The LA Clippers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night, despite being lackluster in several areas of the game. With poor shooting nights from Paul George, Norman Powell, and Reggie Jackson, the Clippers did not get much production from their primary scoring options, and this was difficult to overcome with Kawhi Leonard on a minutes restriction. That said, the team was able to find a way to win, and began their season the right way.
After the game, Ty Lue told reporters that the Clippers played terrible, calling this a “nasty game.” The ability to win ugly is something the Clippers did well last year, and while they find their footing to begin this season, may be another key to their success. A win or loss is always the ultimate takeaway following every game, but this opening night matchup has some key developments that are worth breaking down.
The play of John Wall
Not just looking to fit in, John Wall took the advice of his teammates on Thursday night, and played his game. Looking to push the pace each chance he got, Wall created transition scoring opportunities for both himself and his teammates. Finishing with 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, Wall was fantastic in his Clippers debut.
Despite this solid showing, Wall was still critical of his own performance after the game, saying he needs to do a better job of getting Luke Kennard involved, stating, “I missed him twice. For me that irks me. When I got shooters like that, that’s my job,” Wall said of Kennard.”
While it’s just one game, this was a great sign of what Wall can provide the Clippers with this year.
The threat of Luke Kennard
There is a reason John Wall was so upset about missing Luke Kennard on two occasions, because by every metric, Kennard is a top-two shooter in the world. While that top spot still goes to Steph Curry, simply due to the volume and difficulty of his three-point makes, Kennard is unmatched by any other shooter in the league.
Knocking down all three of his shots from deep in this game, including a clutch shot down the stretch, Kennard continued his blistering hot shooting. After leading the league in three-point percentage last season, Kennard went an incredible 9/11 from deep in the pre-season, and followed that with a perfect 3/3 from deep on Thursday.
After the game, Kawhi Leonard told reporters, “We got the leading three point shooter in the NBA coming off the bench. He proved it tonight 100%. When you see that, you know you got a stacked team.”
The return of Kawhi Leonard
Coming off the bench to best manage his minutes and workload, Kawhi Leonard was great in his minutes. In fact, that was his message after the game when asked about coming off the bench.
Leonard shot an efficient 50% from the field on 12 attempts, and was key in the Clippers closing out this win. While he is far from where he hopes to be, this was a great step in the right direction for him as he gets back up to NBA speed. The Clippers will need him to reach their ultimate goal, and it was great to see him back on the floor against the Lakers.