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Everything comes together for Clippers in rout of Kings

Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

SACRAMENTO — Bookmark the boxscore for reference.

Mark the date and time for posterity.

And clip the video for visual proof.

On Wednesday night, one month and 11 games into their up-and-down experiment of incorporating four future Hall of Famers on one roster, the Clippers proved that the elusive can be done. Their starting wing trio of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden can, in fact, all find their offensive rhythm on the same night. Their offense can operate cleanly. And instead of raising questions, they can produce a commanding performance befitting their lofty ambitions.

It was their first win on the road this season, in four chances, against an opponent with a winning percentage of .500 or better.

In their most authoritative first half this season, the Clippers set season-bests for a first half in points (72), made three-pointers (11) and fewest turnovers (one) while leading by as many as 22 points.

Leonard scored 34 points, Harden had 26 and Paul George added 19. Every starter scored in double figures, with Ivica Zubac scoring 14 and Terance Mann 18.

The Clippers are 8-9, while the Kings fell to 10-7.

 

Yes, Wednesday’s 131-117 victory against Sacramento at Golden 1 Center came against an opponent playing its second game in as many nights. But so was Denver on Monday, when the short-handed Nuggets stunned the full-strength Clippers anyway. The sting lingered, so much so that Wednesday morning Lue was still stewing over what he termed “elementary” defensive mistakes during “that bulls— game,” and wondered how the team could coax Harden, a former league scoring leader, to be more aggressive, after he averaged just 1.5 field goal attempts in fourth quarters as a Clipper.

“We have a selfless team,” Lue said before tipoff. “They’re not saying, ‘Oh, he’s taking too many shots. I’m not getting those shots.’ But they got to be aggressive in their own rights of doing what you do well. And we have four special guys and they all bring something different. They’re all better and unique in certain situations than the other guy is, and so we got to be able to use those talents.”

While Lue implored Harden that “we need him to be more aggressive,” he also described the “fine line about keeping other guys in the rhythm, but also letting him be able to play pick and rolls and make plays as well.”

Hours later, they found that line. Harden scored 17 points in the first quarter, a total that would have tied for his third-highest-scoring game this season.

In the second quarter, it was George’s turn, as he scored 11 points in the quarter, and Leonard, who added 12.

When the Kings punished Clippers reserves and cut their 23-point deficit in the fourth quarter down to 13 with six minutes remaining in regulation, it called to mind the way the Clippers frittered 11-point leads three different times Monday. But Lue, who has criticized his roster’s professionalism at times this season in not putting away opponents when given the chance, reinserted his starters and saw them never allow the lead to reach single digits.

It was the type of performance that showed the depth of their talent, and illustrated why the team’s front office had made the trade for Harden so early, hoping the team could work out their kinks early in the season. Coach Tyronn Lue said he, as a coach, didn’t have another team to reference as a guide for integrating so many All-Star talents who share the same position, noting that most superstar-laden teams of the past two decades usually include a star big man who usually bears the brunt of the offensive sacrifice.


©2023 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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