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5 Reasons why the Los Angeles Clippers have succeeded without Kawhi Leonard

Joaquin Ruiz
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Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

After starting the season 2-4, and losing superstar Kawhi Leonard indefinitely in the process, the Los Angeles Clippers found themselves in a hole. However, the team now looks completely different just a few games later.

Los Angeles is spry and full of energy lately. Something that’s been missing in recent regular seasons and games. After winning five of their last six, here are five reasons the Los Angeles Clippers are playing their best basketball of the season right now.

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Los Angeles’ point guard play has been excellent

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Considering Reggie Jackson and John Wall are both worthy of being the team’s starting point guard, it was expected that head coach Tyronn Lue would simply give the reins to the better fit.

Fortunately for the Clippers, the duo of floor generals has been equally impactful in their ways, thus making Jackson the starter and Wall the sixth-man indifferent.

In the last five games, Jackson is averaging 12.2 points on 46% shooting, with 3.6 assists. Second, in usage rate among Los Angeles’ starters, he’s playing well enough to get the team by without Leonard. Wall is posting a similar 12.4 points and five assists for the entire season. His stat line looks extra polished when realizing the former All-Star plays only 22.3 minutes a night, compared to Jackson’s 29.1.

Together, the tandem allows primary ball-handler Paul George to have less weight on his shoulders, offending to run smoother. Once Leonard returns, expect the guards to play even better with lesser duties.

Ivica Zubac and Luke Kennard are reliable constants

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At the season’s start, center Ivica Zubac and guard Luke Kennard each had sizable noise surrounding their games. Zubac, the lone playable center on the team, has to hold down the paint well enough to let coach Lue play small at times. While Kennard, the team’s best shooter, had to prove his worth by showing he can survive on defense and play-make a tad more on offense.

They’ve each succeeded in their assignments and then some. Proving to be two role players the Clippers can count on to be effective every night.

Kennard has continued his array of shooting excellence, boasting the ninth-best rate from deep for players seeing 20-plus minutes a night, at 47.5%. Lue’s option to start the Duke product to fill in for Leonard has worked, with Kennard being vital to the team’s offense and spacing.

Zubac is posting 10.2 points and career-highs in both rebounds and minutes per game, with 10.8 and 30.8, respectively. He’s been in Lue’s closing lineups throughout the year and has proven that he can switch onto guards without being an eyesore.

Together, the duo takes some heat off a Clippers team that’s missing its best player. It doesn’t hurt to know you’ll be okay with those two on the court.

Norman Powell doesn’t look lost anymore

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Throughout the first four games on Los Angeles’ schedule, the number one head-scratcher was the play of Norman Powell. The former UCLA guard struggled mightily, scoring a mere seven points a game on a dismal 27% clip from the field.

Powell didn’t look a thing like the 2021-’22 version of himself, which was more glaring as he was expected to fill the void for Leonard.

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Since his bad start, the scorer has returned to form — averaging 13.9 points on 51.3% shooting in his last eight appearances. He seems to be having more fun and has been lighting up benches alongside fellow guard Wall, helping the Clippers move above .500.

Powell is crucial to the team’s plans. If he keeps up his steady play, the wins will continue to follow.

Terance Mann is less hesitant, seeing more action

Like Kennard and Powell, the guard-forward hybrid in Terance Mann has been relied on to help replace the rehabbing Leonard.

The fourth-year guard has struggled with hesitation, often passing up shots and getting caught in the air with no plan. Though, he’s shown to have caught his errors earlier this season, earning himself an uptick in minutes and scoring compared to game one.

From the Clippers’ first game against the Lakers to the latest, Mann has seen his scoring gradually inflate to 8.4 points per contest from 0. He’s in and out of the starting five and has a comfortable bench role that gives him essentially 20 minutes a night. On a crowded roster, that’s not bad at all.

Mann must continue his trend of confidence for Los Angeles’ coach to mix and match his lineups as he wishes. With wings such as Robert Covington and Nico Batum showing signs of age, Mann must pick up the losses.

Paul George is playing like a superstar for Los Angeles Clippers

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Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst Los Angeles’ awful start, George remained an excellent leader and took responsibility for the woes. Per The Athletic, he told the frustrated and injured Leonard, “Don’t worry about all of this. I got you.” Since that statement, PG13 has indeed been that guy.

In his last six contests, the supposed no. 2 piece, as George claims he is, has flexed 30.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. Leading the Clippers to a 5-1 record in that time frame, George has cured the depressing vibes at the Crypto.com Arena.

Sure, the season is still extremely young. But it’s common knowledge that when George is locked in, the Clippers are, too. With five of their next six games coming against 2021-’22 playoff teams, it’ll be interesting to see if the team can keep up their play behind their leader.

Sitting at 7-5, it’s safe to say the Clippers are starting to look like the team atop of off-season power rankings.