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Kawhi Leonard and James Harden Save Clippers’ Face Against Resilient Blazers – 3 Key Takeaways From the War in LA

Published 12/12/2023, 1:54 AM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

Hosting the Portland Trail Blazers in California, the LA Clippers managed to extend their winning streak to four. The Blazers are now 6-16 while the Clippers, 12-10. In a battle of wills, Portland had to admit defeat to LA with 132-127. Not having key players like DeAndre Ayton and Malcolm Brogdon also added woes to the shorthanded Blazers.

Kawhi Leonard and James Harden, though, had an amazing night. Kawhi led the scoreboard once again with 34 points, closely followed by Harden, who put up 20 for the team. Here are the three key takeaways from tonight!

1. James Harden and Russell Westbrook’s game-time strategy is working

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Clippers coach, Ty Lue has been experimenting with various lineup and rotation changes since the Harden trade. Finally, their win against the Golden State Warriors was a cosmic sign. Since then, Coach Lue has ensured that Russell Westbrook gets more game time in the first quarter.

USA Today via Reuters

Pulling James Harden early and giving him his own unit provides him with the opportunity to be aggressive offensively. And we all know how much he loves to have the ball in his hands. Though there has been a great change in his attitude, the ultimate goal of Harden for this season is to add a ring to his resume.

From that outlook, the “Beard” has been a model teammate, creating open looks, providing assists, and an impressive playmaker.

2. Kawhi Leonard’s offensive blast of late has given the Clips a boost to continue their winning streak

Picking up where he left off at Utah, Kawhi Leonard continued his offensive onslaught tonight. His 14-foot jumper set the tone for the Clippers‘ tip-off against the Blazers. The first four minutes alone saw LA off to a 14-7 lead with the help of a dunk by Ivica Zubac.

The “Klaw” had a perfect nine-of-nine from the free throw line, while landing 11 of 19 field goals. “Offensively the team is in a good rhythm and that’s all I care about… I’ve played a lot of minutes over the last few games but sometimes you have to,” he had said after the game.

He further explained that having “clarity” is crucial when making decisions. Being “complacent” will only end up being the Achilles heel for the kind of experience these players pack. If Kawhi continues this offensive streak, there is no doubt that we will see the Clippers on the winning side a lot more.

3. Scoot Henderson’s breakout game goes in vain

The rookie guard posted a career-high 19 points tonight against the Clippers. The 19-year-old has been having a terrible rookie season so far. Drafted No. 3, Scoot Henderson had been struggling with shooting despite working out with Stephen Curry ahead of the season.

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Read More: Clippers’ James Harden-Russell Westbrook Strategy Breakdown: How Ty Lue is Making the Most Out of ex-MVPs?

While it initially looked like those lessons didn’t amount to much, tonight’s performance managed to wipe away many concerns. The second quarter proved to be key for Henderson, as he was the only other Blazer (the other was Anfernee Simons) who managed to keep the scores close. By halftime, LA led only 66-65 despite shooting 60% for the half.

USA Today via Reuters

‘Scoota’ had 14 of his 19 points by halftime. While it looked like the third quarter would prove to work in the Blazers’ favor (landed 10 of 14 3-point attempts in a single quarter), they were no match for LA’s calculated and strategic veteran power.

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Watch This Story: After Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard Is Ready for a Major Sacrifice for James Harden

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Written by:

Geisha Pulimoottil Don

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Edited by:

Sameen Nawathe