By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
2/2/21 (16-5) Los Angeles Clippers vs (13-9) Brooklyn Nets
In the fifth game of their East Coast road trip, of which they were 3-1 before heading to Barclay’s Center to face the vaunted Brooklyn Nets. Yet the Clippers would be missing their defensive-minded point guard Patrick Beverley, who is still dealing with soreness in his knee. Like many NBA insiders, I believe this to be a potential NBA Finals matchup.
The Clippers came into this matchup with the NBA’s best record and endured one loss in their most recent eleven games. They also came in boasting the league’s leading 3-point percentage 41.7%. Their new addition Nic Batum continues to play an important role on this team with his defense and timely buckets.
This would be the Nets’ 10th game since acquiring, former leagues James Harden. They are looking to bounce back from a shameful defensive performance, when they gave up 48 points, to the Washington Wizards, in the fourth quarter of their Sunday loss.
The Clippers made nine of their first eleven shots to jump out to an early 12-point lead. They maintained a double-digit margin through the 3:30 minutes mark in the half, until the Nets closed the half on a 12-2 spurt to narrow the lead to 58-57 at the break.
Though the Clippers held a lead midway through the fourth, the Nets would soon show off their explosiveness. Durant hit a 3-pointer the Irving, who finished with a game-high 39 points, would hit one of his own and then made a basket and another 3. Harden would then join the mix by hitting a three-pointer of his own to finish the spurt and hand the Clippers the second loss of their road trip.
In this game, Kawhi Leonard became the second player in franchise history and record at least 33 points, five assists, four steals, and two blocks. The first player to do so was Bob McAdoo vs. Phoenix nearly 46 years ago. Paul George chipped in 26 points for the Clippers who finished 15 for 36 from deep. Which was right at their season average of 41.7%. When asked about the game Paul George said, “It was a fun matchup… Look forward to doing it again.” Which they will meet again later in the month at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Kyrie’s excitement for hoop fans showed in his post-game press conference when he said, “It was great competition for the top players in the world, some of the top players in the world to go against each other on TV.”
2/3/21 (16-6) Los Angeles Clippers vs (11-9) Cleveland Cavaliers
The Clippers would bounce back in this game against the Cavaliers as Paul George would attempt to make up for lost time in the game. George became the only player in franchise history to have multiple games with at least 8 three-pointers made. Modestly speaking George said, “I had some good looks, and I just told myself that if I got the same open shots, I would knock them down.” George is the only player in franchise history to achieve the feat twice.
Collin Sexton scored 27 and Darius Garland 23 for the Cavaliers, who played well in spurts but couldn’t stop the Clippers’ 3-point barrage. “Paul George had more 3s than our team,” Garland said. “I don’t think we’re going to win many games shooting just 2s.”
In this game, Ibaka became one of 28 players in NBA history with at least 1,700 blocked shots, in addition to becoming one of 20 players in NBA history with at least 1,700 blocked shots and 10,000 points. Fellow frontcourt big man Ivica Zubac also pulled down his career-high with 16 rebounds, to earn his fourth double-double off the bench this season which is tied for the most in the NBA.
This is also the Clippers sixth game this season that they have shot at least 50% from beyond the arc which is the most such games in the NBA this season. Additionally, this was the sixth game in Clippers franchise history and the second game this season that the Clippers have made at least 20 three-pointers. The Clippers are 12-0 when they make at least 16 three-pointers.
Against the Cavaliers, the Clippers achieved their 17th win of the season, while finishing their 6 game road trip with a 4-2 record. Yet Head Coach Ty Lue to say, “We’re getting better. We’ve got some things we’ve still got to get better at. We’ve still got a long way to go.”
2/5/21 (11-9) Boston Celtics vs (17-6) Los Angeles Clippers
Coming off a six-game road trip the (17-6) Los Angeles Clippers are looking to defend their home court from the, (11-9) Boston Celtics who would be without the Jaylen Brown, Romeo Langford and most importantly Marcus Smart. The Clippers would be playing this game without the services of the league’s leader in 3P% (.478, min 7.0 attempts) and fifth in three-pointers made (75) Paul George who suffered an injury to his foot against the Cavaliers.
