The LA Clippers elite offense was on full display in their 129-115 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday. The victory marked their 10th win in 11 games, and their ninth straight win when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are playing.
The Clippers once again dominated their opponent with stellar three-point shooting. The Knicks kept the game competitive in the first half, trailing by just one point at halftime and taking advantage of the Clippers’ lackluster rim protection. But, as has been the norm this season, the Clippers reassessed at halftime and extended their lead to double-digits by the end of the third quarter. While Knicks forward Julius Randle (27 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) and rookie Immanuel Quickley (25 points, unlimited floaters) gave the Clippers trouble on the interior and in the midrange, LA’s barrage of threes was simply overwhelming. They knocked down 17 of their 38 attempts, good for 44.7%.
Kawhi Leonard is an MVP candidate (duh)
Kawhi Leonard might not have partaken in the three-point onslaught (he was just 1-3 on the night), but he was once again fantastic in every other way. Lennard scored a game-high 28 points on 8-15 shooting, but what was most impressive was his 11 free throw attempts. Leonard’s post-up game was simply too much to handle for smaller wings like R.J. Barrett, and he exploited this matchup without hesitation. Defensively, Leonard was aware and active in transition, stopping New York’s young guards from outrunning the veteran Clippers squad.
Sunday’s win vaults the Clippers back into the 1-seed, and Leonard has been the biggest reason for the Clippers’ success. However, many publications and media outlets have yet to give Leonard credit on their preliminary MVP ballots. There are many other worthy candidates, but Leonard at least deserves to be in the conversation. Perhaps Paul George’s stellar play has taken votes away from Leonard, but the team would be significantly worse without Leonard’s isolation scoring, floor-spacing, penetration, and of course, excellent defense. He’s one of the most well-rounded players in the league, and his team’s record reflects this.
Patrick Patterson: Just Add Water
Nicolas Batum sat for Sunday’s matchup with a groin injury, and Tyronn Lue inserted veteran Patrick Patterson into the starting lineup in his stead. Ever the professional, Patterson went from being in and out of the rotation to the team’s starting power forward without missing a beat. He was a perfect 5-5 from the field, including 3-3 from three-point range. The Clippers raved about Patterson’s readiness, and gave him an appropriate nickname to match it.
Patterson’s teammates love the nickname, but he still seems unsure about it.
Reggie Jackson makes the most of his role
Reggie Jackson is in an almost identical situation to Patterson. He’s been filling in for Patrick Beverley, who’s been out the past four games with hip soreness, and like Patterson, Jackson hasn’t allowed the stark jump in minutes to hinder his play. Jackson was excellent as a tertiary creator next to George and Leonard; he can run pick-and-roll if needed, but he can also hit spot-up corner threes just as Beverley would (Jackson was 3-6 from three on the night). He also has had at least one play a game in which he grabs a defensive rebound and takes it coast-to-coast, bursting past transition defenders for an easy layup.
Jackson (18 points for the game) has no-doubt earned playing time with his readiness and professionalism. But when Beverley returns, Tyronn Lue will have to decide who in the rotation is going to get shorted. Luke Kennard is probably still the better option in a vacuum, but chemistry is also a factor. However, if Jackson is taken out of the rotation, he'll be ready when his number is inevitably called again.
The Clippers will remain in New York City and face the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night, taking on the league’s newest superteam in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.