After losing three games in a row to close out the first half of the season, the LA Clippers came out with a bang on Thursday night in their 130-104 victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Save for a couple of possessions near the end of the first quarter, the Clippers essentially led wire-to-wire and built their lead as high as 39 points by the end of the third. It was as dominant an effort as we've seen from the Clippers this season, and it came at an excellent time.
Golden State certainly isn't a world-beater anymore, but it feels like the Clippers could establish some serious momentum with this game. Considering this team slipped to fourth in the Western Conference standings before the All-Star break and has a pretty tough schedule coming up, there's hardly a better time for the Clippers to get hot and rattle off a few consecutive wins.
LA will get a few days of rest before the team heads down to New Orleans on Sunday, while the Pelicans will be playing their third game in four nights. But before we get into what's next on the agenda, let's take a closer look at last night's contest.
Serge Ibaka's Best Game Yet
Serge Ibaka picked up his fifth double-double and had arguably his best game of the season on Thursday night, recording 16 points and 14 rebounds in just 23 minutes of action. His first-quarter effort was particularly impressive, as Ibaka scored LA's first seven points of the night and went for nine points and six rebounds in the frame.
His energy out of the gate was exactly what the Clippers needed to jump-start their night offensively, as he helped establish a flow on that end of the floor that LA was able to capitalize off of for the remainder of the frame.
After the game, Ibaka spoke about why it was important for him to get going early on.
"Especially the last game before the All-Star break, you know the way we ended the whole trip was not the right way, and personally, things didn't go my way like it was supposed to," Ibaka said. "So, for me, it's important to start the second half of the season and the first game [on the right foot]. The most important thing to me is my teammates and my coaches to let them know I'm here and they can trust me."
As Ibaka becomes further integrated with this team and continues to gain the trust of his teammates and coaches, expect him to have more performances like the one he had against Golden State.
Patrick Beverley Goes Down
It's difficult to understate just how important Patrick Beverley is to the LA Clippers. The 32-year-old guard has long been considered the heart and soul of the team, and the energy he brings on a nightly basis — regardless of the opponent — is something that just can't be quantified.
Whether he's on the floor for three minutes or 30, Beverley is going to make sure that his presence is felt. It's precisely that reason why his absence looms even larger.
Beverley, who has dealt with numerous injuries since joining the Clippers in 2017, went down again in Thursday night's contest. He spent roughly 11 minutes on the floor before he was forced out with right knee soreness, which is the same injury that forced him to miss eight straight games earlier this season.
"We got to make sure that [Patrick Beverley] is getting ready, getting his treatment, and he's there, practicing what we are doing," Kawhi Leonard said after the game. "I have faith in him... He's a guy that [stays focused], so I mean, I have confidence that he can step right in and play whenever the time is ready for him. That's the type of guy he is, he wants to win. He's going to come in and make the right play."
As it stands, it's unknown whether Beverley will join the team on its upcoming three-game road trip. If he's unable to go, his next chance to play will come on March 20 vs. the Charlotte Hornets.
Reggie Jackson Prepares to Step Up Again
Building off of Beverley's absence, the Clippers have been fortunate to have Reggie Jackson this season. Whether he's filling in for Beverley, Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, the veteran guard has impressed as a starter, posting averages of 12.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
He's embraced the "next man up mentality" more so than almost any other player on the roster, and he seems prepared to adapt to whatever role he's thrown into.
"I feel comfortable whoever I am out there playing with," Jackson said. "This team does a great job of allowing me to more so play my game and relax, don't have to stress many things... The entire team this whole year just kind of made my job seamlessly easy even though I'm kind of unsure night in night out what is going to be asked of me, but once I am on the court it is the same thing each and every night in terms of just trying to pick up the pace, be solid defensively... Just come in and keep the wheels turning in the right direction."
With Beverley out, expect Jackson to slide back into the starting lineup for the foreseeable future.