By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

4/1/21 (29-18) Denver Nuggets vs (32-17) Los Angeles Clippers

Two of the league’s top scorers meet at Staples Center for a clash between the NBA’s Western Conference titans. Kawhi Leonard leads the Clippers with 26 point per game average on 51.5% shooting. While Jokic leads the Nuggets by averaging nearly a triple double so far this season with 26.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game.

In the last ten game the Clippers are 7-3. All the while averaging 113.6 points, 43.4 rebounds, 23.5 assists, eight steals and three blocks per game and shooting 48.2% from the field. They have limited opponents to 47.4% shooting and 105.3. The Denver Nuggets are also 7-3 over the past ten games. They are shooting 49.2% from the field and scoring 115.6 points per game, with 45.8 rebounds, and 29.1 assists, 8.3 steals and 4.4 blocks per game while. The Nuggets are allowing their opponents to shoot 47.2% and average 110.5 points per game.

Clippers wearing their black uniforms win the tip, but they would have to contend with the new acquisition of Aaron Gordon on the Nuggets. Paul George would say post game when asked, “they are a cutting team, so Arron Gordon fits in perfectly for their team.” Gordon showed against the Clippers that he is not only a slasher, but he can impact the game in multiple aspects, he finished the game with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. He also recorded 3 steals and 2 blocks.

Only 2 time prior to tonight that the Clippers had less than 17 assists. This is only the fourth time all season that the Clippers shot under 30% from behind the arc. Although Nikola Jokic did not have a huge scoring game, he led the Nuggets by shooting 66% from behind the arc and had a game high +/- of 13. As a team the Nuggets shot 52% from behind the arc giving the Clippers a record of 2-4 when opponents shot better than 50% from deep and fall to 32-18 splitting their games with Nuggets. These two teams will meet again here at Staples Center for the final time of the regular season on May 1. Head Coach Ty Lue said post game, “our lack of physicality really affected us; overall offensively we sucked. I thought Ivica Zubac did a good job on Jokic tonight… and calling out our defenses. I thought we did a good job defensively by holding them to 39 points in the 2nd half tonight.” He continued on to say, “we know what we need to do on the court… we need to move the ball and move bodies!”

4/4/21 (29-18) Los Angeles Lakers vs (32-18) Los Angeles Clippers

For the second time, this season the Lakers and the Clippers meet up at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles on Easter Sunday. Although both of these teams will look dramatically different than when they last meet up, the Clippers have added Rajon Rondo who will be seeing his first bit of playing time as a Clippers and the Lakers have added Andre Drummond, who will be missing his second game as a Laker.

In the past 10 games, the Clippers have amassed a 7-3 record. They have shot 47.7% from the field which is down from their season average, while their opponents have averaged 101.9 points on 45.7% shooting. During this time, they are averaging 111.5 points, 44.7 rebounds, 22.9 assists, 7.4 steals, and 3.3 blocks per game.

The Lakers on the other hand are 5-5 over the past 10 games. Over this time frame, they have shot 45.3% from the field and averaged 106.1 points, 45.1 rebounds, 24.1 assists, 8.2 steals, and 3.3 blocks per game. Even though they have missed some key pieces to the roster they have allowed their opponents to shoot 46.4% from the field and averaged 105.8 points per game.

While many in the city don’t acknowledge this matchup as a rivalry quite yet. Even though they play in the same arena the longtime history of both teams doesn’t make this a rivalry game. However, the recent history of these two teams would tell a different story.

The Clippers are still smarting from their playoff failures from last season, while the Lakers went on to win the Championship doesn’t quite support the fact that the Clippers have been the better team in recent years, which should provide the Clippers more motivation for them each time they play. Being that the Lakers have endured significant injuries the Lakers LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Clippers would have added embarrassment should they lose this game, adding to the pressure for the Clippers to beat them.

Oddly enough, this would be the game that the Clippers would unveil their most recent addition Point Guard Rajon Rondo, whom they acquired in a trade from the Atlanta Hawks. The quintessential point guard Rondo, who aided the Lakers in winning their first Championship in over ten years, was brought on to assist the Clippers to win their first Championship overall.

When asked what he thought Rondo’s impact would be Clippers HC Ty Lue said, “It’s like having a quarterback, he’s the leader of the team. He gets guys easy shots. I think he’ll make it a lot easier on PG and Kawhi. Getting those guys in position as well but just understanding the game. Understanding who needs a shot. When they haven’t had a touch in a while, where guys spots are on the floor.”

