Breaking the Six-Game Lost Streak, Kawhi’s Progress, Luka Dončić’s Survival and More: Five Essential Clippers Takeaways

LOS ANGELES — When the LA Clippers lost their sixth straight game at home to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, the general mood in the gallery after the game was encouraging. Despite an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter and a 17-point hole in the first half, it seemed like head coach Tyronn Lue was getting closer to the game the team needed.

But a team still has to complete the process with a win. The Clippers did so with a wire-to-wire win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night and held their .500 record at 22-21. LA outscored the Mavericks by 24 points at new starting point guard Terance Mann’s team high of 41-18 on the floor. However, these observations begin with the Clippers’ most important player.

In Leonard’s first game against the Mavericks since Game 7 of the 2021 Western Conference quarterfinals, LA’s nominal shooting guard without Paul George played one of his most complete games yet.

As a goalscorer, Leonard finished with a season-high 33 points while making and attempting all 12 free throws from his season-high. Leonard finished his season-high with 3 3s in 5 attempts and totaled 9 of 12 field goals, with four of the brands coming from midfield.

As a defender, Leonard blocked a shot, secured eight of his nine rebounds on the lens and set a new high of the season with four steals. At 35:55, Leonard did not commit a single foul, his most minutes without a foul this season.

But most importantly in that game, Leonard had another strong game as a modder, sharing team leadership with John Wall, accumulating four assists and just two turnovers. Overall, the Clippers had an assist-turnover ratio of 20:10 compared to 15:12 for the Mavericks. Both of Leonard’s turnovers came in a third quarter in which the Clippers had half (five) of their game-wide turnovers, and it was no coincidence that the third quarter was the only one in which the Mavericks bested the Clippers (31st quarter). -19). .

Leonard’s ability to regain control amid the Mavericks’ doubles teams, combined with Mann’s aggression (10 of Mann’s 12 points came in the last quarter of the game), helped the Clippers keep the Mavericks within reach. Now the Clippers have two days off to rest, practice and prepare for the Denver Nuggets Friday night in what will be a nationally televised repeat of last week’s massacre in the Rockies.

It will also be a time when Leonard can continue to help Mann settle into his new role.

Mann’s impact Tuesday night was expected. But after Ivica Zubac committed three fouls in the first quarter, it was Robert Covington who got the nod.

Covington had been in and out of rotation, but on Tuesday night, Covington played a season-high 30-57. The Clippers outplayed the Mavericks by 13 points in Covington’s minutes, the best plus-minus of the season for the veteran forward. It was on the glass where Covington made his greatest impact, hitting the Mavericks’ entire bench with eight rebounds. Four of Covington’s rebounds were on the offensive end, surpassing the Mavericks’ total as a team (three).

Zubac and Brown only played 20-25 together, allowing Covington to absorb much (but not all) of his minutes in the middle. He did a solid job of moving the ball on offense and also did one of his two 3-pointers. It helped that the Mavericks are both the worst rebounding team in the NBA and the worst team in the league when it comes to scoring from the inside. But it appears Covington has jumped at the opportunity to reinstate his place in Lue’s rotation.

“I thought with our big wing lineup we had T. Mann, Norm (Powell), Nico (Batum), Marcus (Morris Sr.) and RoCo,” Lue said Tuesday. “Yeah, I really liked it. Particularly defensive: able to switch, fire and a bit quick on the ground.”

“The only difference is that I played more,” Covington said after Tuesday night’s game. “Making plays, making shots, making the right reads. Being active – my activity has been intensified. That’s all. I didn’t know how long I would be on the pitch. I made sure I made the most of my minutes within that time frame.”

This was the first head-to-head match between Leonard and Luka Dončić since Game 7 of the 2021 Western Conference Quarterfinals. In that Game 7, the Clippers won and advanced, although Dončić’s 46 points was a career-best 46 points after the had season. On Tuesday, the Clippers averted a seventh straight loss, though Dončić dropped 43 points and made 16 of 21 free throws. Only Joel Embiid has more points in a game this season against the Clippers (44), and a previous best free throw attempt was 15 (Kevin Porter Jr., Pascal Siakam).

20 of Dončić’s points came in the fourth quarter, but Dončić’s teammates only scored three points in the final third, all three to Frank Ntilikina, who Dončić failed to assist. When Dallas defeated the Clippers in November, they held on despite a 25-point lead because Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith combined for six of seven 3-pointers for the fourth quarter. Bullock missed both of his 3s in the fourth quarter Tuesday in LA, Finney-Smith was out with a right adductor strain and Davis Bertāns missed all four of his 3s in the fourth quarter. Overall, Dončić’s teammates never went to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and also missed 10 of 11 shots from the field in the last third.

Powell started Tuesday night after missing 17 of 21 field goals in Week 12 home losses to the Miami Heat and Hawks. Against the Mavericks, Powell also missed his only two shots of the first quarter.

But Powell helped the Clippers build a dampening lead in the second quarter by going all out for a full game period. 16 of Powell’s 27 points came in a second quarter where he made all six of his field goal attempts, including multiple 3s and a one-and-one scored by Christian Wood.

Powell has also been in lineups where Wall got off the ground, leaving Powell as the play-starter instead of the play-finisher role he’s typically best at. Jackson didn’t play at all, Wall only played 15-17, and the Clippers beat the Mavericks by 16 points when Wall lifted off the ground. Though Lue would prefer to keep a point guard like Wall on the rotation and Jackson stated “isn’t done yet,” Lue will lean on Powell to be the only guard on the floor.

Batum missed seven of eight field goals, but that’s a small price to pay to play after his Tuesday night performance despite playing with a soft ankle. The way Batum harassed Dončić early on helped turn Dončić into a spectator, especially as LA built a lead of as much as 23 points. The wrong kind of Jumpman tribute.

(Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today Sports) Breaking the Six-Game Lost Streak, Kawhi’s Progress, Luka Dončić’s Survival and More: Five Essential Clippers Takeaways

Russell Falcon

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