By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
Coming off of likely their most disappointing season in franchise history, the Los Angeles Clippers are looking towards one of their most anticipated seasons in Franchise history. With a change in the Head Coach and a few additions to the roster, this team has a slightly better feel for one another, coupled with an urgency to erase the thoughts of the NBA bubble’s atrocity from a few short months ago.
Gone this season is a long time NBA Head Coach and former NBA Champion Doc Rivers. Brought in to replace him is another former NBA Champion Head Coach Ty Lue, who strangely was on the bench, during the Clippers bubble debacle, last season. His youth and ability to relate with the players seems to bring a calming influence on them and the organization. Though it is early, the players appear to want to forget about the past and play this season with a unified spirit and much more relaxed atmosphere, which Coach Lue is in agreement.
Though they lost a few players in free agency, those roster moves have seemingly been a matter of addition by subtraction. They brought in former Championship Forward/ Center Serge Ibaka, versatile veteran Forward Nic Batum and little-known 3rd year, wing player, Luke Kennard to join the talented squad. Ibaka and Batum have fit in seamlessly with the team. Ibaka with his lost post play and defense, where Batum’s unselfishness and playmaking abilities have been a welcomed addition. Kennard will be called upon, to utilize his 3 point shooting and ball-handling skills to further improve the team’s perimeter play.
With this periodical, we plan to provide some exclusive insight into the Los Angeles Clippers season each week. You can look forward to a summarization of their games each week, along with some quotes from the players and coaching from their various matchups. Additionally, I will also provide my commentary on how I see the team progressing and if they are playing up to our expectations of bringing the initial championship to this organization.
(0-0) Los Angeles Clippers vs (0-0) Los Angeles Lakers on 12/22/20
To open the season the Clippers had to endure the cross-town rivals enjoy receiving their championship rings from the previous season. They show that this would be a new year for this team and they would come out with the proper resolve to erase the memory of the results in the NBA bubble, less than three months ago.
In this season opener, six Clippers scored in double figures while Paul George led both teams in scoring with 33 points. Newly added Nic Batum led the team with 6 Assists, besides, to be 1 of 5 players tied with 6 assists in their victory over the Lakers. Evidence of them moving on from last season was in this post-game interview from Kawhi Leonard, where he touched on them being able to “get stops when the Lakers tried to make a run in the game.”
(1-0) Los Angeles Clippers vs (0-1) Denver Nuggets on 12/25/20
On Christmas day the Clippers’ schedule sent them to Denver to face the team that sent them home in the Playoffs last season. Avenging this loss would be critical to the Clippers’ chemistry if they were serious about getting over the stigma of what happened in the NBA Bubble last season. Just like in the previous game, the Clippers appeared to want to send a message to the league with this dominant performance over the team that ended their season.
Once again Paul George led the team in scoring with 23 points, he also led the team in assists with 9 while the team had a total of 32 assists on 41 made baskets. As the all-around versatile player he has proven to be, Nic Batum led the team with 10 rebounds in the game. This game also saw Kawhi Leonard be taken out of the game after he was inadvertently struck by an elbow from his teammate as they converged on the ball to get a rebound.
In this post-game press conference/ Zoom call, or Zoomer, Clippers touched on Kawhi’s health, in addition to “talking about how Serge Ibaka and Nic Batum fit seamlessly onto their team.” Coach Lue also talked about the resilience the team should be holding off the Nuggets late in the game.
(0-2) Dallas Mavericks vs (2-0) Los Angeles Clippers on 12/27/20
Just a couple of days after their Christmas day road victory in Denver vs the Nuggets, and the first game without Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers almost appeared disinterested in their home opening matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. With the Mavericks coming off 2 consecutive losses themselves and they were the ones seeming to have a bad taste in their mouth from their first-round matchup in last season’s playoffs.
Because the Clippers didn’t show a competitive spirit in this game, as they went down by 20 points after the first quarter. Then they found themselves down by 45 at the half, when asked about the slow start he responded by saying, “we didn’t have a lot of pop tonight.”
The Clippers ended up losing by over 50 points, which has become the largest deficit in Franchise history and the worst loss in the shot clock era. I asked Head Coach Ty Lue if he thought the team competed hard enough in this game and he said, “I thought they should’ve had more fight. Back in our day, there would’ve been a lot of flagrant fouls or something to try to change the game.”
