Kawhi Leonard called it “ridiculous.”
Russell Westbrook called it “crazy.”
His new coach with the Clippers, Tyronn Lue, called it a performance that left him “intrigued by what I saw” — and just as annoyed by what he didn’t do.
Terance Mann called it nothing out of the ordinary — another career role reversal and a season full of them.
Officially calling it the second-highest-scoring game in NBA history, Westbrook’s Clippers debut coincided with Kawhi Leonard at his most offensive and most enduring in recent memory.
But Friday’s 176-175 Clippers loss to Sacramento in double overtime was also a reminder of how much work remains for the team to reach the championship level they aspire to, and how little time there is to get there.
The Clippers destroyed the franchise’s point record despite only having two practices and one shoot-around under their belts with their new additions to the roster, and held a 14-point lead with 3 minutes and 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter, six with 3:04 left in the first overtime and six, again, with 1:46 left in the second overtime. And they still lost after committing 25 turnovers and watching Malik Monk score 45 points on the Kings’ bench and De’Aaron Fox add 42 points.
In an important game against a team one spot ahead of the Clippers in the standings, Lue showed his confidence in Westbrook, the former Most Valuable Player, by playing him the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter, all first extensions. and the first three minutes of the second, until Westbrook fouled with 17 points, 14 assists and seven turnovers. Paul George said Westbrook’s aggression leading to easy baskets was just what the team needed from a lead guard.
“He made it through a lot of games in his career, you know, and so I thought what hurt us was their ball pressure, coming up on the floor, taking up the full pitch,” Lue said when asked why he leaned on Westbrook so much late . in the game. “Then we flipped the basketball. So keep him in play and on the ground to begin with, because the pressure won’t bother him. I thought that was the key for us.
Mann felt the immediate ripple effect of Westbrook’s addition, playing about 18 minutes, his least in 12 games. He finished with the team’s best plus-minus, the Clippers winning his minutes by six points. Lue acknowledged that Mann’s minutes weren’t enough.
“He was good, he should have played more,” said Lue. “We are all just trying to figure it out. Like I said, I know what T-Mann brings to the team. Just try to learn some stuff about the newer guys and just try to put some different pieces together and see what it looks like. I had a conversation with T-Mann, so he understands, but probably should have him speak a little more, but that’s also a learning experience for me.
Mann acknowledged earlier this season that he was struggling to find his place amid an ever-changing role where he played everything from ball handler to small ball. Stability came in early January when Mann replaced point guard Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup.
“Just trust, just trust (coaches), but I mean I trust them 100%,” said Mann. “He’s put me in the position to be great many times before, so I trust him.”
Changing roles have defined Mann’s four-year career with the Clippers, and he called it nothing else. But is it frustrating?
“It may be, but I mean I’m used to it,” Mann said. “That’s just my role on this team, that’s the role I chose for myself in the NBA to be able to play multiple positions, so that’s what comes with it. Some nights you will be in one position, other nights you won’t. Some nights you start, some nights you don’t. That’s what brought me here.”
George, who saw his minutes limit increase during the game before being held as a precaution from the last overtime, called the loss a bases collapse. George and Westbrook combined for three turnovers over three consecutive possessions late in the fourth quarter, a game-changing stretch, as Lue pointed out.
“We were bad coming back and matching and just giving up a lot of baskets without them even being offensive, just them pushing the pace,” said George, who scored 34 points with 10 rebounds and got on the line for 14 free throws in his 41 minutes.
Monk’s decisive three-pointer with seconds left in the game was a combination of breakdowns, including “a little bit of miscommunication,” George said.
With the Clippers trying to ease the transition of bringing new additions from Westbrook, Eric Gordon and Mason Plumlee into their rotation — former Denver guard Bones Hyland is out of regular rotation for now — and with starting center Ivica Zubac out Friday due to illness and a sore leg – a combination that could see him sidelined in West-leading Denver on Sunday – miscommunication is to be expected.
Still, making the playoffs hinges on rapid progress, with their next five games all against teams currently ranked in the top nine in the West.