By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

3/11/21 vs (19-18) Golden State Warriors vs (24-14) Los Angeles Clippers

Coming out of the All-Star Break the Clippers should be intent on showing the league that their three-game losing streak was an anomaly! Against the Golden State Warriors, this match-up would boast two of the league’s best scorers in Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard. Curry is fourth in the league averaging 29.7 points per game While Kawhi is currently 10th in the NBA averaging 26.6 points per game.

The Clippers are 14-7 against Western Conference opponents, while the Warriors are 9-10 against Western Conference opponents. With these teams splitting their contest earlier this season in San Francisco, this would be the third and final matchup of the season. Giving them a chance to build on their three-point shooting lead of Western Conference 41.9% from downtown, led by Marcus Morris shooting 46.4% from 3-point range Thought the Clippers

The Clippers jumped out to an early lead on the Warriors, though they fought back to make it a two-point game at the end of the first quarter. They then exploded for 31 points in the second quarter, while holding the Warriors to a dismal 17 points in the quarter. They also reduced their turnovers from 6 in the quarter to 2 in that second quarter.

In that second quarter, Paul George hit his 1,686th career three-pointer. On that shot, he surpassed former Mavericks and Suns electric Point Guard, and now Brooklyn Nets Head Coach, Steve Nash for sole possession of 25th on the list of all-time three-pointers made. Additionally, in that second quarter the Clippers allowed the Warriors to scores an uneasy 43 points in that first half, this tied a record for the fewest number of points allowed in the first half this season.

Stepping up their game even further, the Clippers scored a whopping 45 points in the third quarter tonight. It’s the most points scored in a single quarter since the Clippers scored 47 in the second quarter on 1/5/20 vs. the Knicks. They ended that quarter in dominating fashion with a 104-68 lead.

In this first game back from the All-Star break one of the Clippers’ key off-season, Free Agent signings, Serge Ibaka recorded 14 rebounds and scored 16 points showing the urgency they need heading into the second half of the season. As both teams emptied their benches, Terance Mann came in with great energy and tallied a career-high three blocked shots helping the Clippers to a lopsided victory.

After the Clippers improved to 14-1 when scoring at least 120 points. I asked about the key factors which led to their win limiting the assist and holding the Warriors down to under 20 points in that second quarter. When asked what he was most impressed with giving up 17 points in the second quarter or 6 turnovers in the final 3 quarters of the game and Kawhi Leonard proudly said, “Obviously defense! If we can hold teams to 17 points in a quarter, we’ll win a lot of games.”

3/14/21 (16-22) New Orleans Pelicans vs (25-14) Los Angeles Clippers

On the first game of their initial road trip, since the All-Star break, the Clippers would travel to New Orleans to take on the young, underachieving Pelicans who have only won 4 of the previous 10 games. The Clippers would be playing the Pelicans before heading to Dallas to face the Mavericks in two games, in the next three nights. As it turns out, the Pelicans would be more than up for this task.

Right out the gate the Pelicans jumped on the Clippers by shooting 66.7% from the floor and 50% from behind the arc in the first quarter. Led by Lonzo Ball shooting 4-4 and 3-3 from deep, for his career Ball is shooting 39.7% from the floor and 35.2% from deep. The Pelicans were able to amass a 15 point lead in that first quarter.

Though the Clippers won the second quarter 32 to 30, they would still be down by 10 points at the half. The Pelicans were allowed to shoot 62.5% as compared to the Clippers 46.3% from the field, as they went to the locker room. The Clippers who led the league in three-point shooting for most of the season by shooting above 40% from three-point range, in the first half the Pelicans held them to less than 27% from behind the arc.

In, what’s been a key quarter for them most of the season, the Clippers allowed a staggering 43 points in that pivotal third quarter as the Pelicans shot 77% from the field. Brandon Ingram led the charge in that quarter by scoring 13 points in

the quarter, knocking down 3 free throws, and dishing out 3 assists. While Reggie Jackson did his best to keep the Clippers close by shooting 4-4 from deep in that quarter.

