By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

The Los Angeles Clippers started this past week off as first seed in the competitive Western Conference. This week would consist of games on back-to-back nights, including their 2021 home opener. They would also have a home and away match up with a Pacific Division rival.

Going into this second week of the season, would be favored in each of these games, whether it played on the road or not. On the schedule this week is the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls at home and a couple away games against the Golden State Warriors. To begin the week the Clippers are 3-1 on the road, coupled with a 2-1 record at Staples center.

As you can expect each week, this periodical will 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.

1/5/21 (0-0) San Antonio Spurs vs (5-2) Los Angeles Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers welcomed in the San Antonio for their season opener of 2021. Though the Spurs come into this matchup with a 2-4 record, they will be looking to get some momentum by taking on these newly arranged teams. However, the Clippers would sorely miss their high scorer Paul George, who tweaked his ankle in their last game. Thus far in the season, Paul George is averaging 5.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game.

The Spurs jumped out to an early in the first quarter. Spurred on by Patty Mills shooting 4-5 from deep and finishing the quarter with 13 points. Dejounte Murray picked up the slack in the second quarter by scoring 10 points on 10 shots and pulling down 5 rebounds. 2nd forward Keldon Johnson, helped the Spurs gain an advantage on the boards in the first half 30 to the Clippers 24 rebounds.

When asked about what ignited their spirit for their game Patty Mills said, “It was a mentality we came out with on the defensive end. It has nothing to do with shooting the ball.” He went on to say, “playing team defense like that fuels the fire and confidence for everyone to be able to play with the same sort of energy.”

Kawhi Leonard’s 17 points at the half coupled with Nic Batum 8 point and 8 rebounds kept the Clippers within striking distance. They would continue their run in the 3rd quarter behind Kawhi’s 11 points and Patrick Beverley’s 3 three-pointers and 3 assists in the quarter. Overall the Clippers finished the third quarter shooting over 77% from the 3 point range, to narrow the gap to within one.

Patrick Beverley finished the game with 20 points, on an impressive night by shooting a career high 6 3-pointers to add to Nicolas Batum 21 points and 9 rebounds. Leonard’s game-high 30 points and 10 assists led the Clippers.

The Spurs withstood an onslaught by Kawhi Leonard in the third before nearly blowing their lead in the fourth behind them shooting 60% from 3 point range. In this game, the Spurs tied a franchise record with 20 3-pointers. Led by Patty Mills who hit a career-high eight 3-pointers and scored 27 points off the bench, paired Dejounte Murray 21 points and 5 assists. This Spurs snapped a four-game losing streak when they defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 116-113 in this matchup.

When Kawhi was asked about Patrick Beverley’s career night, he responded by saying, “He was pushing the pace in transition, getting to the paint and throwing it out to shooters.” He continued to say. “He was very active on defense.”

1/6/21 (4-3) Golden State Warriors vs (5-3) Los Angeles Clippers

On a gloomy day for the nation, some thought the NBA should postpone the games scheduled for that night, considering the insurgence that took place on our nation capital this afternoon. However, the Clippers were set to travel to San Francisco to take on the Golden State Warriors the second night of a back to back games. As the schedule makers would have it the Clippers would play for the back-to-back games said Warriors, as the NBA is looking to minimize travel and opportunities for players and coaches to attract this hideous virus that’s lingering in America.

This back-to-back game would signify the first time Kawhi Leonard’s played in a back to back game since April of 2017. Though Kawhi would show no signs of wear in this matchup as he rang up 21 points on the Warriors with 4 rebounds and four assists in this game. Kawhi and his teammates would also welcome back Paul George to the lineup, who sat out Tuesday night’s game vs the Spurs with a sore ankle.

The Clipper also welcomed back Marcus Morris for the first time this season. As he has been sidelined by a right knee injury. With the events that happened earlier that day in Washington, DC, Morris wasn’t’ shy about his thoughts that he didn’t think the teams should have played. The New Jersey native said, “It’s hard to really put it into words just the direction this country is going in; … Just being an African American In know that, quite frankly, if it was people of color things would’ve played out a lot differently… just out of respect I thought we shouldn’t have played.”

The Clippers did pull this game out after Kawhi Leonard put his team ahead with key buckets down the stretch en route to 21 his points and their win over the Golden State Warriors. In the loss, Warriors’ minds still on the events from earlier in the day, as evidence in their post-game comments made by Head Coach Steve Kerr and Draymond Green.

“I started the day thinking about how we were going to guard Lou Williams without fouling him, suddenly that didn’t seem quite as important when I turned the TV on as shootaround was beginning,” Kerr said. “… It’s just a clear reminder that the truth matters in our country.”

