By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

5/6/21 (37-28) Los Angeles Lakers vs (44-22) Los Angeles Clippers

As the NBA Season whines down, both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers are positioning themselves for a significant playoff run. However, these teams are in slightly different situations going into this rival-ish matchup… The Clippers are looking to lock in the number #3 seed in the Western Conference. After losing three out four, and six of eight, of their previous games the defending champions Lakers are looking to stay out of the NBA’s play-in tournament.

Teams in both Western and Eastern Conference that finish in the seventh through tenth seed, will matchup in a tournament to kick off the NBA playoffs. Seeds seven and eight will play one game, as will seeds nine and ten. The winner of the seventh and eighth seed game will become the seventh seed of the conference playoffs. The loser of the seventh vs eighth seed game will play the winner of the ninth and tenth seed game for the remaining spot in the NBA playoffs, which begin on May 22, 2021.

The Lakers would be without, LeBron James who has missed 21 of their previous 23 games due to a high ankle sprain. Having missed 30 of the past 37 games, Anthony Davis was intent on preventing them from losing their seventh out of ten games. Lakers coach Frank Vogel had the proper sentiment when he said. “No one is feeling sorry for themselves. We know we’ve got to be better even under adverse circumstances.”

Anthony Davis would score the game’s first basket and give the Lakers their only lead of the game. After knocking down his second shot, Davis appeared to twist his ankle when he backed into the advertising stand, which is positioned along the sidelines of the court. This would be his final shot of the game as he would leave the game, shooting a mere 2-of-9, in the nine minutes that he played.

The Clippers, on the other hand, would play big down low win that first quarter 29-20… dominating the boards 14-7 in the first quarter of the game. They would take a commanding 13 point lead on the Lakers when Paul George hit a three-point shot with 7:59 remaining in the 2nd quarter.

The Clippers would go onto take a 23 point lead after the first half. This became their largest first-half lead of the season. By outscoring the Lakers bench 22-9 in the first half, the Clippers would establish their largest halftime deficit of the season.

After a couple of Kawhi Leonard free throws in the third quarter, the Clippers would push the lead up to 24 points late in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Terance Mann would get a tip in to push their lead up to 30 point game. In a controlling fashion, The Clippers improve to 11-0 when holding their opponent to under 100 points.

In his post-game media-availability Paul George talk about the makeup of the team, “It’s a good chemistry group. We want to see the next person do well. Every person on the bench, or the court, has the support of one another. It’s just great when we’re having fun: it’s contagious.”

5/9/21 (37-30) New York Knicks vs (45-22) Los Angeles Clippers

It’s been over five months since these two teams met at Madison Square Garden, for their initial game of the season. The New York Knicks came to Staples Center to repay the Clippers for that beat down they receive a month into the season. The Knicks come into this game clinging to the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Clippers are fairly secure as the third seed in the Western Conference.

The Knicks Julius Randle has been tremendous and depending on who you speak to; some even have them in their NBA MVP conversation. Over the past 10 games, Randle has been instrumental in the Knicks 7-3 record in this time frame. They are also shooting 49.0% from the field and averaging 115.5 points per game. While grabbing over 42 rebounds per game, dishing out 23.2 assists per game, and getting 5.9 steals per game. Though they are allowing their opponents to shoot 44.7% from the field, they are averaging 106.5 points per game.

The Clippers have struggled a bit in their past ten-game Clippers only winning 6-4 games. They have allowed their opponents to shoot 44.7% and average 106.5 points per game. While they shot 47.1% from the field and averaged 109.7 points per game. Additionally, the Clippers are pulling down 44.6 rebounds, handing out 24.7 assists, getting 5.9 takeaways on average per game.

In their final home game of the regular season and the Clippers take an 8-0 lead before Thibodeau calls a time out with 9:31 remaining in the first quarter. The Knick responded with a 15 -6 run to tie the ball game up at 15. The teams exchanged leads before Ty Lue called a timeout after a Knicks fast-break lay-in gave them a 3-point lead. Nicolas Batum hits 2 unanswered three-pointers to give the Clippers lead 27-26, just before Rondo drives to the hoop and score a lay-up to close out the first quarter.

The Knicks did battle back to take the lead on a Reggie Bullock steal and lay-up before Paul George hits a couple of unanswered threes of his own to give the Clippers back the lead. The Clippers have increased their lead to 9 points before Tom Thibodeau calls a timeout for the New York Knicks with 6:15 remaining in the second quarter.

