The LA Clippers were one of the hottest teams in the NBA entering Tuesday night's contest with the Atlanta Hawks, and earlier in the week, it looked like the team would continue to build upon its then-seven-game win streak for the foreseeable future.
Everything changed, of course, when news broke that Patrick Beverley, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard would not be joining the team for at least part of the road trip.
Suddenly, that six-game road trip looked infinitely more daunting, and on Tuesday night, the Clippers suffered their first loss since January 8 by a final of 99-108.
It was a hard-fought battle, particularly in the first half. There were 10 lead changes and seven ties in the first 24 minutes, and neither team led by more than seven points. The second half was more one-sided, as the Hawks won the third and fourth quarters by a combined margin of 14 points.
The biggest difference was the duo of Trae Young and Kevin Huerter, who combined for 39 points in the second half — 25 of which were scored in the fourth quarter.
That said, this one certainly could have gone worse for the Clippers, all things considered. It's extremely challenging to win a game down three starters, yet LA was in position to do so for most of the night. The effort was there. The talent was just a little lacking.
There are some things the Clippers will need to figure out before taking on the Miami Heat on Thursday, but for now, let's focus on what we can glean from last night's contest.
Reggie Jackson Rises to the Occasion
Coach Tyronn Lue has been preaching the "next man up" mentality all season long, and no player has better embodied that than Reggie Jackson. The backup point guard has hardly had a consistent role this season, but he's almost always impressed when called upon.
Jackson made the absolute most of his second start this season on Tuesday, recording 20 points (8-of-16 FG) to go along with eight assists, seven rebounds, two steals and a block across 39 minutes of action. He looked sharp and in control with the ball in his hands, committing just two turnovers, taking smart shots and making the right passes.
"Next man up," Jackson said after the game. "It's unfortunate, but during these type of times, you never want it to happen, but you have to be prepared for the worst. It's tough losing Kawhi and losing Paul, not having Pat Bev here. We just wanted to find a way to come out here and get everybody a win for those guys."
As Beverley, George and Leonard remain out, look for Jackson to become one of the team's leaders on the court. The 30-year-old veteran has been in these situations before, and his play will be key as the Clippers look to stay afloat.
Terance Mann's Impressive Night
Ahead of Tuesday's contest, the expectation was that the Clippers would start Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard and Marcus Morris in place of LA's absent starters. We were right about two of those, but Lue opted to run Terance Mann at the 3 and keep Morris with the second unit instead.
It ended up being a wise decision, as Mann ended up doing a little bit of everything with the starting group. By the time the game had ended, Mann had collected 10 points, nine rebounds, four steals and an assist in 34 minutes.
"Stellar," Reggie Jackson said of Mann's performance. "I thought it was a great opportunity for him to get out here and compete and really show what he's been working on and really just show his defensive presence. He's always staying ready, he's always working... I think he played great defense for us all night, and it's just tough that we couldn't come out with a win especially after the way he performed."
Mann has still had some issues getting his outside shot to fall, but if he can become a consistent contributor from deep and continue playing solid defense, Lue will have to find a place in the rotation for him.
Lou Williams Continues to Struggle
Sweet Lou has had a tough go at things since he returned from a hip injury last week, as he came into last night's game averaging just 6.7 points per game over the previous three contests. He had been getting his usual looks, but Williams wasn't hitting, as he had made only six of his last 25 attempts.
Those struggles continued against Atlanta, as Williams finished the game with 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field. He's now shooting a mere 38.3% from the field on the season — well below his career average.
"I just think [he's] trying to find his rhythm," Ty Lue said after the game. "You know we miss days, come back, the games are coming so fast you don't have a chance to really get into the flow and rhythm. I like his shots... Those are his shots."
It seems more likely than not that Williams will bounce back to form sooner than later, and this current trip is an excellent opportunity for him to do so.