After going down by 33 points in this game, they made a late charge by winning the 4th quarter by scoring 32 points to 25 for the Pelican. However, allowing the Pelicans to dominate points in the paints 72-40 was a large reason for their loss. As you might have imagined, Head Coach Ty Lue was less than pleased with this showing when he stated post-game, “We didn’t give any resistance; we didn’t show any toughness tonight and that’s why they 72 points in the paint!” Coach Lue added, “They were more physical than us, they were tougher than us and we saw the results and we got to be better.”

Coach Lue was also asked about his level of concern for the teams’ inconsistencies to which he responded, “I’m not discouraged caused we’ve shown we can play at a high level, but we’ve got to do it every single night. We can’t keep talking about it, we’ve got to f***ing do it!” On a similar note, Kawhi was asked who is supposed to bring the energy and passion on the court in the absence of Patrick Beverley and responded by saying, “We all have to, we all have to play hard; next man up mentality. Whether Pat’s here or not, we can’t rely on one person!”

3/15/21 (25-15) Los Angeles Clippers vs (20-17) Dallas Mavericks

Much was expected from each of the Mavericks and the Clippers as the season kicked off and many expected this matchup to be a Western Conference playoff preview. As if the recent loss to the Pelicans wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Clippers needed to get back on the winning track against the Mavericks a mere 24 hours later. Surely avenging their embarrassing blowout loss to this same Dallas team earlier in the season had to be on their minds.

Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue would make some minor adjustments to their lineup for this game by inserting Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac into the starting lineup. He’d later admit, “he’d rather add Morris to starting after a couple wins, because he didn’t was it to appear that Nic (Batum) was the reason for their losses,” though, without Patrick Beverley, the team needed a kick start. Morris

Sr.’s toughness and vocal leadership appeared to be just what the team needed to get them going.

Furthermore, Zubac’s addition to the starting lineup would add size to the Clippers’ front line that wasn’t apparent in the last game after Serge Ibaka went down with lower back tightness. Also, Luka seeing Morris Sr. on the court had to remind him of the physicality that NBA veterans bring to the court. I’d say these additions were tactical mind games making the Mavericks think and adjust, which also benefitted the Clippers.

Zubac’s presence down in the paint was huge as the Clippers dominated the point in the paint category and also beat the Mavericks up on the boards 46 to 33 with Zubac pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds. While shooting 7-8 for the game and half of the points coming off dunks after receiving passes as he rolled to the rim. The Clippers also had the advantage in the second chance point’s opportunity 13-3 over the Mavericks in this contest.

When asked about stepping out to guard guards Zubac said this about the communication and help he receives, “I know who is behind me and who got my back. I hear Mook (Marcus Morris), I hear Kawhi, PG… Nico (Nic Batum), Reggie, everyone is behind me talking and telling me what to do. That makes it so much easier and it gives me confidence even if I get beat, I’m going to have help. That’s what we got to do; we got to be better on that part every night.”

Although this was Kawhi’s 51 game of scoring at least 15 points, which is nearing a franchise history. The Clippers improved to 7-0 on the second game of a back-to-back. They are also the only team in the NBA this season without a loss in the second game of a back-to-back.

This was a critical win for the Clippers, for them to get where they want to go. As Coach Ty Lue expressed with these words, “Kawhi just showing his leadership in wanting to play back-to-backs, he’s healthy. Just showed he’s trying to do the right thing. Back to Backs test your manhood, test who you are, and test your character. I think this team responded very well by giving up 99 points, especially after giving up 135 last night.”

The Clippers do have a second game in Dallas before they come home to face the young upstart Charlotte Hornets to finish out this week. They are currently 4th in

the Western Conference and 3.5 games out of first place. Interestingly enough, if the NBA playoffs were to start today they would face the Denver Nuggets in a 4th and 5th seed matchup, this would be a repeat of the series that sent them fishing in the playoffs last season.

They would need to go on a run to get out of this position in the final 32 games of their season. Let me know where you see the Clippers finishing in the standing over the next six to seven weeks of the season, kindly share your thoughts on what’s stood out to you and let me know what you think their potential 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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