The Knicks battled back to take a 2-point lead at the half. Derrick Rose has scored a game-high 19 points and handed out a game-high 7 assist to the delight of the Knick’s fan in the building. Paul George, on the other hand, led the Clipper in the first half with 14 points and 5 assists.

Late in the third quarter, Reggie Bullock hits his 4th and 5th three-pointer and turns and stares at the Clippers bench each time, as if to say, “Are you guys going to guard me?” Bullocks’ 5th three-pointer of the game gave the Knicks a 79-69 lead with 2 minutes remaining in the quarter. Patrick Beverley knocks down a three-point shot with under 30 seconds to go in that 3rd quarter to narrow the Knicks lead to 5 points.

After the Clippers narrowed the lead to 5 points, Derrick Rose hit a three for his 25th point of the game. That would be the Knicks’ 13th three-pointer of the game and they were shooting 40% from deep to that point in the game.

The Knicks had a 6-point lead with under 2:00 to go in the game. Their aggressive and handsy play made things difficult for the Clippers on the offensive side of the ball. On the other hand, the Knicks never appeared concerned with the Clippers defense, as Julius Randle comfortably got the shot he wanted on to close out the game for the Knicks, as they got the win 106-100.

During his post-game media availability Kawhi Leonard had this to say about their loss, “You got to give the Knicks credit, they came in and fought hard. We did miss some wide ones (shots), sometimes we turned the ball over at costly moments, when were on a good run. We were in the mud a little bit on the offensive end. But overall you got to give the Knicks credit… with us we have to eliminate some of the turnovers and try to play with some kind of pace.”

5/11/21 (45-23) Los Angeles Clippers vs (27-41) Toronto Raptors

As the Clippers head to Orlando to face the displaced Raptors to start their final road trip of the regular season, they do so with a 6-4 record over the past ten games. In the same time frame, they have allowed their opponents to shoot 45.2% have averaged 106.5 points per game. They also pulled down 44.6 rebounds, 24.5 helpers, and 5.8 takeaways on average, while shooting 46.9% and scoring 109.4 points per game.

Canada forced the Toronto Raptors to leave the country during this NBA season for COVID 19, as they would not permit them to continuously leave and return to the country when the NBA season started. In their past 10 games, the Raptors have allowed their opponents to shot 47.0% from the field and score 112.1 points per game. Playing on the road for essentially the entire season, the Raptors pulled down 42.5 rebounds, 25 helpers, 8.7 takeaways, all while they shoot 44.7% from the field and scoring 109.4 points per night on average.

With Patrick Beverley finally healthy, the Clippers would start a familiar line-up of Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., and Ivica Zubac. Although, we haven’t seen this line-up in a while, with this line-up they won the quarter by eight points. It didn’t take long for Rondo to surpass Maurice Cheeks for sole possession of 14th on the NBA’s all-time assists list when he dished out his 7,393rd career assist.

As a team, the Clippers controlled the boards 39 to 28 through the third quarter. Midway through that quarter, Patrick Beverley would pull down his 2,000 career rebounds, he finished the game with 6 rebounds in total. For the second quarter of the game, the Clippers limited the Raptors to score under 20 points in a quarter.

While Head Coach Ty Lue is still working on which line-up he likes the best, as the team gets healthier. Terance Mann, who hasn’t seen much playing time recently,

was thrust into the lineup. Mann became the fifth player in franchise history with at least 20 points off the bench while shooting 100% from the field.

As a team, the Clippers shot a perfect 26-for-26 from the free-throw line. This is the sixth time this season for them, which is tied for the most games in the NBA. This ties them, for the second-most free-throws made without a miss in franchise history.

Health has been a major concern for the Clippers and it appears that they seem to be getting healthiest, just in time for the playoffs. As the players are regaining their health, there are still times where their play hasn’t been ideal. Head Coach Ty Lue said post-game, “I didn’t like the flow we had offensively… I didn’t like us offensively. Not so much the turnovers, just the flow of the game, it was kind of choppy.”

Because they are tinkering with the lineups and the players have played together sporadically; I think it’s good that the team is working through these issues now rather than in the playoffs? Kindly share your thoughts on this team’s play down the stretch of this regular season. I look forward to hearing from you and feel free to 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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