Coming off of a tough win against a fellow Western Conference contender in the Phoenix Suns just 22 hours prior, it would’ve been understandable for the LA Clippers to enter Friday night’s game against the Houston Rockets lethargic and uninterested in playing against what has become one of the dregs of the NBA since the James Harden trade.
And that is exactly what they were. LA lost the first quarter 36-26, and looked as if they just didn’t have the will for the night. It didn’t help that they were out three starters in Serge Ibaka (lower back tightness), Paul George (rest) and Patrick Beverley, who had to have surgery on his left hand early Friday morning after suffering a fracture in his fourth metacarpal bone the night before against the Suns (more on that later). Throw in Rajon Rondo missing the game with right adductor soreness, and it’s easy to see why the Clippers might’ve felt diminished before the opening tip.
But then, a switch was flipped, and the Clippers collectively decided to become absolutely dominant. They outscored the Rockets 41-10 in the second quarter, which is tied for the second-largest point disparity in any quarter in franchise history. The Rockets earned their 10 points on just 3-16 shooting, and Kawhi Leonard (31 points on the night) outscored Houston by himself in the quarter with 11 points of his own. By the end of the first half, LA was up 67-46, and while the starless Houston made a valiant effort to claw their way back in the second half, they ultimately couldn’t overcome the deficit and fell to the Clippers 126-109.
Reggie Jackson yet again
It seems as though, whenever the Clippers are short on offensive firepower due to injuries or general weariness, Reggie Jackson has given them an absurdly efficient shooting night to boost them. This was once again the case on Friday night, as Jackson went off for 26 points and seven assists on 10-14 shooting. He came out red-hot, hitting his first seven shots and going 5-5 from beyond the arc to start the game. He was nailing his spot-up jumpers without hesitation, but he was also getting to the basket and knocking down some tough finishes at the rim. Without Paul George as a second option behind Leonard, Jackson assumed the role, and played the part to perfection.
With the acquisition of Rajon Rondo and the brief return of Patrick Beverley, it seemed as though, at the very least, Jackson’s role would be heavily altered, if not reduced. But with Beverley now out at least another month, Jackson can continue through the rest of the regular season knowing his role has solidified. Head Coach Tyronn Lue confirmed postgame that Jackson would be the starter until Beverley comes back, and that he knew he would’ve stayed ready regardless.
Terance Mann shows off his versatility
Overshadowed by Jackson’s performance was an even more efficient output from Terance Mann, who went 7-8 from the field (hitting both of his three-point attempts) en route to 16 points in 36 minutes of action. What was even more impressive, however, was Mann tying his career-high with nine assists without giving up a single turnover. When given the minutes, Mann has taken on the responsibility of a larger ball-handling role this season (he was essentially the backup point guard on Friday with Rondo out). While the assist numbers are great, the lack of mistakes are what really bode well for Mann’s future in the NBA. For the season, Mann is posting a 10.1 turnover percentage, which is solid considering his low usage, and an improvement on his 16.5 turnover percentage from last season.
It seems Mann might be another beneficiary in terms of a larger role after Beverley’s latest injury.
Patrick Beverley, we hardly knew ye
As has been the case for much of his career, Beverley just can’t catch a break in terms of injuries. Beverley had barely played two games since returning from a right knee injury that has kept him out for nearly half the season already before fracturing his hand on Thursday. The Clippers’ official timetable stated that Beverley will be “reevaluated in 3-4 weeks,” which would be around the start of the playoffs. It just hasn’t been Beverley’s year, which is a true shame, considering he’s by far the Clippers’ best point guard defender in a playoff race that includes Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Jamal Murray and Mike Conley. It’s not out of the question that Beverley can come back in time to make a difference in the postseason, but at this point, LA needs to start acting as if he isn’t a key factor.
Next up, the Clippers will welcome the Detroit Pistons to Staples Center on Sunday at 7 p.m.