After suffering two tough losses to begin the season, the LA Clippers have gotten their first win, blowing out the Portland Trail Blazers 116-86 on Monday night. The team was backed by a special shooting performance from Luke Kennard, and when combined with the team's stellar defense, it was enough to get a blowout win.
Coming into this matchup against the Blazers, there was some concern surrounding the Clippers' ability to defend Portland's perimeter attack. The team had struggled in their first two games containing dynamic guard play, and the Blazers have no shortage of it. Despite this concern, Damian Lillard never really got going.
The Clippers took a 56-42 lead into halftime, and that point, Lillard had just 8 points on 3/8 shooting and 0/5 from deep. His co-star CJ McCollum was able to get a little bit more freedom in that first half, pouring in 16 points on 6/14 shooting; however, the Clippers were likely content with the way they defended that duo through 24 minutes.
Fortunately for the Clippers, the 2nd half was more of the same. Lillard finished with just 12 points on 4/15 from the field and 0/8 from deep, while McCollum ended with 20 points on 7/16 shooting. Ty Lue's ability to effectively show those two guards different looks was successful all night. Eric Bledsoe, Nicolas Batum, Terance Mann, and Justise Winslow all took turns defending Portland's backcourt duo, and each did a solid job.
As a team, the Clippers forced 30 turnovers which is just the 8th time in franchise history such a mark has been achieved, and the first time since 1996 that the clip was reached. Of the 30 turnovers, 21 were steals, which was the 2nd most in a game in franchise history. A combination of solid defense and sloppy offense from Portland created some historic defensive numbers for the Clippers.
Offensively for the Clippers, it was the Luke Kennard show. As the team wants him to do, Kennard was hunting shots. They tend to go in when he does this, and that was the case tonight. Luke finished with a game-high 23 points on 8/10 from the field and 6/7 from deep.
When asked postgame about Kennard's performance, head coach Ty Lue said that not only did Kennard hit six threes, but they were timely shots that got the team going. He credited the team's ball movement for creating these looks, and said the team understands they need to get him the ball when he's on the floor.
Another bright spot for the Clippers in this matchup, and one that is starting to become a trend, was the play of Isaiah Hartenstein. In just 17 minutes of play, Hartenstein put up 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists on 4/4 shooting. In the absence of Serge Ibaka, he has been everything the Clippers hoped he would be.
While he didn't put up the monster scoring numbers he began the season with, Paul George turned in an all-around solid performance in the win over Portland. He finished with 16 points and 5 assists, but even more impressive, was his career-high 8 steals. Through three games, George is averaging 4 steals per game which is 1st in the entire NBA.
This game was over by the end of the third quarter which allowed the Clippers' youth to get some extended run. Brandon Boston Jr. was able to collect his first NBA basket on a pull-up jumper, which the crowd seemed to really enjoy.
After losing two close games to begin the season, the Clippers left no doubt tonight, blowing out the Blazers by 30 points. The franchise has not lost a game against Portland since the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, pushing that winning streak to seven games.
The Clippers will look to build upon this momentum on Wednesday night when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers at home.