The LA Clippers’ home battle against the Golden State Warriors was played in a playoff-like environment. From the crowd noise to the stellar defense to the premier shooting of megastars Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry, the Clippers’ 134-126 victory had the feel of a game that truly mattered.
Part of that has to do with the Western Conference standings. In an increasingly tight race to avoid the play-in tournament, the Clippers’ win ensured a one-game lead over the Dubs and sole possession of the fifth seed.
It now seems clear that the Clippers will be able to make the playoffs, but whether or not they will live up to preseason expectations remains an open question. If they are to compete for the franchise’s first title, the team must have their foot on the gas night in and night out. However, the Warriors game had a lot of good signs. If the Clippers can keep that level of play up, the Larry O’Brien trophy may be within reach.
One player who definitely lived up to the primetime billing was LA Clippers superstar, Kawhi Leonard. Leonard put in 30 points on an efficient 10-of-19 clip, and added eight rebounds and five assists as well. Paul George filled the second star role admirably, chipping in 24 points and seven assists. The two players combined for 40 of the team’s 96 field goal attempts, a number that will likely increase come playoff time. In a conference holding the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Nikola Jokic, the Clippers’ All-Stars will have to play at the highest level possible. They showed that on Wednesday night.
Offensive Boards are Big
The LA Clippers would not have won without the efforts of Ivica Zubac and Russell Westbrook. Zubac had one of his better games of the season, scoring 19 points and grabbing 16 rebounds against an overmatched Warriors frontcourt. Westbrook struggled from the floor, shooting 6-for-16, but grabbed nine rebounds, four on the offensive end. Of Zubac’s 16 boards, five were offensive. As a team, the Clippers garnered 16 offensive rebounds, leading to 27 second chance points.
With the season coming to an end, it is clear the LA Clippers are still far away from winning the title, and playoff basketball is a different beast. However, if they keep getting spectacular performances from their superstar duo, they just might be able to string together numerous wins come playoff time.