The Clippers lead the NBA in most games shooting at least 50% from beyond the arc (6) and are 12-0 when they make at least 16 three-pointers. They also currently have the second-best record in the league and lead the NBA in 3P% (.423) and FT% (.849), second in offensive rating (117.3) and plus/minus differential (7.9) and tied for fourth in FG% (.482). Additionally, Paul George (24.4) and Kawhi Leonard (26.2) are the fourth-highest scoring duo in the NBA this season.
However, Paul George would miss this game against the team with the 4th best record in the Eastern conference. The Clippers would maintain their ball movement, and example of that came when Kawhi penetrated then kicked the ball out to Luke Kennard behind the arc, he then kicked the ball to Reggie Jackson, who had an open shot but kicked it to Nic Batum who was open for a better shot and knocks down a three pointer to give them a 13-point lead 53-40 with 4:15 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter of the game. This play is a microcosm of their unselfish play all season long. The Clippers are in fact, are 16-2 this season when building a lead of at least 10 points so far this season.
However, after hitting 7 threes in the first half, the Celtics hit 8 threes in the 3rd quarter. When asked about what happened in that quarter the team’s newest father Nic Batum said, “The energy switched up… The 3rd quarter is usually our quarter.”
The Clippers would battle back and to regain the 108-106 lead, on a Kawhi Leonard turnaround jumper. Yet the Celtics would hit five straight free throws to regain the lead. Lou Williams would then hit a corner three to hit give the Clippers the lead but could not hold onto the after Kawhi missed a couple tough jumpers. “Sometimes other teams just play better than you and in that stretch I thought that’s what they did,” Lou Williams said. “That was definitely a confidence-builder,” Walker said. “We started off slow, but we stuck together throughout the whole game. Energy was great, communication was great, our togetherness was on a whole other level.”
2/7/21 (11-11) Sacramento Kings vs (17-7) Los Angeles Clippers
This is another early game for the Los Angeles Clippers, which they historically haven’t played great in of seasons past. Though coming into the game this season they have a 3-1 record in the early starts. This would be another game without Patrick Beverley (knee) and MVP candidate Paul George (foot).
Understanding that the Clippers historically struggle in these early starts, I asked Head Coach Ty Lue about this and his response was, “We’ve been winning these games!” Which they have this season, though that whooping the Mavericks put on them early in the season is hard to put out our minds.
The Sacramento Kings came to town riding a 3 game winning streak, and a 6-1 record since the Clippers beat them a few short weeks ago. Luke Kennard would get another start for the injured Paul George in this game and the Clippers would turn to Terance Mann to run the point for the missing veteran point guard.
The Clippers came out and won the first quarter by shooting 50% from the 3 point line. However, the Kings had the advantage in rebounds and assist also protecting the ball the best, recording just 1 turnover in that initial quarter.
Today Ivica Zubac has his 5th double-double of the season with 12 points and 14 rebounds, yet the Clippers couldn’t overcome their second least assist output of the season with 16 assists on 41 made shots. Their previous low mark was 13 on 26 made shots; some of you can likely recall that game. This led to their first consecutive losses all season.
The Clippers finished their third game with under 10 3 point shots made and their second game of shooting less than 30% from behind the Arc (8-28=28.6%). Kawhi responded by saying, “Some of the shots went in and out. Our pace was pretty low the majority of the game, but just give credit to Sac (Sacramento) they came in ready,” when I asked him about this specific stat.
Although the Clippers lost this game, Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue showed that he is loose and knows how to be a good sport, by busting my chops for the question I asked pre-game, by opening his post-game press conference “Cam just jinxed us that’s what he wanted to do, huh?” This is another indicator that Ty has created an atmosphere where the players can relax and be themselves on the court and not take things too seriously. The Clippers’ record for the season shows that this is a favorable change for them this season.
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