The Clippers entered the season believing that their depth and expertise would place them in a league of their very own inside the Western Convention.
Sixty-seven video games in, they’ve achieved simply that, reworking what some say could be one of many NBA’s finest groups into arguably its most complicated.
They regarded set to freefall within the third quarter on Sunday and went full throttle to cap off the bravest, most wanted win of the season, a 135-129 victory towards Memphis.
With 42 factors from Paul George and 34 from Kawhi Leonard, together with 15 within the fourth quarter, the Clippers ended their five-game dropping streak and secured a win on an evening that at one level misplaced path to the franchise appeared.
After Memphis allowed 51 factors within the third quarter, the Clippers allowed solely 17 within the fourth quarter.
The Clippers arrived on the Crypto.com Area on Sunday evening because the West’s solely winless workforce because the All-Star break led to mid-February.
In the beginning of the season, the stretch run of the schedule after the All-Star break appeared like an opportunity to relaxation and tune into the playoffs.
As a substitute, a streak that has continued by way of one-point losses in Denver, San Francisco and Sacramento has become a survivability to remain within the postseason image.
And that’s why the stakes had been greater than normal on Sunday, as their nearly full roster — that includes solely Norm Powell and his injured left shoulder — had no excuse for a closely understaffed Memphis roster.
The All-Star ignition in Ja Morant will miss at the very least two video games, his timetable for a return is unclear after that, amid a league investigation into the guard’s Instagram video of him posing with a gun.
Beginning huge man Steven Adams had an injured knee.
An Achilles tendon tear late final week sidelined athletic wing Brandon Clarke for the rest of the season. And drawing too many technical fouls had led to a suspension for chief instigator Dillon Brooks.
The Clippers desperately wanted a win.
They as soon as once more recalled why they tread water – and why a glimmer of hope in capturing their potential stays of their dressing room as they improved to 34-33.
As a substitute of adjusting his beginning lineup, coach Tyronn Lue went again to his inventory look of Leonard, George, Ivica Zubac and Marcus Morris Sr.
However with the Clippers nonetheless trying lackluster at halftime, with Morris’ influence minimal after lacking all 4 of his photographs whereas including one rebound and one help, Lue began Nicolas Batum over Morris within the second half.
Inside a minute, their halftime five-point lead had expanded to 11. However lower than eight minutes later, with their protection once more in tatters and three largely preventable turnovers resulting in seven Grizzlies factors, the Clippers trailed by 10.
And when Grizzlies reserve Santi Aldama turned and spun on Terance Mann on the free-throw line with a drive that led to a dunk, and Desmond Bane adopted up on the subsequent possession with a three-pointer in transition, the lead swelled to 16.
The Grizzlies scored 51 factors within the third quarter, a report low for a Clippers protection that has been among the many league’s worst prior to now two months.
Between the third and fourth quarters, because the Clippers contemplated dig themselves out of a 15-point hole, reserve Robert Covington — who acquired reward from Lue after a season-high 31 minutes Friday however was again out of rotation towards Memphis — watched with a look of a thousand toes from the sofa as Leonard equally sat expressionless beside him.
Then got here the avalanche, the Grizzlies couldn’t rating for almost six minutes till a layup from Bane that ended a run of 17 consecutive factors within the Clippers’ fourth quarter.
Their run was interrupted by a dunk and foul by Russell Westbrook wherein he yelled at Bane, an exclamation not heard among the many roaring crowd.
The sequence grew to 24-2.
Eric Gordon scored 17 factors off the bench and Mason Plumlee added 15 factors.
That the Clippers wanted such a gathering within the first place was mind-boggling, given the Grizzlies’ skeleton crew roster. The timeline for Morant’s return is unclear, coach Taylor Jenkins mentioned.
With a signature Nike boot and All-Star credentials, Morant has been one of many league’s rising faces, however a sequence of allegations, capped by his video late Friday led to time away from the workforce throughout which Morant mentioned he would search remedy.
“There are two components I wish to make very clear,” Jenkins mentioned earlier than the tip. “There’s a assist aspect, somebody who must get higher and desires some assist. After which there may be additionally accountability with the workforce we have now to face for.”