By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
1/20/21 (5-9) Sacramento Kings vs (10-4) Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers currently are tied for the second-best record in the league and lead the NBA in 3P% (.440) and FT% (.829). They are second in offensive rating (117.5), third in plus/minus differential (6.2) and in FG% (.487) Paul George (24.8) and Kawhi Leonard (24.3) are the fourth-highest scoring duo in the NBA this season. Additionally, the Clippers would start this game with a full compliment of their roster tonight as Serge Ibaka was out their last game and Lou Williams hasn’t played in their past 2 games.
Kawhi Leonard has made his presence felt midway through the 1st quarter as the Kings held a modest lead, Leonard back-to-back buckets made sure that lead didn’t get out of control. Leonard finished the 1st quarter with 10 points on 5 o-7 shooting. While Buddy led the Kings with 8 points going 2 -2 for behind the arc.
Not taking care of the basketball while giving up easy baskets in transition and limiting threes were a couple things coach Ty Lue wanted to focus on this game. For the game the Kings shoot 13-28 from the three-point line and limited their marksmen Buddy Held to 7 three-point attempts. They also took care of the ball for the most part, turning it over 9 times at the half and another 7 time between the on the night.
The feisty Kings opened the 4th quarter up with a 13-4 run to pull within 11 points of the Clippers. The Clippers responded accordingly when Paul George tied his career high in assist midway through the 4th quarter once he kicked it out to Lou Williams who hit an open three pointer. The Clippers improve to 10-1 when leading by 10+ points. This is also the Clippers fifth-straight game with at least 15 three-pointers made which is the longest such streak in franchise history.
At the end of the night, it was the stars for the Clippers that closed the game out for them, Kawhi had 32 points and 5 assists for the game. Nic Batum and Ivica Zubac each chipped in 11 points a piece to round out the Clippers players in double figures. Paul George finished the game with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 12 assists. When asked about being more of a playmaker this season, “to me it’s fun… I play for my teammates!”
1/22/21 (6-7) Sacramento Kings vs (11-4) Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers come into this game in on a 5-game win streak and a 6-2 record defending their home court at Staples Center. In the initial game of this weekend’s homestand, has them scheduled to play the Thunder Friday and Sunday, at Staples Center, as they welcome in the Oklahoma City Thunder and their former guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Clippers jumped all over the Thunder in the 1st quarter. Kawhi led the scoring charger with 11 points, while Paul George led the team with five rebounds and three assists in that initial quarter. Hamidou Diallo led the Thunder with six points and, Gilgeous-Alexander handed out three dimes for them. However, the Clippers led by 18 after that quarter.
As you may have expected, the Clippers came out rolling in this game behind the all-around exquisite play of Paul George who shot 7-7 from the floor and 2-2 behind the arc, which gave them a 70-53 lead at halftime.
However, the Thunder outscored the Clippers 15-2 during one stretch to reduce that 23 point deficit down to 10 points in the third quarter. Kawhi Leonard responded by quickly running off six points in a row, on a series of semi post-ups, to restore control in this game for the Clippers. The Clippers finished three quarters with three players over 17 points and had a plus 20 rebounding advantage over the Thunder.
George scored 11 points in the fourth quarter against one of his former teams, though the Thunder’s Gilgeous-Alexander was nearly just as effective, as he scored 10 points for the Thunder in that same quarter. Shai did finish the game with 30 points against the team that drafted him into the league a few seasons ago.
Paul George leaves the game with under 60 seconds remaining the game with 29 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Kawhi also checks out at the same time with 31 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals that lead to their sixth consecutive win. The Clippers finished the game with 48 rebounds to 29 for the Thunder leading to their 12th win. These same teams will meet in less than 48 hours on Sunday morning.
I did ask Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue about their ability to dominate on the boards and he responded by telling me, “we always talk about finishing the possession and that ends with the rebound!”
1/24/21 (6-8) Sacramento Kings vs (12-4) Los Angeles Clippers
Not only do the Clippers face the Oklahoma Thunder again, but they also do so on another early Sunday afternoon start. Historically they haven’t faired well on these early starts, though they are 3-2 this season. One of those games being the 50-point loss to the Mavericks to close out 2020.
Understanding their propensity for slow starts, Kawhi Leonard came out on fire in the first half of this game. His 14 points on 5-8 shooting, and 6 rebounds, was a game-high for both teams. Their new addition Serge Ibaka chipped in 8 points and 6 rebounds to aid the Clippers to climb to a comfortable 36-19 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Thunder narrowed the Clippers’ lead to 11 points at the half, on the strength of Isiah Roby’s 7 rebounds and 8 points in addition to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 8 points and 2 points. However, the Clippers were able to maintain their lead due to the effective shooting and ability to take care of the football recording only 5 turnovers in that first half.
Reggie Jackson was forced to replace Patrick Beverley, who went out on a knee injury, and he scored 10 huge points in the third quarter for the Clippers. They would need each of those points as Paul George has played his worse game thus far in this young season, as he’s only recorded 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists through three quarters. Kawhi Leonard hits a buzzer-beater at the right elbow just as time expires in the third to give the Clippers a 12-point lead.
Jackson finished the game for Beverley and recorded 14 points with 4 of these coming on some clutch Free Throws late in this game. Ivica Zubac recorded his second double-double (10 Points and 12 rebounds) in three games. When asked about his recent effectiveness when given time he responded by saying, “It’s another thing I got that in my game like I said, I’m doing my role, and when the team needs me to start shooting those, I’ll start to shoot them (Jumpers) cause I got that in my game.”
With Kawhi as hot as he was, I asked guard Reggie Jackson if they to stay away from him during timeouts as not to knock him off his rhythm, and he responded by telling me, “you don’t want to be the one to throw him off his rhythm.” Paul George made it clear to us that Kawhi doesn’t do anything special in these games stating that, “He is the most prepared guy! Everything with him is repetition!”
The Clippers added to their six-game winning streak and will go on a 6-game east coast road swing. With the best record in the league, it will be interesting to see how the team will handle the seclusion on the road, considering the new NBA Safety Protocols that have been ramped up due to this current pandemic, require them to remain in their hotel rooms while on the road? Their first game will be against the (8-7) Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, January 26.
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