Clippers explode in the fourth quarter to blow out Hornets
Isolated against the Clippers’ Justise Winslow, Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball went into his magician’s routine. In and out he dribbled the ball between his legs, twitching back and forth, exploding past Winslow and extending to the rim.
Winslow blocked Ball’s layup into the seats. He walked over to Ball, getting in his face for a moment, a smirk on his face.
“Don’t do that,” Ball told Winslow, according to the Clippers swingman. “I’ll go and get 10 in a row.”
“I was just like, ‘Go do it then,’ Winslow said. “I don’t think that’s gonna happen on my watch … He’s a hell of a player, he’s going to be in this league a long time. He’ll be an All-Star for a lot of years. But I needed that block, for sure.”
Luke Kennard has been a three-point shooting ace for the Clippers, and getting a chance to attend All-Star weekend would hold special meaning for him.
Charlotte fans have streamed into the Spectrum Center to ooh and ahh at the LaMelo Show. But the circus was shut down Sunday, thanks to a gritty Clippers team that marched in and held Charlotte to 33% shooting en route to a 115-90 win.
“We did a really good job of paying attention to detail, getting back in transition, and making them play against our halfcourt defense,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “And our halfcourt defense was off the chain.”
Ball, the Hornets’ second-year star, tried his fair share of theatrics — tossing an inbounds pass behind his back in the first half, trying an off-the-backboard lob, shooting deep threes early in the clock — and still had 23 points and 10 assists. But the Clippers held the Chino Hills native to eight-for-19 shooting and one of six on three-pointers.
Despite the effort, the Clippers danced around the Hornets for much of the first three quarters, unable to land a punch strong enough to open a large lead. A run at the beginning of the fourth quarter, however, blew the game open thanks to the stellar effort of a gritty bench unit and Winslow’s emergence.
“Getting Luke [Kennard] back to where he was before he got COVID, getting Isaiah [Hartenstein] back from being out with that ankle injury … Justise’s been phenomenal as well,” Lue said before the game. “Justise is just pushing the basketball, attacking, getting to the basket, and making the right play too.”
When they signed Winslow in the offseason, the Clippers were looking for a bargain, hoping a player coming off a hip replacement and a year when he’d shot 35% could rediscover some of the point-forward magic that once made him an up-and-coming bright spot on the Miami Heat.
He’s starting to rediscover that magic — but in a slightly different role. After he “wasn’t really capitalizing” on opportunities to start the season, Winslow said, he’s beginning to thrive as a small-ball, point-center type for Lue. Winslow has made a habit of snatching rebounds and getting downcourt to set up teammates for transition buckets.
“He’s very mature for his age,” said Marcus Morris Sr., who scored 16 points after a three-game absence because of personal reasons. “For a guy to not be playing and taken in and out the lineup, not really playing and then put in there and actually producing, that’s big ups to him.”
Winslow had perhaps his best game of the season, with 13 points and a career-high-tying three blocks. As the Clippers turned an eight-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter into a 22-point advantage, Winslow was at the center, bullying his way into the lane for floaters. He scored 10 points in the period.
The Clippers, who won Tuesday in a 35-point comeback at Washington and have made a habit of rallies, fought back again but lost 121-114 at Miami.
“I feel like Ty is just trusting me more and more, and giving me more rope,” Winslow said. “It’s been a long journey for me, just trying to get my body to this point.”
He’s finding his role in a bench unit that’s come through on this eight-game trip. Winslow, Hartenstein, Eric Bledsoe, Kennard and Brandon Boston Jr. took the reins late in the third quarter and didn’t look back, each finishing with a plus-minus of at least plus-17. The Clippers are 4-3 on the trip that concludes Monday at Indiana.
Kennard scored 14 points with three three-pointers and also had 10 rebounds. Boston, a rookie, tied his career high with 19 points to match Reggie Jackson as high scorer.
“We’re very tough-minded,” Winslow said. “I knew from the beginning — just a scrappy team who’s going to compete every single night no matter who’s on the floor.”
When: 4 p.m. PST, Monday
On the air: TV: Bally Sports So Cal; Radio: 570, 1120.
Update: The Clippers (26-26) conclude their eight-game trip against the Pacers (18-33), who are 13th in the Eastern Conference. The Clippers beat the Pacers 139-133 in Los Angeles on Jan. 17, with Nicolas Batum scoring all of his 32 points in the second half.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.