One day after arriving in Los Angeles as the centerpiece of a trade the Clippers believe will point their trajectory upward, Norman Powell was rising Sunday evening, higher and faster than any Milwaukee defender, toward the rim.
His two-handed dunk, off a sprint from beyond the arc made possible by first crossing over Jrue Holiday, one of the NBA’s feared defenders, was met with cheers from a fan base that hopes explosiveness like that will upgrade this team’s uneven offense both now and when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George eventually return.
But Powell’s burst, as sudden as it was, had only trimmed the Clippers’ deficit to 20.
As welcomes go, the Clippers rolled out a mat for new additions Powell and Robert Covington as only they could in Crypto.com Arena. Their offense went from clicking to clanging, again, leading to a scoring drought of more than five minutes, again. When they fell behind by 25 points nobody batted an eye. Because it set the stage for a comeback — again.
Powell opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer. He drove to the rim, was fouled on his layup, and made the free throw. Instead of taking a wide-open wing three, he instead rerouted the pass to Covington in the corner, who made his three-pointer. Out of a Milwaukee timeout, Powell drove headlong into the paint again, and when his layup missed, Covington was there to tap in a basket for a nine-point deficit with nine minutes to play.
If Sunday were any indication, the new guys will fit in just fine on a roster that has made comebacks on their calling card.
“They make it hard,” Covington said, smiling, “but I think they like that a little bit.”
But also on display were many of the hallmarks that have required such high degree-of-difficulty rallies in the first place — the stagnant offense that saw four players stand unmoving, watching another post up and the three total points scored in seven minutes in the second quarter. They are why the Clippers jumped at a chance to add Powell and Covington from Portland, to reduce the separation between them and the league’s upper crust, such as Milwaukee.
Playing for the second consecutive night, the reigning NBA champions outclassed the Clippers in a 137-113 victory, first by outscoring them by 23 points between the second and third quarters. The Bucks (34-21) then outscored LA 17-7 over the last four minutes. The Bucks made half of their 38 three-point attempts. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points with 10 rebounds.
The Clippers (27-28) brought in Powell and Covington to add consistency to their lineups through Powell’s ability to score at the rim, beyond the arc and off the dribble, while also shoring up their defense.
Powell believes in his ability to fit in the future alongside Leonard and George because at earlier stops in Toronto, with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and Leonard, and in Portland, alongside Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, he has played every role from go-to scorer to complementary piece.
“I can fit perfectly in here with PG and Kawhi,” Powell said.
But work remains to shed some bad habits on the current roster he joins.
Marcus Morris Sr. made his first three shots and finished with 20 points. Point guard Reggie Jackson was again boom-or-bust, making three of his 12 shots for 10 points. Milwaukee ran unimpeded off of Clippers misses, scoring 28 points in transition, the most by a Clippers opponent this season.
Milwaukee’s starting five outscored the entire Clippers roster 114-113.
Powell quickly showed why Clippers President Lawrence Frank said he “never” thought he could acquire a player of his skill, in his prime, on a long-term contract.
Powell took Bucks post off the dribble and made a three-pointer with ease. He shot seven free throws, nearly half the Clippers’ 16. Then, with a burst that foreshadowed his third-quarter dunk, Powell’s dribble gave him a step on Antetokounmpo, whom he beat the rim. It was a situation Powell said he, too, never thought he would be in — playing in Los Angeles as the home team.
“When my agent called me I didn’t believe it,” Powell said.
The reality has left him extremely happy, he said. The only downside was that he had just moved furniture into the home he’d purchased in Oregon. He can settle in LA and feel comfortable. He is part of the Clippers’ plans for a long, long time.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism