By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com
1/26/21 (13-4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (9-8) Atlanta Hawks
In this initial game of their six-game road trip, the Clippers are looking to maintain their seven-game win streak. Though, they would have to play the Hawks without their first and second-leading scorers, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, due to the health and safety protocol. The Clippers would also be without their sparkplug Point Guard Patrick Beverley, allowing Reggie Jackson to get his first start of the season.
As anyone may have expected, this depleted Clippers’ lineup struggled with shooting from deep. Making only two of its first 11 3-point shots and then finishing the game 8 of 26 overall. In only his second start, Reggie Jackson did the best he could to keep the game close by leading the Clippers with his first 20 point game as a Clipper, including eight assists, and seven rebounds.
Serge Ibaka chipped in 15 points, while Ivica Zubac had another double-double with a season-high 13 points and 10 rebounds. Post-game told the media, “We were lucky to have everyone so far, but it is what it is.” He continued, “We’ve got to adjust. It’s going to be this type of season for everyone, and we’re not the exception.”
On Tuesday night, the State-Farm Arena was filled to nearly 10% capacity, with fans to see their Atlanta Hawks take on the Clippers. It was a good night for the hometown crowd as they saw Tre Young light up the Clippers for 38 points in their new City Edition MLK jerseys, which are meant to honor Atlanta native Dr. Martin Luther King and his legacy. Though the Clippers did tie the game up at 79 all, the Hawks closed the game out with a 29-20 run, to claim their ninth victory of the season.
1/28/21 (13-5) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6-12) Miami Heat
Thursday night game against the Heat would be the second game of the Clipper’s five-game road trip and their second consecutive game without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George (safety and health protocol), and Patrick Beverley (knee). It would also be another game playing in front of local fans, as the Miami Arena was allowing ticket holders in the building for the first time since the NBA suspended its season due to COVID19 in March 2020. The Miami Heat would be without their floor leader in Jimmy Butler, but the fans would see the return of their young star Tyler Herro as the Heat try to avoid a fifth consecutive loss.
Though both teams were depleted and without their team leaders. Each team would be looking to rebound from their previous loss. With that in mind, the Heat jumped out to a 14 point lead in the game after the first quarter score 33-19. In contrast, the Clippers would win the second quarter by 22-17 to pull the game within 50-48.
The Clippers came into the game shooting 41.6% from deep to lead the NBA. In the third quarter, they would tie a franchise record by going 9-14 and winning the quarter 40-19 to take control of the game. Post-game Ty Lue said he told the team to “Take your shots,” and that they did.
In his third start of this young season, Reggie Jackson would find out just how much support he had from this team. As the Heat worked their way back into this game, both teams competed for a loose ball when Jackson called a timeout thought the Clippers were out of them. This penalty would give the Heat a free throw and possession of the ball, which very well have been costly for the Clippers, as the clock winds down in the fourth quarter.
Nic Batum was the first teammate to console Jackson for the mental mistake, though each of his teammates would quickly go to Jackson to offer him words of encouragement, “Don’t worry about it; move on… we’re going to get the rebound, and you’re going to make the free throws” This was a revealing situation for the Clippers as it displayed, to anyone watching, that this team is on the same page, unified, and playing for one another.
Not only were the Clippers undermanned they were also on the verge of a collapse late in this game, right up until the moment Jackson called that timeout. Their unity allowed them to hold onto the win. When asked about this moment, Marcus Morris said, “We all make mistakes!” Facetiously speaking, Morris added, “It wasn’t as bad as Chris Webber’s (timeout)… but we were on his a** in the locker room.”
This game has the looks of being a seminal moment for this Clippers season, playing outmanned as they did and coming together in a moment like could be huge for this team. The Miami Heat, however, are sent to the locker room dejected as this is a game they certainly should’ve won, instead this loss pushes their losing streak to 5 games.
1/29/21 (14-5) Los Angeles Clippers vs (9-12) Orlando Magic
Though Patrick Beverley would miss his third straight game with a sore knee. The Clippers were happy to have Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back in the lineup when they travel to Orlando to take on the Magic. Just as expected, they provided an immediate impact on the game upon their return, as they combined for 35 points in the first quarter.
After missing the previous games due to NBA contact tracing protocols, Leonard added 24 points while Paul George becomes the only player in franchise history to have at least 26 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and two steals in under 30 minutes played. George was asked, about his ability to bounce back from missing games without missing a beat, he responded by saying, “Yeah, it’s a ton of film, coming into games seeing how teams are guarding (me), see how I can score, how I can be aggressive. How I can make my teammates better.”
The Magic did score the first 11 points of the second half to narrow the Clippers’ lead to three, but then the Clippers outscored those Magic 28-11 the rest of the third quarter. This gave them a 90-71 lead going into the final period. Amazingly, the Clippers were a plus-23 with Leonard on the court, and even more impressively George was a plus-27 on the floor. This enabled them to get some additional rest as their lead blew up to 27 points.
Terrence Ross led the Magic with 24 points off the bench and Vucevic, their only likely All-Star candidate, only hitting a meniscal 4 out 13 shots for 10 points. This would be the Clippers’ 15th win of the season and the 14th consecutive win over Orlando. Their 15th win has tied this team for the second-best 20-game start in franchise history (16-4, 1974-75; 15-5, 2014-15, and 2016-17), through the first 20 games of a season.
1/31/21 (15-5) Los Angeles Clippers vs (9-11) New York Knicks
As the Clippers took off for their six-game East Coast Road Trip, they left Los Angeles leading the NBA in 3 point shooting percentage by shooting over 40% from behind the arc so far this season. They also have recorded an 8-3 record on the road while going 9-1 in their most recent ten games. On Sunday afternoon they took their 15-5 record into the Madison Square Garden to play the (9-11) New York Knicks. They would be without Nic Batum (Groin Contusion) in this game in addition to Patrick Beverley who would miss his 4th consecutive game.
Julius Randle led the Knicks with a game-high 12 points and 6 rebounds in the 1st quarter. This assisted the Knicks in dominating the points in the paints as they led this 14 -4. The biggest lead of the first quarter was held by the Knicks who had a 7 point lead at one point, but they narrowed the lead down to 2 points by the end of the quarter behind Kawhi going 5-5 at the Free Throw line and Patrick Patterson’s going 3-3 from the field.
RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickly would lead the Knicks in the 2nd quarter scoring with 14 and 10 points respectively. Speaking of Quickly Paul George says, “I like him; His float game is off the charts for a young guy. What I love the most, is a hard quality to find, I thought he was fearless.” They would also continue their domination on the boards extending the 28-12. However, the Clippers would also have nine of the ten players that played score lead them in taking a 66-65 lead at the half. Aided by controlling the boards and shooting 88.7% from the Free Throw line.
Though the Knicks continued to dominate the boards, the Clippers finished the 3rd quarter shooting 13-19. This enabled the Clippers to increase their lead from 1 to 10 points by the end of the quarter. The Clippers, also finished the 3rd quarter with only two turnovers while dishing out nine assists.
Surprisingly, this was a very competitive game that saw ten ties and eleven lead changes, with the Clippers taking the biggest lead of the game at 16. Though the Knicks had three players score over 23 points the Clippers had six players in double figures and, once again, shoot over 44% from behind the arc and 56.7% from the floor.
Not only has Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue created an atmosphere where the players feel comfortable talking to him about anything. He is also making the proper adjustments that impact the game at the most appropriate times. He addressed this in his post-game media availability by stating, “We changed our offensive package a little bit… and then we change defense we put Pat Pat (Patrick Patterson) on Mitchell to take away their but dribble (NBA lingo) and rolls, and we switched 1-4 and Serge was on (Julius) Randle.”
Many fans could’ve viewed this game as a trap game, considering the Clippers will face the superbly talented Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, in the fifth game of their six-game road trip. Kindly share your thoughts on what you have 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 would like to see discussed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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