Welcome home: Fans return as Clippers collect 40th win

LOS ANGELES – Welcoming fans back into STAPLES Center for the first time in over a year, the Los Angeles Clippers gave the few fans in attendance a show to remember. With only six home games left on the regular season schedule, the Clippers (40-19) dominated the Minnesota Timberwolves (15-43) 124-105 to earn the team’s 40th win of the year.

The 40th win on the year now gives the Clippers their 10th straight season with 40 plus victories, which is currently the longest such streak in the NBA. For Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, the energy that the fans brought into the stadium was a key reason he felt that his team came out firing on all cylinders to start the game.

“It felt great, just hearing their support, hearing their energy tonight was great,” Lue said. “Kind of different because it’s been over a year but having them back in this building was tremendous.”

Coming out scorching hot as a team in the first half, the Clippers racked up 14 threes in the first half, including knocking down 10 of those in the second quarter alone. For the night, the team finished with a season-high 21 three-pointers, which was good for 50% from deep. Los Angeles continues to be one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league, as their mix of outside shooting and low-post game has proven to be a winning formula.

For coach Lue, the consistency among his starting five has been a thing of beauty as all five found themselves in double digits by the end of the night.

“Just finding a rhythm and like I said keep building habits throughout the course of the season,” Lue said. “Each month I think we’ve been getting better and better. We just got to continue to build with the last thirteen games of the season like I said earlier.”

For the Clippers, Paul George continued his torrid stretch as he finished the night with 23 points, 7 rebounds, including dropping off 5 dimes in the process of another huge game. Though his streak of 30 plus points came to an end, the early start George got off to in the first quarter yet again has been due to a change in mindset for the guard.

“It’s great, If I can get that rest,” George said. “If we can go out there early and take care of business early. That’s the goal.”

Despite recently struggling with a nagging foot injury that has forced George to miss several games this season, the superstar appears to be heating up at the right time for a team with championship aspirations.

“Yeah, I think we’ve been doing a better job of moving the ball, moving ourselves, and just looking to make plays for one another,” George said. “We make the right plays and it’s the reason why we’ve been shooting at a high clip.”

As a team, this was the 11th time this season that the Clippers have been able to shoot over 50% from both the field and beyond the arc in the same game. With only a handful of games left in the regular season, Los Angeles will look to finish the season strong as eight of the team’s last 13 games will be on the road.

Despite playing their first home game in front of fans since the pandemic started, the homecoming will be short-lived as the Clippers will head up north to face the Portland Blazers (32-24) on Tuesday night in Oregon. Los Angeles blew out Portland in both of their previous matchups, with both games being played at Staples Center.