Paul George asked out with 3:45 left in the first half with what would later be revealed as left hamstring tightness. The Clippers were down two and unnecessarily struggling against a depleted Pistons team.
From the moment George left the game, the Clippers went on a 50-21 run spanning the end of the second quarter and the entirety of the third, effectively putting the game out of reach and earning their second straight win, 126-112.
Detroit was far from full health, missing Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Markieff Morris, and Khyri Thomas in addition to former Clipper Blake Griffin. Griffin's return last January to Staples Center was far more emotional. This time around, he was a passive participant on the bench, unable to find much to cheer for as the game went on.
The Clippers shot the lights out in the decisive third quarter and finally put the clamps on a Pistons offense that scored 63 points in the first half. Landry Shamet had eight points in the period, Lou Williams had seven, and Moe Harkless and Kawhi Leonard each added six apiece, as eight Clippers scored in the third.
Meanwhile, Detroit finally came down to earth, shooting 5-of-21 from the field, including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. The Clippers had been unable to keep the Pistons out of the lane for the better part of the first half, particularly Derrick Rose, but they ratcheted up the intensity for long enough to take control of the game.
Leonard, Williams, and Harrell's offensive production has come to be expected at this point in the season, especially considering the trio had to lift up their games to account for George's second-half absence. The real wild card was Harkless, who was feisty in transition, ran the offense on occasion, and led the team in rebounds (9) through the competitive portion of the game.
Harkless's primary utility for the Clippers is on the defensive end, where he shuts down the opposing team at the point of attack: the point guard. But when he can add something on the other end, the Clippers are undefeated when Harkless scores 10+ points. He isn't the type of shooter ideally suited to space the floor around Leonard and George, but he has enough other skills on offense to make an impact.
The Clippers will be happy to see Shamet on a continued upswing – he has now made multiple 3-pointers in three consecutive games. Jerome Robinson also played critical minutes when George left the game and attacked on offense despite still not being able to get his shot to fall.
JaMychal Green also looked about as good as he has since his tailbone injury against Washington Dec. 1. He was active on the glass and showed a willingness to mix it up and absorb contact, a good sign considering how relatively timid he's been recently. He finished with 12 rebounds and provided some needed rim protection during the team's run.
The Clippers next host a back-to-back against the Grizzlies and Knicks this weekend at Staples Center.