Five Takeaways: Clippers’ Pitch Shutout for First 4 minutes and 50 Seconds

by Caden Kinard

PHOENIX — The Clippers led from tip-off to the final whistle, dominating in a 128-117 victory over the Suns.

Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers victory.

1) Clippers’ pitch shutout for first 4 minutes and 50 seconds —

The Clippers made the first bucket of the game. And the second. Then a bunch of free throws. By the time the Suns scored their first bucket, the Clippers had scored 19 points. The Suns offense had no rhythm. Every time they passed the ball or attempted to move towards the basket, they were met by a Clippers defender. During the shutout, the Clippers forced three turnovers, including a shot clock violation, preventing the Suns from attempting a shot.

While the Clippers’ defense excelled, so did their offense. They shot 65 percent from the field, and had assists on more than half of their field goals. By the end of the first, the Clippers led 40-18, the most points they’ve scored in the first quarter this season.

The Clippers’ offense continued its excellence throughout the game. By the end of the first half, they had 79 points, the most in any half during the team’s tenure in Los Angeles. They ended the game with 124 points, marking their third consecutive game with 120+ points, tying a franchise record.

2) Harris steps up —

Tobias Harris led Clippers’ early charge, scoring 16 points on perfect shooting in just the first quarter. He also added 4 rebounds and 2 assists in the frame. With Danilo Gallinari sitting out, Harris shifted to more of a playmaker role for the team. He responded with his first 30-point game as a Clipper, 4 points shy of his career-high. He made 5 of 7 three pointers, and was second on the team in rebounding, grabbing a season-high 11 boards. In his eight games since coming to LA, the forward has averaged 19 points per game, logging 20+ in each of the last three games.

3) Williams imposes will —

Common knowledge is the fact that Lou Williams prefers dribbling and driving to his left. Every team knows, and in his 13th year, there are no new tricks, yet nobody has been able to stop him this season. The Suns were no different tonight. In the second quarter, Williams dazzled, hitting jumper after jumper, mostly fading to his left. He scored 23 points in the second, hitting 9-of-12 shots. All 12 of those shots were attempted from the left half of the court.

The presumed Sixth Man of the Year finished with 32 points, his 16th game of the season scoring 30 or more.

4) Suns can’t climb out of hole, resort to Hack-a-Jordan—

The Clippers’ largest lead of 29 points came in the second quarter, but the Suns slowly inched their way back into the game. Instead of closing the game with the bench unit, the Clippers were forced to bring their starters back in, as Phoenix closed the gap to 12. The Suns turned to intentionally fouling DeAndre Jordan, who is in the midst of a career-best free-throw shooting season, shooting at over a 60 percent clip. He made 5 of his 8 free throws following intentional fouls, rendering the strategy largely ineffective.

Jordan finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds, his team-high 32nd double-double of the season.

For the Suns, Devin Booker and TJ Warren each had 27 points. Rookie Josh Jackson scored 19 points off the bench, and was entrusted with guarding Williams down the final stretch.

5) Different game, different starting lineup —

For the 28th time this season, the Clippers opened the game with a new starting lineup. It’s the story of the 2017-18 season for the Clippers, start another lineup, yet find a way to win. Tonight, Austin Rivers, Tyrone Wallace, Wesley Johnson, Tobias Harris, and DeAndre Jordan started. The 28 different lineups used to start games tops the league, and the 18 players starting more than one game is also a league-high.

The player who benefits the most from starting games is, probably, Tyrone Wallace. When he is in the opening lineup, Wallace averages 11.1 points. Inserted once again, Wallace played above his standard, scoring 11 points in the first quarter. He ended the game with 15 points. Austin Rivers, the player who’s started the second-most games for the Clippers this year, added 17 points of his own.

What’s Next? — The Clippers will take on the Nuggets in Denver on Tuesday night, with tip-off at 7:30 p.m. PST.

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