By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com

5/13/21 (46-22) Los Angeles Clippers vs (44-22) Charlotte Hornets

Clippers came into this game leading the NBA in 3-point shooting thus far in the season by shooting over 40% from deep. Just as expected they made 21 of 45 shots from beyond the arc against the Hornets. This would be the fourth time this season and eighth time in franchise history that the Clippers have made at least 20 three-pointers.

After a dismal 13 points second quarter the Clippers exploded with a 40 point third quarter. Surprisingly Nic Batum, former Hornets forward, was booed by Charlotte fans during the game. Even more so after he knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers late in the third quarter that would give the Clippers an 84-77 lead, which they would not relinquish.

Though Batum would finish with essential 11 points would say post-game, they were key buckets. “I just let the game come to me,” Batum would say post-game. “I don’t care if I take six or eight shots. I’m just trying to take the correct shot.” The Clippers bench outscored the Hornets’ bench in this game 52-32.

When asked about how encouraged he was with the team shooting three-point shots this evening Kawhi Leonard stated, “We have been shooting it great all year; I’m just happy guys are being aggressive and making the right play. (The Hornets) were packing the paint and we had a lot of double teams, so once we kicked it out, we were knocking down shots.”

Also in this game, Clippers’ rookie Jay Scrubb was able to score the first points of his career, finishing with four. It was only his second game this season as he spent the season recovering from foot surgery, which he had after the 2020 NBA draft.

The Clippers improve to 13-0 when holding their opponent to less than 100 points. As they position themselves for the playoffs, they have 2 more games remaining in the regular season. They will face the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder before returning home to officially begin their playoff preparation.

5/14/21 (47-23) Los Angeles Clippers vs (16-54) Houston Rockets

Coming into their match with the Houston Rockets the Clippers have a 6-4 record in their past ten games. In this time frame, they have allowed opponents to shoot 44.6% from the field and score 103.4 points per game. All the while shooting 47.2% from the field and averaging 108.5 points themselves. During this time, they would grab 44.6 rebounds, dish out 24.3 assists, manage 6.5 takeaways per game.

The Rockets over that same period of time are allowing their opponents to score 127.8 points per game and shoot 52.7% from the field on route to a 1-9 record. They have also shot 46.7% from the field and are averaging 116.5 points, yanking down 42.8 rebounds with 26.5 helpers, and 7.9 steals and per game.

While welcoming back Serge Ibaka back into their rotation, after missing 30 games. Yet the Clippers have decided to rest their players for the final stretch of the season. In this game, Jay Scrubb would get his first start of the season, and he would be lined up at tipoff alongside Rajon Rondo, Luke Kennard, Marcus Morris Sr., and Ivica Zubac. While Kawhi and Paul George would be out with rest, Patrick Beverly would sit out to allow his injured hand to heal, Terance Mann would be out for personal reasons, and Reggie Jackson would sit out with a sore left Achilles.

As the Clippers lead the NBA in the three-point shooting percentage this season, their “iron man” center Ivica Zubac refused to be held out of the fun. After weeks of pressing for a chance to get a three-point shot up, Coach Ty Lue acquiesced by calling his number on the second play of the game. “I told him I was only playing him two to three minutes, I told him the second play was going to be for him. A step/ slash, take the step back and shoot a three (point shot).” Having seen practice a similar shot, during his pre-game warm-ups, he comfortable put up his only three-point shot on the season… and bang, bang, bang Zubac for three!

Earlier in the season, Veteran Forward Serge Ibaka said, “I’ve been playing with back pain since the beginning of the season.” He would then describe it as a “pinched nerve. It’s been a tough year for me this season I wanted to try to play through the pain”. Coach Ty Lue said of Serge’s return, “I thought he moved well. He got to the offensive rebounds, got some put backs, rolled to the bucket. I thought he looked good being out for 30 games.”

Even in losing fashion, Rajon Rondo would show his value by lead the team in assists against the Rockets. Rondo’s 13 assists were the most by any player on the Clippers all season. Though they would lose this game largely because they couldn’t recover from allowing the Rockets to score 75 points in the second and third quarter, with most of their firepower (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George) in street clothes on the bench.

5/16/21 (47-24) Los Angeles Clippers vs (21-50) Oklahoma City Thunder

In their final regular-season game the Los Angeles Clippers once again have chosen to rest many of their key players. Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue would state that he would prefer “health over rust, any day,” as they plan for the post-season, in his pre-game media availability. However, we will see how that translates to their post-season rhythm when the playoffs start next weekend.

Coming into their final game of the season the Clippers accrued a drab 5-5 record over their last ten games. In this stretch of games, they have allowed their opponents to shot 45.4% from the floor and averaged 105.1 points per game. At the same time, they have shot 47.5% from the floor and have been averaging 108.3 points per game. Additionally, they’ve averaged 43.8 rebounds, 24.4 assists, seven steals, and 3.7 blocks per game in this time frame.

The Thunder have been even worse in their final stretch of the season. They have amassed a 1-9 record while averaging 101.9 points and shooting 41.5% from the field. In addition to pulling down 46.4 rebounds, passing out 21 helpers, and getting 7.4 rips per game. But on the flip side of things, they are allowing their opponents to shot 50.1% from the field and averaged 121.3 points per game.

Having beaten the Thunder in consecutive games earlier in the season, this would be their third matchup of the season. Thought this game would have a much different appearance than their previous matchups as they would start Patrick Beverley, Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Patrick Patterson, and Ivica Zubac. They would proceed to get Ivica Zubac out of the game at the first allowing him to continue his consecutive start streak.

The Clippers were down 0-7 before Reggie Jackson hits a three-pointer to score the teams’ first points. OKC took an 18-8 lead in this game before Clippers HC Ty

Lue would take a time out, in an attempt for the team to recollect their thoughts. The Thunder would still end up winning that initial quarter 35-26.

The Clippers would erase a 13 point deficit as Terance Mann would give the Clippers the lead on a step-back jumper. After taking a brief lead in the second quarter despite getting dominating on the boards in the first half, the Clippers would go be down by two points going into the locker room for halftime.

Lead by Terance Mann and Yogi Ferrell’s combined 28 points, the Clippers would win the third quarter and take a narrow 88-86 lead into the fourth quarter. The Thunder would have three players to score over 24 points and go on to win this game by a narrow margin 117-112. The Thunder would dominate the points in the paint 78-44, in addition to tallying 12 block shots to the Clippers 3 and they outrebounded the Clippers 54-44 on the way to their win.

On the season, the Clippers finish 2020-21 with the highest 3P% and highest FT% in franchise history. Impressively, their 83.9 Free Throw percentage this season is the highest FT% in NBA history. The Clippers also finish the season with nine players shooting 40% or better from three (min. 15 attempts). This is the most players on a single team to shoot better than 40% from three in NBA history.

The culture and atmosphere established by this new coaching staff have seemingly improved the temperament of the players across the board. For the most part during the season the Clippers have stayed among the top of the Western Conference. Obtaining the 4th seed will have them matched up with the 5th seed Dallas Mavericks, in a rematch of last season’s 1st round matchup.

Kindly share your thoughts on how the Clippers finished out the regular season. What are your predictions for this team as they head into the playoffs? 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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