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James Harden Scores 17 In Debut As Los Angeles Clippers Fall To New York Knicks

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James Harden found it “kind of weird” to play in his first game of the season after not participating in the LA Clippers’ training camp, but he had no trouble realizing the potential he, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook have as a team.

“Unlimited possibilities,” Harden said.

While the New York Knicks spoilt Harden’s long-awaited Clippers debut on Monday night by winning 111-97 at Madison Square Garden, the team was focused on the future and what they thought would be exciting times to come.

Harden made six of his nine shots, scoring 17 points and dishing out six assists in 31 minutes. After being traded from Philadelphia last week, he said it felt weird to play in his first game for the Clippers without having gone through training camp or the preseason.

“I feel kind of weird out there,” Harden said. “But just not really having a preseason game or an opportunity to participate in the full training camp or none of that. It was just [being] out there and just basically winging it. Try to go off my basketball instincts and what I’ve been doing for the last few years or whatnot. I just went out there and playing and thinking the game and trying to make the game easier for everybody else.”

With center Ivica Zubac, the Clippers started their four stars together. All four players scored in double figures, with Leonard recording a game-high 18 points, but the Clippers frequently appeared to be out of sync as they tried to gauge each other’s strengths.

They mishandled the ball 22 times, which resulted in 35 points for the Knicks. They gave up eighteen offensive rebounds and were outrebounded 48–31. They also failed to come up with any stops in the second half, allowing the Knicks to score 69 points after the break.

To make matters worse, the Clippers’ second unit may have taken a serious hit. Julius Randle struck backup center Mason Plumlee so hard on the side of his left leg that two Clippers employees had to help him off. Due to a sprained left knee, Plumlee was declared out of the game in the third quarter. He will get more testing on Tuesday.

Harden may need to work on the second unit more. Harden was given the starting lineup by Clippers coach Ty Lue, who also had the point guard manage the second team.

Despite Lue’s assertion that Harden grew weary in his first game action of the season, the coach noticed qualities in Harden that he found appealing. Early on in their pick-and-roll, Harden found Zubac with a pinpoint bounce pass that spun around a defender and drew a foul inside.

Lue believes that after ten games, he will know more about how this will function and what he might need to adjust.

Before the match, Lue declared that he had prepared a script detailing how he would space out his stars using the second unit and rotate “a thousand times.”

Certainly wasn’t in his plans to have to substitute his starting lineup for the remainder of the game with 4:25 remaining and the Clippers down 104-88.

Lue, though, declared that he wouldn’t overreact and that “I’m not going to panic right now.” He saw willingness to make this work and sacrifice from his stars.

After making 8 of 13 shots, Westbrook finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. However, George’s scorching start to the season came to an end with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting.

Nevertheless, he left Monday night with a great sense of optimism.

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