The LA Clippers handily defeated the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, blowing out chicago 125-106 in what will be their only appearance in the United Center this season.
As is often the case, it was a tale of two halves for the Clippers. LA only led Chicago 58-54 at halftime, and Chicago had briefly taken the lead thanks in large part to extremely efficient three-point shooting. The Bulls shot 47.4% from downtown in the first half, but it was really the volume of attempts that hurt LA, as 19 of the Bulls 42 shots were taken from behind the arc.
The Clippers remedied this in the second half, allowing just four three-point attempts in the third quarter. This, coupled with Kawhi Leonard’s continued offensive brilliance (more on that later), pushed the Clippers’ lead to twelve by the end of the third quarter.
Leonard took his usual rest at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but with Paul George still recovering from a foot injury and no true star to pair with the second unit, the fear was that the Clippers would blow the lead that Leonard supplied them and they’d be forced into clutch minutes, where LA has struggled this season. But Lou Williams and Marcus Morris Sr. made certain that this wouldn’t happen.
The bench comes through yet again
Lou Williams scored or assisted on the first 13 points of the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points in a row and showing off his complete mastery of the pick and roll. Using primarily Nicolas Batum as the screener, Williams hit a mid-range jumper, followed by a right-handed layup, followed by a spot-up contested 3, followed by another right-handed layup, and for good measure, another right-handed layup (note the developing trend).
After that, it was Morris’ turn to sustain the offense. Morris hit a whopping five three-pointers (a career-high in any quarter for him), making the Bulls pay when they left him open and dead-eyeing them when they didn’t. Morris is really beginning to find his place after he and the coaching staff elected that he come off the bench. Between him, Williams and Ivica Zubac, the Clippers have a truly formidable second unit.
The Clippers currently have the fourth-highest scoring bench in the NBA at 39.5 points per game. It’s a luxury for Head Coach Tyronn Lue to know that when his star is sitting, his complimentary players can not only sustain a lead, but in some cases add to it.
Kawhi Leonard goes old school
Prior to and after the bench’s outburst, Kawhi Leonard was yet again spectacular. While his long-range jumper wasn’t falling (just 1-6 from three on the night), he more than made up for it by earning his 33 points the old fashioned way. Leonard hit 13 of his 15 two-point attempts, getting to his favorite spots (the right block, the nail, the left elbow, all the classics) off of switches and hitting jumpers over smaller defenders. He made the game look so easy, showing off his advanced footwork and patience.
“He’s playing with a good pace, getting guys involved, taking advantage of matchups,” Lue said of Leonard postgame. “And he’s getting to his spots. When he’s getting to his spots and getting to his shots, you can live with the results.”
Patrick Beverly returns home
Patrick Beverley (who was a plus-13 in just 12 minutes) grew up in Chicago, and holds the city near and dear to his heart. This year carries unique circumstances, and because of that he was unable to welcome his friends and family to the United Center as fans. Still, the Chicago Bulls organization and the city itself made Beverley feel at home.
Here’s hoping that, in the 2021-22 season, Beverley will be able to fill an entire section of the United Center with his family and friends, and he’ll be able to hug each one of them after the game without fear of health and safety consequences.
The Clippers will return home to Los Angeles, where they await Collin Sexton and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Clips and Cavs will face off on Sunday night (Valentine’s Day!) at 7 p.m.