The LA Clippers struggled in their first meeting of the season with the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night, giving up a season-high 72 points in the paint and allowing their opponent to shoot 58% from beyond the arc in a 122-94 defeat.
It was a disappointing effort, and one that the Clippers made sure didn't linger too long. On Friday night, LA took the floor once again and turned the tables on Memphis, cruising to a 119-99 victory behind Kawhi Leonard's hot hand and a refined game plan.
From the jump, the Clippers looked like a different team. Rather than settling for jumpers and lacking movement on the offensive end of the floor, LA was committed to getting good looks in the paint. Roughly 14 minutes into the game, the Clippers had already scored 24 points in the paint — matching their total from the previous night.
That energy was consistent on defense as well. The Clippers did well to limit Memphis' attempts at the rim, and when the Grizzlies did get there, guys like Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac met them with resistance.
The Grizzlies were still able to score 54 points in the paint on Friday, though they were far less efficient than before. Little things like that matter, and the Clippers made sure to take advantage of it.
The game, however, was won in the second quarter. The frame was tightly-contested for the first nine or so minutes, as LA's lead stood at just four with 2:35 to play in the first half. From there, though, the Clippers went on a 13-1 run to give themselves a 14-point lead heading into the break.
Memphis would trim the lead back down as low as 11 in the fourth quarter, but the Clippers held on to earn their 24th win of the season and keep themselves separated from the Los Angeles Lakers in the standings.
Continue on for a few more takeaways from LA's bounce-back victory.
Kawhi Leonard's 30 Carries the Clippers to Victory
Kawhi Leonard had another efficient outing on Friday night, pouring in 30 points (8-13 FG, 11-11 FT) to go along with nine rebounds, seven assists and a block in roughly 35 minutes of action.
This type of performance has become the norm lately for Leonard, who has averaged 29.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game over his last seven appearances. Those numbers aren't far off his season averages, either.
With his and the Clippers' elite play this year, Leonard is beginning to climb higher and higher on the MVP ladder — though All-Star teammate Paul George still doesn't feel that Leonard is getting enough recognition for what he's been able to accomplish.
"He's not flashy to people," George said after the game. "He's effective. You talk about a guy that goes on the floor and is 100% committed to winning... This team wouldn't be where we're at without Kawhi on the floor."
Winning an MVP isn't high on Leonard's to-do list, but if he keeps this up, he might just get one anyway.
All-Around Scoring Effort
Leonard certainly led the way for the Clippers with his 30-point outing, but LA was able to win because of the all-around scoring effort it got from the rest of the starting rotation and a few key bench players.
The Clippers had six other players score in double-figures, including Lou Williams (17), George (13), Nicolas Batum (13), Terance Mann (13), Serge Ibaka (12) and Patrick Beverley (11).
Perhaps the most impressive line of the bunch belonged to Mann, who went 6-of-8 from the field and collected six rebounds and two assists in less than 18 minutes of play.
The 24-year-old swingman has elevated his play as of late, averaging 8.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game over his last seven appearances. More importantly, Mann is shooting above 54% from three-point range during that stretch, bringing his season total up to 35.5% on one attempt per game.
Mann's energy has been vital for the Clippers this season. If he can continue to work his outside shot and contribute on both ends of the floor, he'll be one step closer to becoming a permanent fixture of the rotation.
Resilience is Key
The second nights of back-to-backs are supposed to be among the most difficult games a team plays each year. In a league where rest is paramount, it can be challenging to muster the energy to play a full 48 minutes on consecutive nights.
Surprisingly enough, that hasn't been an issue for the Clippers this season. Following Friday night's win over the Grizzlies, the Clippers improved to 6-0 on the year on the second night of a back-to-back. They remain the only team in the NBA not to lose in that scenario.
While this streak is bound to come to an end eventually, it is impressive that the Clippers have achieved this level of resilience this far into the season. It helps that they've been healthier and that Leonard is playing in back-to-back sets this season, but LA's ability to respond to adversity this year is something to keep an eye on.