One day after suffering a surprising 26-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday afternoon, the Clippers responded in a big way once they took the floor again.
Los Angeles had three players score at least 30 points for the first time in franchise history, all while star forward Kawhi Leonard sat out of the game (load management).
Center Montrezl Harrell tied his career-high with 34 points, while guards Lou Williams and Paul George added 32 apiece in the Clippers 135-132 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday at Staples Center.
“We saw Lou and Montrezl lead the way. Watching that from the bench, it got us motivated. We knew the job we had to do,” said George, who fouled out with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Harrell was critical following the team’s loss to Memphis, saying “we’re not a great team” after loud sounds of boos rang through the arena a day prior. “Losing by 20 plus points on your home floor, getting embarrassed, and booed by your home fans, that should wake anybody up.”
Following the win over New York, reporters again crowded Harrell’s locker room waiting for an updated post game response, only to get left with, “Y’all have a good Sunday,” Harrell said, exiting with a smile.
His teammates clearly used his statements as fuel and came into the game with a winning mindset, and it showed the message was received.
“I think we just decided we weren’t gonna lose today,” Williams said.
However, it was the Knicks who used a 24-8 run in the first quarter to get things going, as Los Angeles trailed 45-29 through 12 minutes of play.
The Clippers (26-12) allowed the Knicks to shoot 57 percent from the field for the game, including 52 percent on three-pointers, making 12 of 23 attempts.
Veteran forward Marcus Morris led New York (10-26) with a career-high 38 points and drained big shots over the duration of the game. Rookie forward RJ Barrett had 24 and Julius Randle added 16 and eight rebounds.
“You can win games with bad offense and good defense,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Tonight, people can say either the offense was phenomenal or both teams struggled defensively. The players will say one thing, but the coaches will say the other.”
“It’s bad defense on both sides,” Williams said. “I’m sure it’s exciting for the fans, but it’s probably a coach’s nightmare.”
The Clippers wasted no time in the second quarter and turned the game around to steal momentum back on their side. Los Angeles ran off 47 points to take a 76-69 lead at the half, nearly doubling New York’s points in the period.
In the third, the Clippers held a 15-point advantage after Harrell converted a lay-up to extend the lead to 106-91 with 1:46 remaining.
“At end of the day, we wanted to win but took a positive step in our competition level,” Morris said. “For us to be in the game against one of the top teams in the league and have a big lead says a lot.”
New York rallied to get within three twice in the fourth, but it was Williams who nailed a 3-pointer, followed by a floating jump shot with under a minute to play to increase the Clippers lead to 133-128.
Morris responded by making a jump shot with 10.4 seconds remaining, but Williams countered again by converting two free throws on the next possession to seal a nail biting 135-132 win for Los Angeles.
“We still allowed too many points and have to get better,” George said. “It’s an area we have to improve, but our offense got us over the hump today.”
The Clippers now have some days to rest before hosting the Golden State Warriors (9-29) on Friday at 7:30 PM.