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In the end, the Clippers’ answer was Harden’s resurgence.

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Golden State Warriors 121-113 in the 2023-2024 NBA regular season at the Center in Los Angeles, California, on Friday night. The win was the Clippers’ sixth straight and moved them into seventh place in the Western Conference.

It was a vintage James Harden performance. Harden led the Clippers’ offense with 28 points, 15 assists, and four blocked shots. All of the Clippers’ offense started with Harden, who orchestrated the team’s offense with great decisions and scoring. It was a game where we saw Harden in his prime. He was perfect from the free throw line, going 12-for-12.

The biggest beneficiary of Harden’s performance was Kawhi Leonard. Free to focus on scoring without the burden of ball-handling, Leonard was efficiently productive on the night, scoring 27 points and grabbing eight rebounds while shooting over 55% from the field.

Paul George was out with an injury, but Harden and Leonard’s performances made his absence hardly noticeable.

In a postgame interview, Harden said, “We’re getting into a rhythm, we’re getting better chemistry. We’re playing more as a team than as individuals.”

As we said, the Clippers are on a six-game winning streak. Harden is the biggest reason for that. Harden is averaging 20 points, 8.8 assists, and 5 rebounds in his last eight games. He has taken on the role of the team’s complete primary ball handler, a role he played on his last team.

Shortly after being traded to the Clippers, Harden’s role was not as the primary ball handler. The Clippers had a lot of ball-handling players, including Russell Westbrook, Leonard, and George, and Harden was passive on offense, giving way to the three of them. As a result, Harden’s maturity disappeared. Harden is at his best when he’s attacking with the ball. Without the ball, he doesn’t have the offense to move and shoot. Too many balls in the air summarizes the Clippers.

But Westbrook’s sacrifice changed a lot of things. Westbrook’s voluntary trip to the bench allowed Harden to take over the primary ball-handler role and return to what he’s accustomed to. And Harden’s form began to return. As time went on, his chemistry with Leonard and George improved. The synergy between Harden, Leonard, and George has been great lately.

Harden initiates the offense with the ball, and Leonard and George take screens or post-ups to create offense. If that fails, Harden runs a pick-and-roll with Ivica Zubac. If that doesn’t work, Harden will isolate himself. It’s a simple, powerful, and efficient offense for the Clippers.

The absence of Marcus Morris and Robert Covington, who left the team in the Harden trade, has been compensated for by rookie Kobe Bryant and Amir Coffey, who were both given playing time after being left out of the rotation. In addition, Terrence Mann has been filling in with a heavy workload. For now, the Clippers are not feeling the absence of Morris and Covington at all.

The picture the Clippers envisioned when they acquired Harden is finally coming together. With the exception of Westbrook’s drastically reduced minutes, it looks like the Clippers have finally put together the team they envisioned.



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