June 15, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Takeaways from Clippers’ win over Cavaliers

Five takeaways from the Clippers 121-99 win Wednesday in Cleveland, the fourth time this season they have shot at least 50% overall and 50% on three-pointers:

1. ‘God bless you.’

It wasn’t as if Paul George was oblivious to the noise following his postseason struggles, and those of his team, following last season. He has already said it served as the underlying motivation for his offseason.

He just didn’t understand why the noise had persisted. In early January, after a back-and-forth with Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Chris Paul, George said he wasn’t sure why “there’s a lot of chirping and people just living in the past.”

Lakers guard Jared Dudley on Wednesday became the latest, and most public, NBA peer to criticize George. In an excerpt from his new book, “Inside the NBA’s Bubble,” Dudley wrote that comments George made in 2018, stating that he believed he and Kawhi Leonard could be the NBA’s top duo, were perceived as “disrespectful” by the Lakers.

“We hear some of those guys talking about how they’re the team to beat in L.A. It’s fine if Kawhi [Leonard] says stuff like that. He’s defending a championship. We don’t trip if someone like Patrick Beverley is talking trash; that’s how he feeds his family. We get it. We respect the hustle. But we think it’s disrespectful for Paul George, who hasn’t won, to put himself on the level of [LeBron James] and [Anthony Davis].”

Coach Tyronn Lue said it was George’s job to block out noise.

“Who cares?” Lue said. “I really don’t care what people say on the outside. And you know, I hope PG doesn’t either.”

“God bless him,” George said of Dudley after scoring 36 points with no turnovers against the Cavaliers. “God bless you, Jared Dudley. I don’t know what it is, dudes love throwing my name and stuff. But, God bless you, Jared.”

2. It’s hard to argue with George’s performance Wednesday.

Only five other players this season have remained turnover-free while scoring at least 36 points and playing at least 30 minutes.

They are:

  • Portland’s Damian Lillard (40 points in 42 minutes Jan. 13 against Sacramento)
  • Chicago’s Zach LaVine (38 points in 38 minutes Jan. 8 against the Lakers)
  • Chicago’s Coby White (36 points in 40 minutes Jan. 6 against Sacramento)
  • Denver’s Jamal Murray (36 points in 36 minutes against Minnesota on Jan. 3)
  • Portland’s C.J. McCollum (44 points in 44 minutes against Houston on Dec. 26)

3. The story of this game? Three-pointers.

On one end of the spectrum stood the Clippers, who made 20 three-pointers on 58% shooting, only the sixth time in franchise history with that many makes from deep. They are 12-0 this season when making at least 16 threes.

On the other end were the Cavaliers, whose 10 three-point attempts are fewest by any team this season, and it isn’t particularly close — Cleveland and Philadelphia held the previous low of 16. Of those 10, the Cavaliers made just four.

With the Clipeprs running the Cavaliers off the three-point line, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton resorted to a barrage of floaters in the paint. It helped them combine for 28 points in the first half, but those shots didn’t fall at the same rate after halftime. And as the Clippers continued to fire away from beyond the arc, it became harder for Cleveland to stay in the game by attacking from inside it.

“They took the shots that we want them to take,” Lue said. “They made some in the first half and in the second half they weren’t so successful.”

4. Ivica Zubac, last season’s odd man out in fourth quarters, is now a fourth-quarter staple.

Zubac may have been the Clippers’ starting center last season but rarely was he the team’s closer. Though he appeared in 85 games, including the playoffs, he played in the fourth quarter only 30 times, averaging 3.7 minutes.

In 23 games this season, he has appeared in the fourth quarter 19 times, averaging 5.9 minutes per appearance. It means that the next time he plays in a fourth quarter, he will exceed all of last season’s fourth-quarter minutes.

Zubac was superb late in Wednesday’s win. He played the final 19 minutes and grabbed 13 of his 16 rebounds in that closing stretch.

5. Luke Kennard returns to the rotation.

After a then-season-low 11 minutes Sunday, followed by four minutes Tuesday, the reserve guard scored nine points in his 22 minutes in the win. Lue said he and Kennard had “good conversation” before Wednesday’s game, and there was nothing more beyond Kennard remaining aggressive that he wanted to see from him.

Kennard had taken two shots in each of his last two games. He shot six times against the Cavaliers, and made three of his four three-pointers. The timing of his bounce-back was personally significant. The game was played a little more than three hours from his Ohio hometown and his father, Mark, was watching from Rocket Mortgage Arena’s stands. The two talk after virtually every game.