After their win on Sunday, Paul George would take things a bit further by saying bout Rondo, “I thought it just made the game easier, giving it up to him. Letting him push the ball, letting him initiate (the offense) instead of a lot of times myself and Kawhi doing it.” Paul then added, “Rondo’s a leader you know as a point guard he’s a leader. I look at him as a leader of this group. He’ll hold us accountable; that’s what you need in the locker room; someone to get us going.”

In their second matchup of the season, the Clippers would easily dispatch of the injury riddles Lakers 104-86. These two teams will meet again a month from now during the Clippers’ final home stand of the regular season. With less than two weeks remaining in the season at that point, both teams will be looking to secure playoffs positioning, so inner-city rivalry aside, that game will be just as meaningful as Easter Sunday’s game was.

4/6/21 (30-19) Portland Trailblazers vs (33-18) Los Angeles Clippers

Back in the lineup for the Clippers will be Patrick Beverly their defensive aggressor for their matchup against the Portland Trailblazers, who’s been out since they beat the Warriors in March. Yet they will still be without the services of Serge Ibaka, who appears to be under load management and the best this he brings to the arena is the art he chooses to wear on the sidelines. In his replacement, they have signed DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day contract and he’s available to play if needed. When Clippers HC Ty Lue was asked about the value of Cousins Lue said, “He adds toughness, having a very skilled 5 man. The biggest thing for him is just seeing where his conditioning is at right now, but watching him playing the last couple of days, dunking, moving, he looks healthy, so that’s good.”

Over the past 10 games, the Clippers are 7-3, they are shooting 47.5% from the field while averaging 111 points, 45.1 rebounds, 22.9 assists, 7.4 steals, and 3.7 blocks per game. Their opponents have averaged 100.6 points on 44.8% shooting.

By contrast, the Trail Blazers allow their opponents to shoot 48% from the field, for 111.7 points per game. While shooting 44.2% and averaging 115.5 points, 44.7 rebounds, 21 assists, 7.6 steals, and 5.6 blocks per game. This has earned them a 7-3 over the past.

In the initial quarter of the game, Paul George erupted for 22 points. On 7 of 9 shooting from the field and 4 of 6 from deep. Those were the most points scored in a first-quarter by a Clipper since Blake Griffin had 22 points on 3/10/14, vs. the Phoenix Suns. This scoring barrage aided the Clippers in scoring a season-high, and franchise record, 47 points in that first quarter.

Though the Clippers had that big first half, the Trailblazers narrowed the lead to 7 points early in the third quarter regaining the Clipper’s attention. Multiple times the Clippers responded with a spurt of their own to extend their lead. Kawhi Leonard and Reggie Jackson complimented Paul Georges scoring with 29 and 23 points receptively.

Though the Clippers had that big first half, the Trailblazers narrowed the lead to 7 points early in the third quarter regaining the Clipper’s attention. Multiple times the Clippers responded with a spurt of their own to extend their lead. Kawhi Leonard and Reggie Jackson complimented Paul George’s scoring with 29 and 23 points, respectively. Kawhi also added in 12 rebounds and 7 assists.

The Clippers improve to 6-0 when scoring at least 130 points and move to 18-2 when they make at least 16 three-pointers. They were led by Paul George’s game-high 36 points. When asked about his hot night of scoring he said, “my toe felt good so I felt like I had pop tonight. Mentally that allowed me to feel better and play better, and then I had a mindset of scoring and being aggressive, to score, opposed to looking for teammates and looking to play make.”

Coach Lue was pleased with the way the team came together against this potential playoff opponent and stated as much post-game saying, “Overall, I thought it was a good game for us. This is a tough team to match up with, especially when you have to blitz Dame (Damian Lillard) for the whole game… they made a run but, we kept our composure and won the game.”

As if bringing in Rajon Rondo wasn’t enough to change for the team to acclimate to, they strengthened their frontcourt when they went and signed DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-Day contract. They get the point guard they desperately needed and another big man to sure up their low post game in case Ibaka isn’t ready to play in the playoffs. How do you think these additions will help the Clippers on their push for the playoff?

Kindly, share your thoughts on their recent trade and let us know if you think this improves the team. You can reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forward any suggestions on which topics or angles you’d like to see discussed to info@whatsgoodinsports.com.

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