Five Takeaways: Williams Propels Clippers into 2018 with Victory

Five Takeaways: Williams Propels Clippers into 2018 with Victory

LOS ANGELES — The Clippers (16-19) go into 2018 on a positive note, edging the Hornets (13-23), 106-98, behind a 40-point night by Lou Williams.

Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers win.

1) Williams opens game on fire, then stays hot —

Milos Teodosic picked up two fouls in the first three minutes, forcing Doc Rivers to sub in Williams before his usual time. Williams then proceeded to carry the Clippers offense over the opening quarter, scoring 16 points in the frame, matching a season-high for any Clippers player in a quarter this season. The Hornets sent multiple defenders at Williams, first using the 6-foot-7 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, then putting 6-foot-1 Kemba Walker on him. Neither affected Williams much, as he went 6-of-7 from the field, connecting on all four of his three-pointers.

In the second half Williams kept it rolling, scoring inside and out. By night’s end, Williams had 40 points, the most points by a reserve in a single game this season. He sunk six three-pointers, and made 10-of-11 free throws. This was Williams’ second career 40-point game off the bench, and he is the first player in the NBA to score 40 off the bench since he did last season against Utah. He also dished out 8 assist on Sunday, besting the team.

2) Clippers overcome second quarter struggles —

With a seven point lead entering the second quarter, the Clippers were then outscored 30-13 over the period. The Hornets shut down the Clippers offense, forcing them into shooting 24-percent from the field and 11-percent from three. But after halftime, LA responded with greater energy and disposition, beating the Hornets 33-14 in the quarter. DeAndre Jordan’s activity on the offensive glass earned multiple second chance opportunities for the Clippers, even receiving a round-of-applause from Staples Center. The Clippers shot 47 percent from the field in the quarter, while limiting the Hornets to 5-of-24 shooting during the period.

3) Walker stars —

Austin Rivers, a gametime decision ruled out with a sore right Achilles, was most likely going to be the primary defender on Kemba Walker. Without Rivers, Walker sliced up the Clippers’ defense, scoring 30 points and carrying the offensive load for the Hornets. Late in the fourth when the Hornets were trying to come back, it was Walker who made back-to-back threes to close the lead to four. The all-star guard only tallied 2 assists, but the threat of him scoring the ball created enough space for other Hornets to get open shots. Off the bench for Charlotte, Frank Kaminsky tallied 16 points, while Jeremy Lamb contributed 12, and Johnny O’Bryant scored 10.

4) Starters will victory —

Every Clipper starter ended the game with a positive plus/minus, simultaneously holding every Hornets starter to minus. Blake Griffin was second on the team in scoring, putting up 24 points. DeAndre Jordan had the most free throws without a miss in his career, going 6-of-6 from the charity stripe, and also grabbed 16 rebounds. Milos Teodosic finished with 8 points and 5 assists, including a timely three pointer to quiet a Hornets attack.

Defensively, the Clippers closed off Walker’s starting supporting cast. Outside of the lead guard, the Hornets starters were shut down, shooting a collective 7-of-33 from the field.

5) Ending the year with hope —

The Clippers’ injuries to start the season are well documented, missing four out of the five initial starters for significant time. They lost Patrick Beverley for the season. Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin, and Milos Teodosic all missed extended stretches. Yet, as the Clippers end the 2017 calendar year, they sit only 1.5 games out of the playoffs.

Griffin and Teodosic recently came back, and the team projects to only get better reintegrating them back into the lineup. Plus, Gallinari’s return looms on the horizon. The Clippers’ January is packed with 15 games, and 10 of them will be played at home. With seemingly so much bad news this season, the Clippers enter 2018 with a lot positivity.

What’s Next? — The Clippers begin a four-game homestand Tuesday against the Grizzlies at 7:30 pm PST.

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