After beating Raptors, Clippers ready for home stretch

LOS ANGELES – If the regular season ended today, the Los Angeles Clippers would be playing the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. That would be interesting. As the NBA season winds down, the Clippers are trying to fight off the Denver Nuggets for the No. 3 position in the Western Conference. 

Sitting four games back of the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns, frontrunners in the Western Conference, and with a handful of games remaining on their schedule, the best the Clippers might be able to do is to solidify that No. 3 seed, although Los Angeles still has an outside shot of snatching up the No. 2 spot. 

Los Angeles Clippers guard Rajon Rondo (4) pushing the ball up the court against the Torronto Raptors. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

“There’s still, what, six games left,” Clippers forward Paul George said. “We’re still trying to move up regardless of what the Lakers are doing. We’re worried about us and where we can position. It’s not like we’re complacent with where we’re at. So, it’s too much going on.”

After their Mother’s Day matchup against the New York Knicks at STAPLES Center, the Clippers close out their season with four games on the road. Right now, the Clippers are in the middle of a four-game homestand. They split their first two games, dropping a contest to the Nuggets before beating the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night. 

And they did it without getting a high-octane performance by Kawhi Leonard against his former team. The Raptors were bent on not letting Leonard wild out against them, holding the All-Star forward to just 13 points. 

“You just rely on your teammates,” George said after scoring 22 points in the Clippers’ 105-100 win against the Raptors. “Teammates pick you up. They going to take me out the game, take Kawhi [Leonard] out the game. That’s the reason our team is so deep. It’s why this team is so deep and we’re so great with our depth. We just got a lot of guys that made shots tonight and was able to make plays.”

Outside of George, it’s a good thing that Leonard has quality players around him. With Toronto focusing its defensive efforts on clamping down on George and Leonard, the Clippers received some much-needed scoring relief from Marcus Morris Sr. (22 points) and guard Reggie Jackson (18 points). 

Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson (1) chase down Jalen Harris (2) of the Toronto Raptors in a game between the two teams at STAPLES Center on May 4, 2021. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

“I think they came into the game, where they decided they weren’t going to let PG [Paul George] or Kawhi [Leonard] play,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. “And that’s what we talked about at halftime is that they’re going to double team and triple team and jump the game up and play triangle two and box-in-one and we just got to move the basketball and make the simple play.

“I thought PG down the stretch really did that,” also stated. “When they blitz him, he hit Zu [Ivica Zubac] four or five times in the pocket. Zu made the right play. PG’s big block at the end, the big charge. He was phenomenal down the stretch. So, teams aren’t going to let them play some nights and when they do that, we got to be willing to move the ball, share the ball, and make the right play.”

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley talked about the team’s mindset heading into the stretch run. 

“We got to come out with a defensive mindset all the time and try to find our identity and who we want to be every night,” Beverley said. “Of course, every game presents something different, but from the get-go to the end, we got to be a defensive-mindset team against whoever we’re playing.”

Featured Image: Paul George scores 22 points in the Clippers’ 105-100 win against the Toronto Raptors. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline