It's hard to know exactly what this was on Tuesday night at the Staples Center, a Clippers team just after a stretch of uninspired basketball or catching one of the worst NBA teams on their second night of consecutive action at The Angels.
Whatever it is, and almost certainly it was a healthy portion of both, the Clippers needed it, it looked more like the team that people thought it could be than the apathetic who was around .500 during the last month.
A big part of the reason? Kawhi Leonard was at his best, beating and surpassing anyone the Cleveland Cavaliers put between him and the basket in an easy win by 128-103.
Leonard scored 43 points in less than 29 minutes, hitting 14 of 22 from the field, six of 10 from the three-point range and nine of 10 from the foul line in his most dominant performance of the season.
"It was nice. I had a good seat," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "… When Kawhi is so efficient, it is quite impressive to see him."
Finding a characteristic stretch on a night when it was so lethal constantly is not easy, but Leonard's 15 points in the second quarter could have been so. With the game tight, the Clippers even got lost briefly, Leonard broke things from the depths, hitting four triples in the room, while the advantage shot up to 16.
While most of the quarter was to show his ability, the final play of the first half was about his strength. With the clock turning zero, Leonard ran through the center of the court and divided Cleveland's young backcourt, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, by a dump and foul.
"She is a superstar in this league," said teammate Montrezl Harrell. "It's nothing really new to me. It can get hot on any given night.
However, this was special. Leonard is the fourth player to score at least 43 points in less than 29 minutes, joining Stephen Curry, Kemba Walker and Klay Thompson, who has done it twice.
If it were only Leonard, the Cavaliers, who were already in trouble with Kevin Love sitting the second consecutive night, could have endured there. But the Clippers star was far from alone.
"A complete team is needed," Leonard said.
At the beginning of the game was Patrick Beverley, fighting for rebounds, distributing the ball and warming from the depths. In a possession of the first quarter, Beverley grabbed three offensive rebounds in the same possession, which led to a triple. The Ivica Zubac center was a factor at both ends, scoring 12 points to go with 10 rebounds at one end, while hitting four shots at the other.
And Lou Williams was as hot as Leonard, hitting 10 of 13 from the floor on his way to 24 points in 19 minutes. Even Landry Shamet, whom the Clippers have struggled to keep up, jumped to hit four triples.
"Everyone else took a lot of pressure," Beverley said of Leonard. “I hit a couple of the first. The teams cannot leave. Sham hit a little early. When the boys around him hit some early shots, you can't really charge. Once that was done, he found a way to put the ball in the hole. ”
It was impressive, but it is impossible to ignore who was on the other side of the court.
Sexton led the Cavaliers, who never threatened after Leonard's second quarter surge, with 25 points, while Cedi Osman added 21. Tristan Thompson did not score, as did Brandon Knight, who led the Cavaliers with 26 minutes from the bench.
The Clippers will receive Orlando 19-21 one night after the Magic, like the Cavaliers, also plays with the Lakers.
The Clippers have not yet defeated a winning opponent since defeating the Lakers at Christmas. They have defeated 15 Sacramento wins, 14 Detroit wins, 11 New York wins, nine Golden State wins and now 12 Cleveland wins.
His last three defeats have reached Utah, Memphis and Denver.
Exploiting Cleveland doesn't change that, and Rivers doesn't care.
"If we had won by one and didn't play well, I would still see the big picture," Rivers said. "I think this was a game that everyone else needed to see from us."