Five takeaways from the Clippers' 123-120 win over the Brooklyn Nets Sunday night at Staples Center.
1. It's better to be lucky and good. Sindarius Thornwell admitted it was a "big risk" to take an aggressive swipe at Joe Harris' potential game-tying three-pointer with three seconds left. A foul would have sent Harris, a 79% free-throw shooter, to the line for three shots.
But Thornwell, one of the Clippers' better defending guards, got all ball on Harris' shot from the top of the key, closing in from Harris' right side, avoiding contact as he leaped toward Harris and cleanly blocking his shot to seal the win.
"It was a good read, I stayed on the body, fought through a little gate screen, and I guess it was just good timing," Thornwell said. "It was defensive instincts. You just have to be prepared for the moment and make a play."
2. As much as Doc Rivers loved Thornwell's block — "That was great," the Clippers coach said. "That was terrific" — he was furious with how the final moments unfolded. He had instructed the Clippers to foul before any Nets player could even attempt a shot.
"We didn't execute that last play, I will tell you that," Rivers said. "We were supposed to foul. I almost died when we didn't foul, because they got a decent look, and I didn't like that."
3. Austin Rivers has become a lethal outside threat, and not just because he drained a step-back 27-foot three-pointer with 33.8 seconds left to give the Clippers a 121-120 lead Sunday night.
Rivers has made 103 of 259 three-pointers this season, his 39.8% mark well above his career 35.8% rate, and his three-point shooting has improved every season in Los Angeles, going from 29.8% with New Orleans and the Clippers in 2014-2015, to 33.5% in 2015-2016, 37.1% in 2016-2017 and 39.8% this season.
"That's all I worked on this summer, that three-ball," Rivers said. "I've gone from having a little confidence in it to believing every three-pointer I shoot I feel like is going in. That's just the way I feel. When you put work into something, you have to trust it and live with the results. I have 100% confidence in that shot."
4. The strategy of opponents hacking DeAndre Jordan intentionally to send the Clippers center to the free-throw line is becoming extinct.
Jordan, a notoriously bad free-throw shooter who entered this season with a 43.0% career average, is shooting 61.7% from the line this season, making 129 of 209 shots. He made nine of 10 free throws Sunday night, including all four in the decisive fourth quarter.
"When he shoots them, even when he misses, they look good," Doc Rivers said. "And the more you see them go in, the more you believe they'll go in."
Confidence has been the key.
"I am working on it a lot, and my teammates are confident in me, so I'm getting more and more comfortable up there," said Jordan, who is shooting 74.5% from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter this season.. "But it is just that I feel good in my routine."
5. Doc Rivers expects more from Sean Kilpatrick, a guard who made one of four shots for two points in a little more than 11 minutes against the Nets after signing a 10-day contract on Sunday.
"He'll be better on Tuesday, I can guarantee you that," Rivers said. "I just thought for a guy who literally walked into the locker room a half-hour before shoot-around and got to play tonight … what I did like, watching him, is he can put pressure on the ball. He can pick up the ball full court. I didn't know that, and we need that component, so that will be good for us."
Said Kilpatrick, who was waived by Milwaukee on Friday: "The only thing I need is practice. Once I get a practice in and once I'm able to run up and down a little bit, I think everything will become a lot easier, and coach knows that."