Clippers wanting extra full in convincing win over Celtics

One was the NBA’s greatest crew, by document.

The attention check urged the opposite was arguably the farthest from reaching its potential.

It was a recipe for a one-sided consequence — one which got here true, simply as few may need predicted.

The Clippers on Monday lastly appeared just like the championship aspirant they anticipated to be throughout coaching camp, rolling by means of league-leading Boston to a 113-93 victory behind a model of Kawhi Leonard that had but to be seen to this diploma by means of eight earlier appearances.

“How he played was huge,” coach Tyronn Lue mentioned.

To start out the season, getting back from a season misplaced to knee surgical procedure, Leonard was restricted by rust and an uncommon reserve position. Then got here knee tightness and a three-week restoration. When he returned, so did an ankle harm. On Monday in Crypto.com Enviornment, little Boston did bothered Leonard as he scored a season-high 25 factors, with 9 rebounds and 6 assists, in 29 minutes, just below his restrict.

“Now he’s adjusted, he’s found his rhythm and you’ll see him more comfortable on the court,” teammate Paul George mentioned.

Regardless of all of Boston’s defensive size anchored by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Leonard probed along with his dribble and made 10 of 12 pictures, wanting once more just like the two-time NBA Finals most useful participant who can management the tempo of the sport. Leonard got here to the bench at occasions Monday asking teammates to play sooner, Lue mentioned, however this early in his comeback, he mentioned he “can’t rush” his return to taking part in with no minutes restriction.

“Twenty-eight minutes, 30 minutes is a lot of minutes still,” Leonard mentioned. “Got to just do what I can and win these basketball games.”

The Clippers (16-13) have gained with extra surprising comebacks, scored extra effortlessly in different video games, and shut down opponents utilizing small-ball lineups earlier than — solely two days earlier, the truth is, once they surrendered solely 23 factors within the closing 17 minutes towards Washington.

However none of these opponents carried the caliber of Boston, which fell to 21-7 — even when the Celtics have been lacking huge males Robert Williams and Al Horford, who vastly change their rim safety and rolling down low. Boston had by no means scored fewer than 102 factors this season till the Clippers blitzed defenders at Tatum to power passes and attacked matchups they wished.

“We did pretty much everything we wanted to do from a game-plan standpoint,” mentioned George, who scored 26 factors on eight-for-22 taking pictures to assist the Clippers maintain their very own in a must-see matchup of two of the NBA’s prime all-around duos, dealing with Boston’s Brown and Tatum, an MVP favourite.

Clippers guard Paul George, proper, and Boston Celtics ahead Grant Williams combat for the unfastened ball in the course of the first half at Crypto.com Enviornment on Monday.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Occasions)

When Brown missed two free throws with seven minutes left within the fourth quarter, he had been restricted to 16 factors whereas making one in all six three-pointers — and one in all 4 free throws. He completed with 21 and Tatum needed to work arduous for his 20 factors on 20 pictures.

Since Leonard and George returned from harm one week earlier in Charlotte, that they had performed almost all of their minutes collectively in Lue’s try to make up for misplaced continuity. When one All-Star checked out, the opposite was usually proper behind strolling to a courtside chair. In opposition to Boston, Lue modified techniques: When George checked out unusually early within the first quarter, after six minutes, Leonard stayed in one other 4 minutes. And this time, when it was Leonard’s time to take a look at after 10 first-quarter minutes, it was George who changed him because of his breather.

Compelled partly by foul hassle as middle Ivica Zubac added a 3rd earlier than halftime, the Clippers closed a lot of the primary half with a type of small lineup that clinched a win Saturday in Washington. With wings and guards surrounding the duo of George and Leonard for almost the ultimate six minutes of the primary half, the Clippers outscored Boston by eight to guide 56-47 at halftime.

When Zubac then picked up his fifth foul with 5 minutes remaining within the third quarter, the Clippers stayed small as an alternative of inserting backup middle Moses Brown or rookie ahead Moussa Diabate. Lue mentioned he’s drawn to lineups with guard Luke Kennard surrounded by 4 wings due to the taking pictures functionality and the rebounding of wings akin to Leonard and George.

It was precisely the lineup the Clippers turned to to guard what grew to a 16-point lead after three quarters and 24 with 6:44 to play.

Lue reiterated Monday that Norman Powell, who hasn’t performed since Nov. 29, is collaborating in on-court exercises however doesn’t have a timetable for his return. Earlier than his groin harm, Powell had scored 17.1 factors per sport whereas making 50% of his pictures and 46% of his three-pointers.

This, then, was not the Clippers at their full power. However the eye check appeared prefer it.