It wasn’t merely the Clippers’ seventh consecutive victory against Portland.
Or the Clippers’ first of the season, following a pair of losses that left them one of only four teams without a win through the season’s first week.
“It was,” said Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups, the former Clippers assistant, “really embarrassing.”
“A shellacking,” said Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, who scored 20 points, but only four after halftime.
And it was just what the Clippers (1-2) needed to lower the temperature of a promising but fruitless start, even if their shooting remains far below their expectations and they were too loose with the ball, by their own acknowledgement, in the first half.
Takeaways from the Clippers’ 116-86 win at Staples Center:
1. The small size of the sample surrounding Reggie Jackson’s shooting woes doesn’t concern coach Tyronn Lue, who trusts his starting guard’s larger body of evidence.
Since joining the Clippers at midseason in 2020, Jackson has made 42% of his three-pointers — significantly better than his stops in Oklahoma City (28%) and Detroit (35%). It’s why Lue expressed little concern after Jackson made three of his 15 three-pointers Monday. Through three games he’s made nine of his 32 three-pointers and 17 of his 56 shots overall.
“He was No. 1 in the league as far as point guards at spot-up threes [last season], so we know he can shoot the basketball,” Lue said. “Not a big deal at all.”
Other than Luke Kennard, who made six of his seven three-pointers on his way to a team-high 23 points, the rest of the Clippers roster made eight of their 36 combined shots from deep Monday. As a team, the Clippers’ 33% accuracy ranks 18th in the league through three games.
“We had 37 assists, but we should have had 50,” Lue said. “I thought we had 15 shots that was wide open that we didn’t make.”
2. Paul George’s 2021 postseason showed how much he could do. But not everything. As the Clippers’ staff entered this season, they wanted him to show that he could limit his turnovers. Such a goal was not pulled out of thin air. With Kawhi Leonard sidelined, George expected to have the ball in his hands more this season than at any point since he joined the Clippers. He has used 31.6% of his team’s possessions thus far, which would set a career high if it continued.
“He can shoot the ball, he’s unselfish, he’s a willing passer, he’s a good defender,” assistant Brian Shaw said earlier this month. “So that’s an area I’d like to see him improve on, just making sure that when the ball is in his hands, which we trust it to be with our staff, that we get a shot out of it every time and cut down the turnovers.”
By turning the ball over seven times apiece against Golden State and Memphis, the Clippers gave themselves chances to win despite falling into early holes. In contrast, they had nine turnovers in Monday’s first half alone, with George responsible for three. It was a main talking point at halftime, Lue said. George had zero turnovers in the second half and found teammates for four assists within a three-minute span in the third quarter. Notably, the first was a lob dished to center Ivica Zubac, after the pair had appeared to be unable to predict where the other would be for much of the first half.
3. Referencing the more strenuous workload awaiting him without Leonard, George said before training camp began that his focus had to be on finding ways to take over games. He did not mean exclusively with his offense. On a night when George made only six of his 16 shots, missing all three shots around the rim, and failed to grab a rebound, he had to come up with a different means of meaningfully influencing the game.
That came on defense, where his eight steals were a career high and third-most in Clippers history, behind Lou Williams’ 10 (in 2018) and Doc Rivers’ nine (in 1991). George had three in a 72-second stretch alone during the third quarter and is the first player to record at least eight steals in 27 or fewer minutes since Michael Jordan in 1993. In the past decade, players have recorded eight or more steals in a game only 21 times.
Nicolas Batum, starting in place of the injured Marcus Morris Sr., “really set the tone of denying the basketball and just being in passing lanes,” Lue said. “PG might’ve had eight deflections at halftime. Just our activity, being active, understanding we had to know where [Damian Lillard] was on the floor at all times, I thought we did a great job with that, and we kind of just kept flying around. We covered for each other, didn’t leave anyone out to dry, everyone just stayed the course defensively.”
Next up: Wednesday against Cleveland at Staples Center.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.