It has only been two games into the 2019-2020 NBA regular season, but so far, the Los Angeles Clippers has already taken the Los Angeles Lakers and the reigning Western Conference champs Golden State Warriors to task. In the process of taking out the Lakers and dismantling the Warriors, the Clippers is showing off a penchant of going on an offensive scoring binge whenever the moment calls for it.
In their season-opener, the Clippers dropped 40 points on the Lakers in the second quarter on their way to a tightly-fought victory. The Clippers applied the same treatment to the Warriors, now playing in San Francisco after leaving their longtime home of Oakland. This time, the Clippers waited until the third quarter to erupt, going off on the Warriors with a 46-point period.
Whew! The Clippers outburst turned the contest into a runaway 141-122 win over Golden State at the Chase Center in the Warriors’ home debut. Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers with 21 points and 9 assists for the victors.
“The team plays hard and they just compete,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We are scoring points but we are getting stops and that allows us to score points. And then I just think offensively guys are playing inside their roles, they understand who they are like Patrick (Patterson)when we got him we told him you’re a shooter, you don’t need to be a driver, you don’t need to be anything else, just shoot the ball. I think giving him that freedom to do that has really helped his confidence and has helped his stroke. Kawhi (Leonard) today was the playmaker, they committed a double teams to him, it just shows the trust he has in his teammates. In two games, you love that. A lot of guys are doing a lot of good things.”
The lopsided loss was a wake-up call for the Warriors. With Kevin Durant moving on to the Brooklyn Nets and sharpshooter Klay Thompson rehabbing a knee injury he suffered in the NBA Finals against Leonard and the Toronto Raptors, Golden State is somewhat devoid of the blockbuster talent that have cause the Warriors to run amok in the Western Conference Pacific Division and made a mockery of the rest of the NBA.
In the last five years, Golden State punched their ticket to five consecutive NBA Finals, winning three titles along the way. Things have changed dramatically for the Warriors when it comes to talent. The Warriors still has the mercurial Steph Curry and inside enforcer Draymond Green, but their reality that their run could be over pretty much set in after being embarrassed at home by the Clippers.
“It doesn’t feel very good,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “Losing stinks. It’s no fun. This is more of the reality of the NBA. The last five years we’ve been living in a world that isn’t supposed to exist. Five years basically, record-wise the best stretch anybody has had over five years. This is reality. Nine guys that are 23 and under –we are starting over in many respects. We’ve got to be patient, we’ve got to fight, continue to teach and the players have to absorb and learn. We’ll get better, I know that.”
Curry, who hit on only eight of the 20 shots he attempted from the field in the defeat against the Clippers and finished the game with 23 points,
“The easy answer is that it is one out of 82, but there is some glaring and there are things that we need to correct if we want to win basketball games consistently,” Curry said. “Credit to the Clippers they came off a pretty hard fought intense battle in L.A. in game one. They were battle tested just in terms of being in that situation and they started that first six minutes with that same intensity. We fought our way back into it and made it interesting.”
While the Warriors are too busy lamenting and worrying about their current state of reality, the Clippers are focusing on the now. For Los Angeles, that now is team chemistry and watching Leonard go to work, whether as an astute distributor of the ball or as a mandated scorer and defender.
“A person like that draws a lot of attention on the defensive end of the floor, so he just made the right play,” Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell said. “He’s a winning player when it comes to basketball and every play he made when he had the ball, making those assists were winning plays. We set screens for him and we know that he is that guy that we want to get going and when you have a team that is keyed in on stopping him on the offensive end of the floor he just makes plays.”