece was definitely exceeding expectations.
I almost gave him the Star of the Game nod, but Luke’s perfect night gave him the edge. So to give Mann the proper credit due to him, he once again gets the Surprise Contribution award. It was Luke who gets the game ball, but he really should be sharing it with Mann. I expect Coach Lue to be making some adjustments to the rotation, and one of them I anticipate is Terance getting the starting job over Reggie Jackson.
Mann is the man.
At San Antonio Spurs, Wednesday, March 24 at 5:30PM Pacific
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