After the Los Angeles Clippers defeated NBA Finals runner-up Miami Heat with a 109-105 road win, head coach Tyronn Lue sounded pretty excited about the way his team competed. Mind you, the Clippers pulled off this win without the services of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, both of whom had to sit out the game.
“We are going to compete every night. We try to play the right way, offensively and defensively,” Lue said after the game. “We went to the bench to try to find some energy to get our guys going.”
The Clippers have been bringing a lot of energy to their games thus far this season. After going 4-2 on their most recent road trip, the Clippers are standing-temporarily- at the top of the Pacific Division and have the second-best record in the Western Conference.
Before the team left the friendly confines of STAPLES Center, the Clippers were riding Leonard and a seven-game winning streak after they had dispatched the Oklahoma City Thunder, 108-100.
“He’s been growing this year,” guard Reggie Jackson said on the way how Leonard was playing up to that point. “He talks more, but I think we have all grown to know that Kawhi is a man of few words. So when he’s in the zone like that you treat him like a pitcher. Not to much to say, for us we try love to get [high fives] in at least to get the spirit going, we really believe in that. So just getting your [high fives] here and there but you try not to over touch him, you just want him to stay hot, try to close the game out early. He did a great job of getting us the lead.”
The antidote in which Jackson describes the play of and leadership of Leonard can also easily be attached to George and the rest of the team. After last season’s playoff debacle against the Denver Nuggets, Leonard and George are playing at another level. Leonard is averaging 26 points a game. George counter by scoring 24 points a game.
And for a while, Leonard played dominant, earning NBA Western Conference Player of the Week honors for the week of Jan. 13 through Jan. 19 when he averaged 38 points, 5 assists and 4.7 rebounds in three wins by the Clippers.
After Clippers had defeated the Thunder for the second straight time, Leonard had this to say about the way he was playing.
“It’s just who I am,” Leonard said. “Like I said before, I’m not a rah-rah guy. I come out, tell my teammates what we need to do to win, see what’s happening out there on the floor without going all over the place, just being direct and what needs to happen, and just going on from there. That’s just how I play.”
Leonard is not the only Clipper playing locked in basketball. George has been playing at an elite level this season. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers. On the sixth and final game of their road trip, George dropped a team-high 36 points on the Cavs in the Clippers’ 121-99 win. George also finished the game with six assists to lead the Clippers. Afterward, Lue talked about what he liked about George’s performance.
“Just aggressive, shooting his three-ball (3-point shot attempts), getting to the basket, attacking, and just making plays for himself and everybody else, ” Lue said. “I was happy to see him bounce back the way he did.”
George focused more on team building after the win against the Cavaliers rather than getting caught up with what he did individually.
“It was just a great overall team road trip,” George said. “Great camaraderie. I thought we built of just team chemistry and we played some pretty good teams on this trip. Each team has been playing well, whether they’re a young team or a team that has been together or a real talented tea. I thought that we played well over the whole trip out of the six games. To go 4-2, we’ll take that.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about social justice, civil rights, education, politics, and crime. He also covers the NFL, NBA, MLB as well as other sports. Based in Southern California, Dennis earned a journalism degree with a minor in criminal justice from Howard University. The real HU!!