Clippers find their groove in win over Lakers > Dogecointool

Clippers find their groove in win over Lakers

Robert Covington went from undrafted to a decade of service in the NBA because of his obsessive study skills. When he scouts opponents, he watches full games, not only the clips.

“It reveals a lot,” the Clippers’ forward said Wednesday morning. “I look at all the small things people don’t pay attention to.”

And often, it can reveal just as much about his own team than the one he’ll play. Some teams find the moment when it all clicks after weeks of accumulating rhythm. Some need only one game, he said, for the flip to switch.

It would be foolish to believe that his Clippers are anything but a work in progress with Kawhi Leonard still injured, still dressed in a New Balance sweatshirt Wednesday instead of a uniform. But even if their final form remains a mystery, they have found something that is clicking. It took longer than one night — but it was all on display on Wednesday night amid a 114-101 victory that marked their fifth win in their last six games to improve to 7-5. It ended with backup guard Norman Powell screaming after a dunk, with Paul George scoring 29 points and the rugged defense of Patrick Beverley testing the patience of his former teammates but never breaking their game plan.

The Clippers have won 34 of their last 41 games against their Arena co-tenants, and nine in a row under coach Tyronn Lue since the start of the 2012-13 season, and their latest win felt all but ensured after the Lakers’ LeBron James left midway through the fourth quarter with left leg soreness – a potentially notable development considering his history of groin injuries since his first Lakers season in 2018.

James had scored 30 points, with eight rebounds and five assists until that point, but the gap that opened in the first quarter, and was nearly erased by halftime, was widened again by the Clippers, and this time the Lakers had no rejoinder that could keep them from falling to 2-9.

Lue, once a candidate to coach the Lakers and James’ title-winning coach in Cleveland, said that any team with James would be fine considering his abilities, even in season 20 of his career. And yet the Lakers continued to struggle, making 10 of their 32 three-pointers, with 16 turnovers.

For a Lakers team with a slim margin separating winning and losing, they have often played their way into a corner quickly, outscored after the first quarter in nine of their first 10 games, and ranking third to last in the league by being outscored 4.7 points per first quarter on average. The Clippers exploited that trend for their season’s most lopsided first quarter, leading by 17 while shooting 61%, with Luke Kennard beating his chest after his three-pointer extended a 17-3 Clippers run.

This was the Clippers that Covington described as having “super scary” potential hours earlier Wednesday at the team’s shootaround.

“Once we all find that rhythm, and once everybody finds their rhythm in the same sequence, that in itself, you’re going to have to pick your poison,” Covington said.

Lakers forward LeBron James works the ball inside against Clippers guard John Wall.

Lakers forward LeBron James works the ball inside against Clippers guard John Wall in the second quarter at Arena on Wednesday.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Yet in another sign that the Clippers don’t have that rhythm and continuity, their own worst tendencies emerged true to form, as well. They are the league’s second-worst team in second-quarter point differential, a trend that has so often shaved down their own opportunities to win, including Wednesday.

When the Clippers finally mustered their first field goal of the quarter 6 minutes and 28 seconds in, their lead had been whittled down to 10. While they never attempted a free throw the rest of the half, Russell Westbrook began targeting Luke Kennard’s defense, pushing past him for several baseline layups, and the Clippers gave it nearly all back by halftime, leading only 54-52, after scoring only 16 points. On a night of technically a Clippers home game, cheers grew after former Clippers sparkplug Patrick Beverley didn’t give an inch while defending George in the second quarter, yelling at his former teammate after George passed the ball away. When George made a jump shot on a following possession over Beverley, he returned the verbal fire to Beverley – a friend who attended George’s Italian wedding in July. They slapped fists and nodded at one another entering a timeout, the game finally on between the players and their teams.

James shook his head after the Lakers allowed the Clippers seven unanswered points to begin the third quarter. But after Troy Brown Jr.’s game-tying layup with three minutes to play in the third, George bounced the ball off of the stanchion’s padding in frustration.

By the quarter’s end, the injured Kawhi Leonard nodded toward teammates in a huddle after the answered with a 16-4 run to lead by 12 entering the fourth quarter – a stretch that overlapped with the substitution of backup guard John Wall, who either scored or assisted on 11 points in the run, including four assists. Wall, one of the league’s fastest guards, hit full speed. His team might be right behind him.

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