By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
4/28/21 (43-20) Los Angeles Clippers vs Phoenix Suns (43-18)
Coming into this matchup the Los Angeles Clippers and their 43-20 record were in third place in the Western Conference, in second place was the Phoenix Suns, and their 43-18 record in the Western Conference. These teams would be meeting for their rubber match after splitting their previous two matches.
In the last 10 games, the Suns have a 7-3 record. During this time they allowed their opponents to shoot 48.7% and average 111.4 points per game. All the while they’ve been shooting 48.0% from the field and grabbing 41.8 rebounds, handing out 26.7 assists, and taking the ball away 8.3 times per game.
In their past 10 games, the Clippers have allowed opponents to shoot 45.6% and average 109.8 points per game. While they are shooting 48.2% from the field and averaging 115.2 points per game. All the while pulling down 45.1 rebounds per game, dishing out 26.1 assists, and getting 6.4 takeaways per game.
The Suns would jump out to a 39-31 lead after the first quarter, by dropping in 7 of 9 shots from 3-point range. Frank Kaminsky, of all players, led the Suns with 13 points before the break while Booker managed only 12. The Phoenix bench outscored Clippers reserves 28-8 in the first half to extend their lead to nearly 15 points midway through the second before taking a 10 point lead into the locker
In this game, Paul George appeared 700th career game Paul George while Marcus Morris Sr. would score his 8,000 career points and assisted in narrowing the lead to 86-80 to start the fourth quarter. However, the Phoenix Suns were not in any ceremonial mood as they welcomed the undermanned Clippers into the Talking Stick Resort Arena in front of roughly 5,000 fans.
Veteran point guard Paul would score 28 points in this game and young Devine Booker chipped in 21 points as the Suns beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-101 to secure a postseason position for the first time since 2010. Suns Head Coach Monty Williams would say post-game “We are not satisfied, we’re not settling; we feel like we’re just scratching the surface.”
5/1/21 (42-21) Denver Nuggets vs (43-21) Los Angeles Clippers
In another battle for Western Conference playoff seeding, the Nuggets come to town to win the all-important rubber match between these 2 teams. Without their floor general Jamal Murray, who went down with a knee injury earlier this month, Nikola Jokic has only increased his play, carrying the Nuggets to a record of 42-21 this season.
In the past ten games leading into this game, the Clippers are allowing their opponents to average 45.7% and score 109.8 points. During their 7-3 record they also are shooting 47.8% from the field, while averaging 112.7 points, 44.9 rebounds, 25.4 assists, and 6.2 steals per game.
Those Nuggets have allowed opponents to shot 47.9% from the floor and score 111.6 points per game. League MVP candid Nikola Jokic has led this team to an 8-2 record over the past ten games. During this time, they’ve shot 48.8% from the field while averaging 118.4 points, 44.7 rebounds, 26.6 assists, and 8.5 steals per game.
The Clippers started strong, by making their first seven shots from the field to take an 18-7 lead. However, the Clippers hot shooting didn’t continue as it went 10 of 36 the remainder of the first half. They would not rebound from that 19 points in the second quarter as the Nuggets would not be score under 25 per quarter in this game.
Nikola scored 18 points in the third quarter, helping them win the quarter 31-26. For the 13th game this season, he finished with 30 points and 10 plus rebounds. On the season Jokic is among the Top 5 league leaders in points, rebounds, and assists no one else can say this.
This would be Kawhi Leonard’s 65th-straight game with at least 15 points, this is the second-longest such streak in franchise history and the longest since Bob McAdoo (224 games, 3/20/73 – 3/12/76). Rajon Rondo had a season-high 16 points tonight and DeMarcus Cousins would appear in his 600th career game.
Though the Clippers would be without a completely healthy roster, this would be the Clippers’ second consecutive loss to a team competing with them for playoff positioning. But Kawhi would speak post-game about how he felt on his first game back, “It was better tonight. I got to play in the fourth quarter the other night as a blowout of the lead, but I’m feeling good. We took partner steps to get me right, to make sure nothing is significantly wrong with me. Like I said, I feel good. I’m back playing. So hopefully, I just keep moving up from here.”
5/4/21 (27-38) Toronto Raptors vs (43-22) Los Angeles Clippers
The Raptors came into this game after ending their three-game losing streak, which brought their record to 6-4 in the past ten games. In those games, they have allowed their opponent to average 46.3% shooting and 109.6 points per game. All the while shooting 45.3% from the field and scoring 110.8 points per game while pulling down 43.5 rebounds, 25.5 assists, 8.1 steals, and 5.2 blocks per game.
Over this same time frame, the Clippers have lost 3 consecutive games for only the second time this season. Over the past ten games, the Clippers have a similar 6-4 record, allowing their shoot 45.2% and average 108.4 points per game. They have been shooting 45.9% from the field while averaging 110 points per game. They also are pulling down 45.1 rebounds, 24 assists, 6.6 steals, and 3.2 blocks per game.
Since the Clippers would have Patrick Beverley available for this game, they would need to once again reacclimate him on the team with their new additions such as Rajon Rondo and Demarcus Cousins. Over the past 10 games, Rondo has led the Clippers with 5.3 assists per game and despite dealing with a toe injury Paul George has averaged 21.6 points per game.
In recent weeks, Pascal Siakam has averaged 20.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists for the Raptors. While Khem Birch has averaged eight rebounds and 11.2 points per game over the last 10 games for Toronto. Against the Clippers Siakam poured in 24 points and 7 rebounds, Khem put 13 points and 8 rebounds, but Fred VanVleet was their high scorer with 27 points and leading assist man by dishing out 13 assists.
While Clippers HC Ty Lue was tinkering with the lineup throughout the game, the Raptors maintained a modest lead throughout the game, their biggest lead was 7 points. Once he went back to the lineup of Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac which has developed the most continuity
this season, they were able to close out the Raptors by winning the 4th quarter 23-18.
In his post-game media availability Head Coach, Ty Lue would speak about his reasoning for reverting to the lineup he used most this season. “Like I said, just getting that continuity back, understanding the plays we’re trying to run. I thought we needed to get those guys back on the floor early. It kind of hurt us when PG [Paul George] got his second foul in the first quarter, we had to play with a unit that we hadn’t been playing with before and they were just trying to figure it out with Kawhi [Leonard] being the leader. Third-quarter and the start of the fourth, I didn’t want to go back to that lineup, so I brought Kawhi back to start the fourth, playing for three minutes, and then brought PG back just so he could kind of just keep some continuity back onto the floor”
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