By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

2/25/21 (23-10) Los Angeles Clippers vs (13-14) Memphis Grizzlies 

The Clippers embark on a five-game road trip to close out the first half of their season, they head to Memphis for their third back-to-back series of the season. Upon their arrival to Memphis, they find the Grizzlies fighting to get the .500 threshold this season. They will have the services of all on the team except Patrick Patterson who will be out due to personal reasons. 

Though the Clippers won the first quarter 27-24 on the scoreboard, by having 8 of their 9 players that played, get points on the board. The Grizzlies finished the initial quarter with a large, points in the paint advantage. The Grizzlies would only increase this disparity throughout this game. 

This game was ultimately decided in the second quarter of this game, as the Grizzlies inserted their dominance in the paint by outscoring the Clippers by 28 points. Couple that with the Clippers’ inability to force turnovers by Grizzlies and not impact their shooting, as the Grizzlies shot 52.9% from the field and 62.5% from behind the arc at the end of the second quarter. 

Grizzlies scored 42 points in the paint by halftime, marking the 76th consecutive game where they have scored at least 40 paint points. This is also the longest streak on record since the NBA began tracking this data. 

For the most part, this season the Clippers have won the third quarter of games this season. That wasn’t the case in this game, as the Grizzlies extended their points in the paint advantage to 58-14 and continued to control the boards 36-29 through three-quarters of this game. They also held the Clippers to 37.9%, which is under their league-leading 42%. 

The Grizzlies finished the game having scored 72 points in the paint as compared to 24 for the Clippers. Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue would say post-game giving up 72 points in the paint, “that was embarrassing!” Paul George said win asked about losing that second quarter, “They got stops. They shrunk the floor on defense. It’s a young team. You can’t give a young team life to play in transition. They got out. They ran the floor. They just showed their athleticism.” 

2/25/21 (23-11) Los Angeles Clippers vs (14-14) Memphis Grizzlies 

After admittedly being embarrassed in their matchup up against the Grizzlies just one night prior. The Clippers are the only team in the NBA not to lose the second game of a back-to-back this season and are looking to improve to 6-0 on these second games. 

Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue compared this second game of a back-to-back game to that of a playoff game when he stated this is “sort of like a playoff game. You get a chance to go home and see what you did wrong… Playing the same team back-to-back reminds you of the playoffs. So we’ve got to come out with a playoff mentality and do things better.” 

The Clippers went up by 16 points at the half, they are 23-3 when holding a 10-point lead in games this season. They also dished out a season-high 33 assists in their second night vs the Grizzlies. This is the sixth game this season that the Clippers have recorded at least 30 assists and there 5-0 when registering at least 30 assists. 

Ja Morant did score 20 points, however was ejected scored receiving a pair of technical for arguing a no-call with just over two minutes remaining. His frustration was likely caused by the type of defense the Clippers played. Post-game Clippers Head Coach described what he thought about their defense early, “I thought we had great physicality in that first quarter.” 

Clipper forward Kawhi Leonard shared his coach’s sentiments when he stated, “We wanted to come out tonight with a hit-first mentality.” Additionally, Leonard finished the game with 30 points, as he has done for 10 games this season. 

2/28/21 (24-11) Los Angeles Clippers vs (20-13) Milwaukee Bucks 

This matchup with the 19-13 Bucks would be a unique game for National Basketball Association fans to enjoy. Considering that both of these teams have underachieved by anyone standards. Not only have the Bucks have had the defending League MVP the past couple of seasons, but they have had the best record in the NBA these past couple of seasons. While the 24-10 Clippers had the second-best record in the west and proceeded to fizzle out in the playoffs. 

All that being said, this becomes a prove-it season for both teams and makes this a uniquely fun game for hoop fans. Jrue Holiday, their key off-season acquisition, rejoins Giannis and the Bucks for the first time in ten games and conversely, the Clippers have their full complement of players available for the first time in the past few games. 

The Bucks won the first quarter and the second quarter to take a narrow lead into the half. Per usual, the Clippers jumped on the Bucks in that third quarter, going in a 21-7 run to close out the quarter and taking a lead heading into the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter would be pivotal for both teams as closing out games has, historically, been a challenge for each of them. 

Kawhi Leonard finished the game with 25 points, and Paul George, Lou Williams, Serge Ibaka, and Marcus Morris Sr. combined for 57 points. Though the Bucks led the NBA in defensive efficiency each of the last two seasons, they haven’t played up to that standard this season. However, they shutout the Clippers down the stretch of this game not allowing them to score in the final four 4:01 of the game. 

When asked about their challenges down the stretch of this game, Kawhi Leonard told us, “I thought we came down too slow. As a team, I don’t feel like we’re there yet. We’re looking to the sideline a lot for plays. I feel like our pace has pretty much slowed down. You’ve got to give them credit, though. They locked in.” 

Giannis tallied 36 points against the Clippers, this makes four straight games he has scored 35 points or more. This makes him the first Bucks player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Jan. 1973 to achieve this mark. After a five-game skid, the Bucks’ have followed that up with a five-game winning streak. 

3/2/21 (24-12) Los Angeles Clippers vs (17-17) Boston Celtics 

In their last meeting, just short of a month ago, the Celtics beat the Clippers 119-115 behind Jayson Tatum’s game-high 34 points. The Celtics have gone 10-5 in home games while the Clippers are 12-6 on the road and lead the league in 3-point shooting percentage. 

The Clippers were dealt a tough blow before this game started when it was announced that shortly before tip-off that Kawhi Leonard would miss this game 

due to back spasms. As Kawhi sits out his eighth game of the season, so does his 26.8 points per game, 6.3 Rebounds, and nearly five assists per game. Veteran starter Reggie Jackson would get the start in his place. 

In his 15th start of the season, Reggie Jackson registered a season-high 25 points along with 7 assists in replacement of Kawhi. For only the third time this season Paul George would compete without Kawhi, they are now 1 and 2 during these 3 games Kawhi would miss and would be only the second time, this season, which the Clippers would loss back to back games. 

The Clippers also lost Marcus Morris near the end of the first half when he took an inadvertent elbow from Brown to the head. Morris eventually walked off the floor under his strength. In his Post-Game press conference Coach Lue told us, he was diagnosed with a concussion. 

The Celtics had four starters in double digits tonight with Kemba Walker leading the way with 25 points. They have also assisted with 40 points off the bench and two of those guys scored in double digits. Third-year Celtics big man Robert Williams III was impactful on both sides of the floor by scoring 13 points, recording 4 assists, and had a game-high 3 blocks to control the paint for the Celtics. 

These have been consecutive games that the Clippers’ offense faltered down the stretch. Jackson hit a 3-pointer and Patrick Beverley knocked down a free throw to bring Los Angeles within 113-109 at the 1:53 mark. George hit a 3 to cut it to 114-112 and that’s the closest they would get to take the lead over the Celtics. 

When asked about the offensive struggles closing another game out, Coach Ty Lue seemed unbothered when asked if he was concerned about this, by telling us they just needed to, “make the plays and move the basketball… We got 28 assists and we got to keep moving the ball. Keep driving attacking the paint, not taking bad shots, and keep making plays.” Paul George elaborated on this by saying, “We need to do a better job pushing the pace and pushing the tempo. We got to do a better job playing faster, but that’s on me.” 

The Clippers do have the remainder of the season to improve their late-game execution. I am eager to hear how you see the past week with the Clippers, kindly share your thoughts on what’s stood out to you and let me know what you think their ceiling is. You can reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forward any suggestions on what additional topics or angles you’d like to see discussed to info@whatsgoodinsports.com. 

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