In passing, Clippers find wins, face Hawks next
The always-evolving Los Angeles Clippers seem to have hit on a new identity after a willingness to share the basketball just put an end to a home losing streak.
The Clippers figure to explore the generosity further when they play host to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night in their second game in two days.
First a team that was committed to the defensive end, the Clippers shed that identity when they realized what a dynamic scoring team they could be. That style led the Clippers atop the Western Conference in early December, but the league caught up to Los Angeles' ways.
After surprising the league with a 15-6 record heading into December, the Clippers were knocked off track by losing six of seven games in one December stretch, then went through another 1-6 stretch, which included a five-game losing streak, this month.
Now keen on making the extra pass, the Clippers are on a three-game winning streak and have won four of their last five, with three of those victories coming on a recent four-game road trip.
On Sunday at home against the Sacramento Kings, the Clippers had 35 assists on 42 made field goals in a 122-108 victory.
The effort pushed the Clippers over the 23-assists-per-game mark, their highest since they had 24.8 in the 2014-15 season, when they finished 56-26.
"Whenever we do it, it's good and it was good all night," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said about his team's ball distribution Sunday.
"That's what we have to be and we believe that. We said it before the year started," Rivers said. "Sometimes we lose our way but for the most part, we keep doing it. So many guys on our team have the ability to make a shot, and it makes us hard to guard."
In the midst of a run where they have lost nine of their last 13 games, the Hawks are looking for a formula that can bring some consistent success.
It will not be easy over the next two weeks as they head into the third game of their mammoth seven-game road trip that will have five stops in the Western Conference. The Hawks are making themselves scarce as the NFL's Super Bowl circus rolls through Atlanta.
The Hawks are 1-1 so far, winning at Chicago on Wednesday before falling at Portland 120-111 on Saturday in a game that did show promise for the future.
Rookie Trae Young scored 30 points against the Trail Blazers, the second time in his young career he has reached the 30-point mark and the first time since Oct. 21.
On Saturday, he shot a scorching 11 of 15 (73.3 percent) from the field, his best shooting percentage in a game this season.
Young's standout game came after he went 1-of-12 (8.3 percent) from the field at Chicago, his worst shooting night in 48 career games. Adding Young to the youthful mix that includes second-year player John Collins and fellow rookie Kevin Huerter, the Hawks are getting some serious on-the-job training.
"Worrying about the turnovers is playing cautious," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We want to be aggressive. We could slow the game down, but now you don't get the (right) kind of mentality."
So instead of micromanaging Young after his rough night Wednesday, he was able to shoot his way out of his struggles and tap into his competitive nature to score 30 points one game later.
The Hawks would like to see him do it again, against a Clippers defense that can give up points in stretches, but one that has the ability to clamp down on a hot hand.
With the Clippers' second-leading scorer Danilo Gallinari having missed five consecutive games with back spasms, the defensive-minded Patrick Beverley has picked up things on the offensive end, scoring at least 16 points in three of his last five games, well above his 6.7 average on the season.
Hawks forward Miles Plumlee will head is listed as day-to-day with a knee injury, while guard Kent Bazemore is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 27, 2019