LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers dropped their Orlando restart opener to the Los Angeles Lakers, 103-101. Paul George led the way for the Clippers with 30 points, while Kawhi Leonard poured in 28 points. All in all, it was an encouraging game for head coach Doc Rivers, even despite the tough loss.
Without third- and fourth-leading scorers in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell available, the Clippers went through some scoring droughts throughout the game. An 11-0 Lakers run to start the fourth quarter proved to be the difference maker in the end, but foul trouble, turnovers, and lack of execution all played a part in the Clippers’ loss.
“You know, we were shorthanded and we made too many mistakes,” Rivers said after the game. “It’s a good lesson for the team. You can’t make as many mistakes as we made in one game and be shorthanded.
“When you don’t have guys, you have to execute. We didn’t execute many plays tonight offensively. We had 20 turnovers. We gave up offensive rebounds. We lost guys in coverage defensively. So in that way, it was disappointing. The positives are that we had every opportunity to still win the game. That would have been a sweet win for us with what our guys have gone through.”
Rivers pointed all the issues out in one answer. Too many turnovers, too many fouls, a lack of execution offensively, and too many missed coverages defensively.
“I don’t ever want 20 turnovers,” Rivers added. “When guys like Sham [Landry Shamet] hadn’t played a lot, Zub [Ivica Zubac] did his best tonight, JaMychal. We had a lot of guys that came in late. The turnovers that bothered me were more the sloppy execution. Sometimes it’s good defense when that happens. We can’t have self-inflicted wounds. I thought we had too many of them all night.”
Paul George continued his strong bubble play, knocking down 11 of his 17 attempts from the field, including 6-of-11 from beyond the arc, for 30 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
George’s Clippers trailed by 13 points in the first quarter, which he partly attributed to foul trouble.
“I don’t think it was a continuity thing,” George admitted. “I think it was we were in foul trouble. The game was a little out of hand to start off. But they were the aggressors. They attacked us defensively. They pressured us.
Second half, we came out and I thought we attacked more. We pressured them more. We got back to playing our style of play. The game changed.”
The game did change. The Clippers ran off 11 straight points midway through the third quarter and looked to seize control of the game with aa 66-55 lead. Unfortunately, 11 points was the biggest lead of the game for the Clippers, which was relinquished for good early in the fourth quarter.
Leonard scored 28 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. He added three rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocked shots. He echoed George’s postgame comments, but made sure to add that he and his teammates really had fun out there.
“We’re still kind of figuring it out,” Leonard confessed. “It was a good game. We still had fun out there. Was great to be back on the floor. But we still have to improve. We can’t turn the ball over that much. We are missing those guys. They are the two big key players for us. We miss them. Overall, I thought we fought all night. Definitely got to get better with some of our execution. Pretty good game.”
Many had been concerned with Leonard’s shooting, especially since he finished his three scrimmage games shooting a combined 12-of-46 (26.1 percent) from the field. He shut that down on Thursday by doing whatever he wanted, for the most part.
“I felt like I got to my spots tonight. I missed some of them. I think we did a pretty good job as a team of getting the ball where it needed it to be. Obviously they got good defenders, good coaching staff. They’re playing hard. Just fighting hard.”
Even though they were without Williams and Harrell, the Clippers welcomed back Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet, who missed time for different reasons. Both participated in their first game Thursday, and expectations are only going to increase as the two continue to get in game shape.
The Clippers’ next matchup is on Saturday when the Clippers take on the New Orleans Pelicans at 3 p.m. PST. Both teams will be looking to bounce back after tough losses.