LOS ANGELES — To date this season, no game has displayed the balance of the Los Angeles Clippers more than Sunday night’s 129-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers. The Clippers had seven players in double-figure scoring, led by Marcus Morris’ season-high 20 points as well as Paul George’s 20 points. Luke Kennard also pitched in 20 of the 65 points scored by the reserves on the night.
Oh, and this was a game in which the Clippers were missing starting center Serge Ibaka and sixth-man extraordinaire Lou Williams.
The Clippers held down Malcolm Brogdon to just 16 points on 7-of-21 shooting. While All-Star Domantas Sabonis had his usual dominant line of 19 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists, it didn’t come without a lot of physicality from Ivica Zubac and Marcus Morris down low.
“I thought the defense was great, outside of Doug getting off to a quick start with his shotmaking,” head coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. “Overall, I thought we did a great job. I thought Kawhi took the challenge on Brogdon, really sat down on him and made it tough for him. Overall, outside of McDermott’s 3s, I thought we did a good job.”
The Clippers moved to 10-4 on the season with the win, good for the second-best record in the NBA behind only the 11-3 Los Angeles Lakers. This season, however, the Clippers feel they’re far better equipped for the championship run than last.
“It’s a new year,” Paul George said after the win. “We moved on. For some reason, a lot of people haven’t. But we moved on. Only thing we can do is prepare for what is ahead of us and we have done an unbelievable job of doing that. But the chemistry is amazing. This team is… It’s a real bond. It’s fun, with this team, it’s locked in, we are together, it is one of the best locker rooms I have been around and been in. Hopefully you guys see it, just how well we are meshing. We are going to continue to build off of that, we like where we are at, like where we are heading, and we want to see this thing play all the way through.”
Last season left a sour taste in everybody’s mouth, and nearly every player here from that roster admitted as much. While there was blame to be shared by all parties over last season’s loss, it appears as though this new group is one that’s ready and willing to hold one another accountable.
Just a few weeks ago, Nicolas Batum was expressing appreciation for Patrick Beverley correcting him on a missed defensive rotation.
"I think that was the best training camp I've been through. We never stop talking to each other. We try to correct each other. If someone did something wrong, we're gonna tell him. And it's nothing personal."
Nicolas Batum on Clippers focusing on mental toughness. pic.twitter.com/OlSS8zEc7V
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) December 26, 2020
Accountability has been a strong suit of Tyronn Lue-led teams. Known for holding LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to higher standards throughout their NBA Finals runs, Lue continued to earn the respect of many around the league for his coaching style. It was evident in Cleveland, and it has been evident so far in Los Angeles.
“I feel like our energy is way better this season,” Marcus Morris said of players having conversations to hold one another accountable. “Guys are buying in, guys are enjoying playing the game.
“I feel like our energy is way better this season. Guys are buying in, guys are enjoying playing the game. Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk about PG… I’m excited to see how far he can take it. He’s definitely playing MVP basketball.”
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) January 18, 2021
“I think everybody’s open, man. Everybody’s just saying what they want, saying stuff that’s helping the team, and we all in as one. We kind of felt let down last year, and the first thing we did before we got together was we let that shit go. It’s a new season, it’s a new team, and we’re just trying to go out there every day and get better.”
“We all-in as one. We kind of felt let down last year & the first thing we did before we got together was we let that shit go. It’s a new season, it’s a new team, & we’re just trying to go out there every day & get better.”
Marcus Morris on Clippers communication/accountability. pic.twitter.com/3yaeNivzbn
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) January 18, 2021
Through 14 games, the Clippers lead the NBA in 3-point percentage, are tied for the best offensive rating (117.5 points per 100 possessions), and are third in net rating (plus-6.6 points per 100 possessions). According to ESPN, the Clippers have also had the third-hardest schedule so far, which bodes well for them should they be able to remain healthy as the season progresses.
“I would say it’s perfect,” Morris added of Lue’s fit with the players. “It’s really like, it’s just open. You can say what you want, everybody got a lot of respect for each other, listen to the players and we just going forward, man. And the dialogue between players and coaches has to be strong if you’re trying to win a championship and he understands that because he’s won one. He’s a championship coach and I’m excited for him. And also, the staff, man, the staff is doing a really good job and I think the whole thing just fit.”
It would appear that Tyronn Lue and his style is indeed a perfect for Marcus Morris and the Clippers.