The LA Clippers continued their winning ways on Saturday night, taking the first of two matchups against Doc Rivers and the Philadelphia 76ers by a final score of 122-112.
It was another strong all-around effort for LA, as five players scored in double-digits and three went for at least 23 points. The Clippers weren't always in control, though.
Philadelphia threw the first punch, establishing a 21-11 lead a little more than halfway through the first quarter. LA struggled to score, while the Sixers had already gotten a handful of three-pointers to go down. But the Clippers showed some resolve over the next few minutes, ending the frame on an 18-9 run to make it a one-point game going into the second quarter.
The Clippers never really looked back from there.
LA continued to eat into Philly's lead before ultimately taking a five-point advantage at the half. That lead grew to as many as 13 points in the third quarter and 19 in the fourth, allowing coach Tyronn Lue to empty the bench with a few minutes left in the contest.
The win was LA's fifth in a row and sixth in their last seven games, with the lone loss coming to the Dallas Mavericks. It's probably too early to say that the Clippers are turning the corner, but this has been one of the league's best teams on both ends of the floor since the All-Star break.
The contest kicked off what will be a nine-game homestand for the Clippers, and establishing this momentum early on feels like it will be vital to how LA performs over the upcoming stretch. The team has some tough matchups ahead, including games against the Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look at what else went right for the Clippers in Rivers' return to Staples Center.
Terance Mann Continues to Shine
The LA Clippers might have something in Terance Mann.
The former second-round prospect has played some of the best basketball of his career in LA's last five games, posting averages of 15.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 27.4 minutes per game. He's shown some tremendous growth this season, and his development as a do-it-all wing (with a respectable three-pointer to boot) has established him as a bonafide fan favorite.
That love exists inside the Clippers' locker room as well, as All-Star wing Paul George had plenty to say after Mann went for a season-high 23 points on Saturday night.
"We're here to help him along the way, but T-Mann is special," George said. "I tell him time after time, and we have these conversations. He's special. He uses his resources. He uses the people around him when he needs it. Again, I'm not the only one. Clippers definitely saw something in him, and he's blossoming."
Mann will almost certainly see a reduction in minutes once Patrick Beverley and Rajon Rondo enter the rotation, but it's going to be difficult to take too many away from him. He's been one of the team's best and most consistent players lately, and it's not a fluke. He's putting all-new skills on display and playing with a certain level of confidence that wasn't seen before.
As long as he continues to bring his energy, Mann deserves a permanent spot in the rotation.
Rajon Rondo's Learning Process
Newly-acquired guard Rajon Rondo wasn't able to make his LA Clippers debut on Saturday night, but that doesn't mean he wasn't engaged in what the team was trying to do. While the rest of LA's players sat on their end of the bench, Rondo positioned himself next to assistant coach Jeremy Castleberry and was in his ear almost all game.
"He was just asking questions as far as play calls, what we were running, what we were looking for," Ty Lue said after the game. "Just trying to stay engaged, just trying to get the play calls. That's what he does. Jeremy was helping him a lot, rewinding some of the video, showing him the plays. A couple times, I called a play, and he couldn't really hear, so he was asking what the play call was. Just trying to understand what we're looking for and what we're trying to do offensively."
It doesn't seem like it'll take Rondo much longer to get acclimated with the offense, so as long as he's healthy, a debut sometime this week seems likely. That said, it may take some time to figure out what Rondo's exact role with the team will be. Lue has previously said he's unsure of whether he'll start or come off the bench, and with Beverley sidelined for the time being, it may be even more difficult than usual to nail that down.
Turnovers on the Decline
The LA Clippers struggled to protect the ball through the first half of the season, as they averaged 12.5 turnovers per game and committed 16 or more on 11 different occasions.
It's been a different story since the Clippers returned from the All-Star break.
Over the last nine games, LA has turned the ball over just 9.9 times per game. They logged 12 against Philadelphia, which is tied for the most they've given up since mid-March.
Seeing as how ball security was such a big issue to begin the season, it's nice to see just how much the team has improved in that regard over the course of the year. There are numerous reasons why this might be the case, but familiarity with teammates and a better understanding of the offense are two big reasons at play here. LA's coaching staff is also looking to maximize practices this year, which wasn't the case last season.