Clippers turn it around at halftime, crush Hornets – Daily Bulletin

The Clippers pulled the ol’ Jekyll-and-Hyde act on Thursday in Charlotte, performing as their worst selves before halftime and then reemerging from the locker room like the world-beaters they believe they can be.

L.A. turned in such a sublimely dominant third quarter that the services of starters Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr. and Patrick Beverley weren’t needed in the fourth period of a 113-90 victory before 4,442 fans at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

With the win, the Clippers (47-23) maintained a one-game lead over the Denver Nuggets (who defeated Minnesota on Thursday to improve to 46-24) for third place in the Western Conference. Both teams have two games left in the regular season, and Denver owns the head-to-head tiebreaker for playoff seeding should the teams finish tied in the standings.

The Clippers’ final two regular-season games are against the two worst teams in the conference, starting with Houston (16-54) on Friday and then concluding against Oklahoma City (21-49) on Sunday.

The Nuggets’ next two games: at Detroit (20-50) on Friday and at Portland (41-29) on Sunday.

After a mess of a first half – including an especially wretched second quarter, when they were outscored 24-13, shot 1 for 10 from 3-point range and committed six of their 17 total turnovers – the Clippers trailed, 47-44.

And how great that was, insisted Coach Tyronn Lue – who is looking at everything at the moment through the lens of postseason prep.

“They did a good job just mixing defenses up on us, going zone, starting in zone, afterwards going man – it just tripped the game up on us,” Lue said. “It’s something that we needed to see.”

Appreciative of the challenge, Lue and the members of his coaching staff put their heads together, recalibrated, made a few tweaks to their offensive game plan, and just like that, it clicked.

The Clippers used a sizzling third quarter – shooting 13 for 15 from the field and 8 for 10 from behind the arc – to run away with their second consecutive victory and their fourth in five games.

It was the quality of quarter that Lue had been waiting for as his team has struggled recently to find a good rhythm with nearly all the roster healthy.

The Clippers’ season-long offensive rating is 116.8, third-best in the NBA. But their offensive rating in the eight games leading into Thursday’s rout in Charlotte: 106.6.

“I don’t want to just say that our offense has been bad,” Lue said. “Looking at it we did some good things here and there, and a lot of times we had combinations on the floor the guys haven’t played together, so they’re not really in sync and in rhythm. That has been the biggest thing the last five, six games of the season just getting everyone healthy but also being able to see the flow of the game offensively and defensively, which we’re trying to do.

“I thought tonight was a good start for us, coming out in that third quarter and making some adjustments and being able to score 40 points as a team is good.”

Paul George finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and Reggie Jackson gave the Clippers 19 points off the bench, 15 coming from 3-point range. Leonard played 31 minutes and was a perfect 3 for 3 in the third quarter for 10 of his 16 points.

Morris added 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting and Nicolas Batum, who was booed by fans during the game, chipped in with 11 points, three rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot in his return to Charlotte, where he played for five seasons.

“Tonight was a night where we trusted each other,” Leonard said. “They were packing the paint, they weren’t letting me isolate out of double-teams. So once we kick it out, guys are driving and passing and we’re knocking down shots and playing good defense, you know, it’s exciting.”

As a team, the Clippers finished 21 for 45 from behind the arc, which goes down as the eighth time in team history – and the fourth occasion this season – that they’ve connected on at least 20 3-pointers.

They also improved to 13-0 this season when holding opponents to fewer than 100 points.

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