(2-1) Minnesota Timberwolves vs (2-1) Los Angeles Clippers on 12/29/20
Coming off the worst loss in league history since the advent of the shot clock, Clippers fans were anticipating them to rebound from that game with vengeance and they did just that. Understanding the whooping they just took, the Minnesota Timberwolves should’ve been prepared for the onslaught the Clippers were set to bring, however, they weren’t quite ready enough.
In this game, the Clippers had a total of 7 players in double figures led by Lou Williams 20 points. Free Agent addition Serge Ibaka leads the team with 8 rebounds, while Paul George and Lou Williams were tied with 5 assists apiece. The team matched their season-high with 32 total assists.
In this game, Ivica Zubac appeared to play inspired basketball and he spoke about this in his post-game Zoomer saying, “When I step on the court, I want to represent the whole country.”
(2-2) Portland Trailblazers vs (3-1) Los Angeles Clippers on 12/30/20
Kawhi Leonard played, in his 1st game after missing the past couple of games with the laceration in his mouth. Wearing a unique mask, which was centered on protecting his mouth, he put up 28 points and 7 assists. Kawhi also led the team in 3pt Shooting percentage, for those who shot more than 2, while shooting 52.9% from the field. The team followed suit, as through 3 quarters the Clippers shot 59.3% from 3-point range and 58.3% from inside the arc. They finished the game shooting 49.5% from the field and 47.4% from behind the arc.
This was another great expedition in ball movement as the Clippers had another game with over 30 or more assists against the Trailblazers. Additionally, they had another game with 6 or more players scored in double figures. Kawhi led the team in scoring with 28 points, Paul George led the team in rebounds with 10, and both were tied for 7 assists apiece. This teamwork has led to consecutive 20 plus blowout wins.
In the second night of back to back games, the Clippers looked fresher than one expects. Coach Ty Lue mentioned as much when asked about this during, his post-game Zoomer when he also talked about how expects playmaking from the point guard position to be done by “committee as the team is currently constructed.”
(2-2) Utah Jazz vs (4-1) Los Angeles Clippers on 1/3/21
In this game, Mike Conley led the way for the Jazz by scoring 33 points and adding 7 assists. They jumped on the Clippers early in this game, as the Clipper only managed to get 4 players in double-digit scoring even though Kawhi was one assist short of a triple-double and tied his career-high with 16 rebounds.
Once the Jazz took an early lead in this game, the Clippers mounted a couple of runs through the Jazz were able to hold off the Clippers and 106-100. The Clippers had their second-lowest assist total of the season, and Coach Ty Lue did not appear to concern stating “19 assists on 33 made shots was not a bad ratio.”
(4-2) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5-1) Phoenix Suns on 1/3/21
Though this game ultimately came down to a two-possession game, the way Paul George played in the game made it appear that the game’s outcome was never in doubt. George’s 22 points at the half led both teams in scoring. He also finished this game in scoring with 39 points while shooting a remarkable 70% from behind the arc. The Clippers as a team shoot an impressive 58.6% from 3 point range while only shooting 48.2% from the field.
While Kawhi Leonard added 15 points and six rebounds in the victory. Leading the Clippers in assists were Ivica Zubac and Paul George with 4 assists per man. Devin Booker led the Suns with 25 points and eight assists in the losing effort. Helped by Deandre Ayton’s 24 points and 8 rebounds. By shooting nearly 50% from the field, the Suns were able to make this game uncomfortably close.
Nic Batum has been lauded for his basketball IQ, versatility, and willingness to do the dirty work for the Clippers. He was asked about this by the media in his post-game Zoomer, where he proudly discussed being a role player in the NBA. He stated when asked, “This is why I choose the Clippers because they asked me to be me and play my game.”
Coach Ty Lue has certainly brought a calming influence to this team. We haven’t heard about or know about any locker room or team chemistry issues this early in the season as everyone doing their part to sincerely move on from the past season and come together for a successful season. Kindly share your thoughts on what you’ve noticed about the Clippers team thus far, by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forward any suggestions on what topics or angles you’d like to see discussed to email@example.com.
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