Seated late at his locker Sunday night, Clippers center Ivica Zubac pondered his team’s streak-breaking loss to the Lakers. The best thing about losing in the NBA, he said, was how quickly the next opportunity to play again, and set things right, comes.
Just one night later, the Clippers returned to Crypto.com Arena and looked like a different team in a 138-111 rout of Phoenix, improving to 23-13.
His team leading by 25 with 4 minutes 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter, coach Tyronn Lue removed his last starter, James Harden, to allow reserves from both teams to finish the blowout.
Even with all three of Phoenix’s superstars playing, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal were not enough to offset all five Clippers starters scoring in double figures, led by Paul George’s 25 points and seven rebounds.
Last season, the Clippers did not record their 23rd win until 45 games into the season; this season, it has come 10 games sooner.
Where the Lakers’ length forced turnovers and missed shots, en route to the Clippers’ worst shooting performance of the season, the Suns watched the Clippers shoot 62% from the field, including 51% on three-pointers, making 15 of their 29 shots.
The Clippers led by as many as 30 points after again showing why Phoenix has been one of the league’s worst fourth-quarter teams. In the fourth, the Clippers scored 15 unanswered points to lead 118-96 when a swarm of Suns defenders converged on Kawhi Leonard and accidentally hit him in the face. After a timeout, he stayed on the bench, occasionally covering his face with a towel, after he was replaced by George.
Leonard scored 17 points. Harden scored 19 points with 10 assists and seven rebounds, and center Ivica Zubac scored 19 points. Zubac was key in the third quarter when Phoenix opted to remove its center and play small. The Clippers didn’t alter their lineup, keeping the 7-footer in the game, and held their 11-point lead throughout his six minutes against the small-ball lineup.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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