So which Los Angeles Clippers team will show up for the NBA playoffs? Will it be the second-best team in the Western Conference? Or will it be the bubble squad that has played inconsistently since the league restarted the 2019-20 season? The good for the Clippers (No. 2 in the Western Conference) to harp on is that they will face the Dallas Mavericks (No.7 seed) in the first round of the playoffs.
Getting forward Montrezl Harrell back in the mix would help a whole lot in making things better. Harrell, competing with teammate Lou Williams for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, has not taken to the court to play in a formal game since the NBA kicked started its restart format since halting the season in mid-March due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Harrell left Florida a couple of weeks before the Clippers got things going to tend to an emergency family matter. With only two games in the regular season bubble format remaining, the Clippers have bigger problems to worry about then when Harrell will make it back. Playing tougher defense would be one matter they need to fix.
The Clippers have played six games thus far since the NBA’s July 30 season reboot. The Clippers have batted. 500 through their first six games. Harrell, who is averaging 18.6 points and just over seven rebounds a game, is certainly a missing cog for what the Clippers want to do in terms of title hopes aspirations.
He is reportedly expected to rejoin the team soon. Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard said the team misses the energy Harrell brings every game.
“He brings a lot of energy for us,” Leonard said. “Good rebounder. Also good on switching. Good post-up player. Good passer. Once we add a guy that’s playing the whole entire game, 48 minutes, I think it will make the team better.”
They have split the six games, winning three and dropping three. In particular, the Clippers’ last two defeat-to the Phoenix Suns and to the Nets-are perfect reminders that playing consistently on both ends of the court will help in advancing deep into the postseason. Losing to the Los Angeles Lakers as the Clippers did in their first game since the hiatus took place is one thing.
But then the Clippers dropped a 117-115 contest at the buzzer to Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns. The Clippers had two quarters in which they gave up 30 or more points in that game. Booker’s buzzer-beater over the outstretched hand of Paul George proved to be the game-winner.
The difference in the game? The Clippers allowed the Suns to shoot 53 percent from the 3-point shot range as Phoenix converted 17 of 32 shots from behind the arc. In comparison, the Clippers made only 8 of 29 shots from 3-point land. After beating up on the Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers, the Clippers’ defense took another hit in a 129-120 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
It did not take the Nets long to penetrate the Clippers’ matador defense. Brooklyn scored 45 of its final point totals in the first quarter. and couldn’t catch up. Once again, the Clippers got bit in the rear end by the 3-point shot. Brooklyn threw the ball up 43 times from 3-point range, making 20 of its shots, a 46.5 percent clip. The Clippers went 13 of 36 in the 3-point category.
“We came into the game thinking it’s going to be easy, we’re going to win easy,” Clippers center Ivica Zubac said. “They took advantage of that with that part of our game plan. We let them get open shots. They made all of them. That’s how it goes. But 45 points in a quarter is too much.”
Now to be fair to the Clippers, Los Angeles was playing without the services of three playoff starters-Harrell, Paul George and Patrick Beverley, a little fact that should not be overlooked. With that being said, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers isn’t too happy with his team’s inconsistent play.
“Well, hopefully, we won’t play up and down in the playoffs.,” Rivers said. “We definitely have been so far. We have one inspired game, then we don’t. Give Brooklyn credit. I thought they attacked us. They were clearly the team that had the right approach at the beginning of the game. I thought we joined the game a little bit. When you spot someone 20 points, it’s hard to come back from that.”
Leonard, who scored 39 points against the Nets in a losing effort, addressed the fact that the Clippers need to get in sync.
We definitely got to be in a better rhythm,” said Leonard. “Guys have been in and out of the lineup, key guys. Still waiting on Trez to get back. You know what I mean? It’s going to be like that some days when you have Trez out or guys that contribute.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about social justice, civil rights, education, politics, and crime. He also covers the NFL, NBA, MLB as well as other sports. Based in Southern California, Dennis earned a journalism degree with a minor in criminal justice from Howard University. The real HU!!