When asked about his thoughts on what happened in Washington DC, the outspoken Green wasn’t shy about sharing his thoughts when he stated, “I think it was ridiculous. It’s baffling to see the reaction that the law enforcement had… to see the national guard standing on those same steps for a peaceful protest and now to see a terrorist attack and no National Guard; it just goes to show you where this country is, where always has been and probably where it’s going to stay!”

1/8/21 (5-4) Golden State Warriors vs (6-3) Los Angeles Clippers

After defeating the Warriors on Wednesday the Clippers would stay in the Bay Area only to play them again on Friday in the second half of the back-to-back. By holding Steph to 13 points in the previous game, they should’ve been prepare for Steph to rebound from that uninspiring performance. This would require the Clippers to come into this matchup with a defensive mindset intent on duplicating their efforts from earlier in the week.

Paul George led the Clippers in scoring during the first half with 17, while Nic Batum and Kawhi Leonard each finished the half with double-digit points as well. In the first half of this game, Steph registered 17 outdoing his scoring output from Wednesday night. By going 4-5 from deep and handing out 7 assists, he was clearly in a rhythm NBA fan have come to expect from him.

Although Kawhi Leonard tallied 11 points after halftime of this game, which helped the Clippers jump out to a 21 point lead. Fully ablaze Stef shot 60% from the field and adding 4 more three-pointers, totaling 19 points and two more assists to narrow the game 6 points closing out the 3rd quarter. Led by Curry, the Warriors carried all the momentum into the 4th quarter.

When asked how Curry’s game inspired the rest of the team, Clippers Guard Paul George said in his post-game comments, “I mean you got a guy that’s hot like that, it takes a lot of pressure off for everybody at that point. Guys play harder. They got a guy who at any point can get hot and is an obvious offensive threat from anywhere on the court. It just fuels the whole team. They want to make extra plays, they want to keep their guy hot, keep the ball in his hands. And then it just gets to a point where they get comfortable, they get confident, the basket is just big for them. So I think that is what happened tonight.”

Curry finished the game with nine three pointers for 38 points, as the Warriors outscored the Clippers 34-18 in the final quarter of the game. Those nine three-pointers were the most any Warriors scored by anyone on the team. Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr said this in his post-game press conference, “He’s been doing this for many, many years and it’s one of the reasons he’s a two-time MVP.”

1/10/21 (4-6) Chicago Bulls vs (6-4) Los Angeles Clippers

It’s well documented the Clippers don’t do well in early Sunday games and this game vs the Chicago Bulls tipped off at 1:00 pm. To no surprise the Clippers allowed the Bulls to jump out to an early 12-7. Zach Lavine hit 2 early three sandwiched by Wendell Carter Jr., buckets in the paint. To give Bulls finished the 1st quarter with a 9-point lead after the first quarter.

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard shot 75% and 66% from the three-point line respectively in that first half. Zach LaVine would do all he could to keep the Bulls in the game as he led them with 16 points in the half. Patrick Williams pitched in 11 points to help the Bulls gain a lead 59-52 as they head into the locker room at the half.

Clippers came out in the 3rd quarter playing solid defense, the maskless Kawhi got a steal and took it in for a dunk, and they also hit a couple of three-pointers to narrow the lead. Before the Bulls answered with a couple of three-pointers of their own.

In this game, Kawhi hit five three-pointers in the third quarter and also eclipsed the 10K point mark in his career. It is the most points scored and most three-pointers he’s scored in a single quarter in his career finishing with 21 in that explosive 3rd quarter. Kawhi finished the night with seven made three-pointers which is also a career-high. Leonard was asked post-game if he thinks about his accomplishments and accolades, his response was just as you might have suspected. “It’s a stepping stone, but to be honest I really don’t care about it! I’m here, in the league, to just play basketball, to play hard, and to try to win games!”

Not to be outdone, Zach LaVine put up 15 points in that big 3rd quarter, where he matched Kawhi and the Clippers shot for shot. LaVine also chipped 14 points in the 4th quarter, as he finished the game 10-16 from the arc and total 45 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists keeping the Bulls in the game.

This is Paul George’s sixth game this season with at least five three-pointers made which is the most such games in the NBA. This is the fifth game in franchise history that the Clippers have made at least 20 three-pointers. Batum’s three-pointer he made while being fouled, vaulted them to a 3-point lead once he hit his free throw, giving them a 3-point lead with 2:24 left in the game. Lou Williams then gets a steal from Bulls Guard Colby White to increase their lead to 5 points

with 1:30 remaining, which essentially gave the Clippers their 7th win of this young season.

I would think Coach Ty Lue isn’t pleased with them going 2-2 this past week. Even though we’ve seen Kawhi play consecutive games for the first time in years, losing to an undermanned Spurs team wasn’t a good look, though their loss to the Warriors was a bit more understandable especially since the leagues only unanimous MVP reminded us why he was deserving of this stature. 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 info@whatsgoodinsports.com.

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