By Cameron Buford
As the NBA’s trade deadline came and gone last week, the Clippers were more active than most expected them to be. Having already picked up Norman Powell and Forward Robert Covington from the Trailblazers, the Clippers brass decided that wasn’t enough. Just a few days later, they acquired Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye for veteran big man Serge Ibaka.
For a team playing without their best players in seven-time NBA All-Star Forward Paul George and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, this Clippers team competes night in and night out. They just beat the Warriors, who currently have the second-best record in the league at 42-16, by having six guys score double-digit in points, and though Curry scored 33 points, only two other Warriors scored 13 points on Valentine’s Day at Crypto.com Arena.
Led by tenth-year guard Reggie Jackson who finished the game against the Warriors with 19 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds said post-game about playing a team like the Warriors, “When they got it going like that, the biggest thing is you can’t allow everyone else to hurt you. The next guy had 13. Steph was carrying the load. I think our coaches did a great job drawing up a great defensive scheme we came out and executed and were fortunate enough to get a win.”
After scoring a team-high 25 points against the Warriors, the versatile Terence Mann described to reporters what guarding All-Pro guard Steph Curry is like, “It ain’t easy. It was almost like a flashback to the other night with Luka [Doncic]. You know they’re both great players.” Apparently they are still smarting from Luka dropping 50 points on the Clippers, in the Mavericks recent win over the Clippers.
The silver lining with NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard and four-time All-Defensive player Paul George missing a combined 86 games this season, is that this young Clippers team is getting valuable developmental time on the court. As of now, it is still up in the air when either guy would be available to return to play this season. Meanwhile, this young Clippers team continues to compete on the level coach Ty Lue expects of them; having their stars return should seemingly improve their potential to win in the upcoming playoffs.
Until the return of Kawhi and Paul George, the Clippers show a unique grit, grind and want to against the league’s elite. Although they eventually succumbed to the high-powered Phoenix Suns, who boast the league’s best record at 47-10, the night after their win over the Warriors. The Clippers hung tough, as they most often do, they finished the game with five players with double-digit points. However, paired with Booker’s game-high 26 points the Suns athletic Forward Mikal Bridges proved to be the difference-maker in the Suns 103-96 win.
Due to their recent transactions, the Clippers are short ball handlers, Ty Lue spoke of this post-game when he said, “They have great defenders, and that’s kind of what hurt us in the first half with our second unit. Elfrid Payton came in, picked his pressure up with T. Mann handling the ball and picking up Amir (Coffey), that kind of hurt us a bit, and that’s why Reggie (Jackson) had to play so many minutes.” The return of Kawhi or Paul George would resolve the lack of ball handlers on the floor.
“What we are doing now is setting the foundation. We are missing two top ten guys and another guy who averages 19 points a game. So, I love what we’re doing right now. The foundation with this group is amazing, and we’re missing three big-time guys.” Team “glue-guy” Nicolas Batum says summarizing their season thus far.
Batum is referring to Kawhi, George, and newcomer Norman Powell who has suffered a broken bone in his foot recently. Should the Clippers make the playoffs, Clippers fans should expect to see Powell’s return. Though the question still remains, when might the fans get to see Kawhi and/ or George return to play? What are your thoughts on these Clippers, and how do you see their season playing out? Let me know by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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