The Clippers took on the NBA’s best team so far this season (the Utah Jazz) at the Staples Center on February 17th. It would have been a tough game if they were healthy but injuries to Paul George, Nicolas Batum and Kawhi Leonard had them shorthanded. They played spirited ball through the first 3 quarters but the Jazz were too tough pulling away in the 4th quarter. Lou Williams led the team with 16 points while Reggie Jackson had 15 pts and Amir Coffee added 14 pts. The Jazz were led by Donovan Mitchell with 24 pts, who should make the all star team this year and big center Rudy Gobert (23 points and 20 rebounds). They were without their other star guard Mike Conley Jr. and their forward Bogdanovic had a poor shooting night but they have other great role players who contribute nightly (Joe Ingles “14 pts”, Royce O’Neil “12 pts”and super sub Jordan Clarkson “18 pts” to name a few. Clarkson is the early favorite for 6th man of the year.). Their team chemistry was illustrated throughout the game and the final score was 114-96.
The Clippers played Brooklyn for an early ESPN Sunday evening game pretty much at full strength with the return of George, Batum and Leonard on Friday’s back to back game & win vs Utah. The Nets have high hopes this season adding James harden to the already dangerous lineup featuring Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Durant sat out the game and has missed the last few due to an injury. Harden led the way with 37 pts, 11 assists and 7 rebounds taking the game over while Irving had 28 pts and 8 assists with some great shot making. Ex Clippers Landry Shamet was quiet during this game but De’Andre Jordan had 13 pts and 11 rebounds. He may be the key to the team this year anchoring the defense and rebounding. The Nets are thin upfront which is very important despite having all that great offense. First year head coach Steve Nash has his team playing great and they are a major threat. The Nets had a balanced attack
The game was close early with the stars of each team leading the way. The Clippers role players have not been as consistent as they should to make them a title contender. The game got close late with owner Steve Ballmar cheering from his seat right under the basket. This was an exciting game down to the final possession as Leonard came up big after George was taken out the last 2 minutes of the game due to a minutes restriction for him despite it being a close game and his team leading 34 points. Leonard added 29 pts and and 13 rebounds.
For some reason on the final defensive position, Lue had Ibaka out if the game on defense and Jordan capitalized with a tip in over forward Morris to give the visitors the lead and ended up being the game winning basket. Harden added free throws so the final score was 112-108. Leonard got called for an offensive foul that was very close and could have been challenged but LA used up their challenge a few minutes prior when Beverly picked Jeff Green forcing him to leave the game. Another crucial mistake.
The Clippers seem to rely a bit too much of one on one basketball which could lead to team chemistry issues despite all their talent. They also have to protect the ball better lowering turnovers. This year is urgent as Leonard can opt out of his contract if he wants. George signed a long term deal which hopes to encourage Leonard to stay. Time will tell and head coach any Lue has a big challenge to get this team where it should be. They are still tied with the LA Lakers for 2nd in the Western Conference.
At this time, there are only media and team personal allowed in the arena at Staples Center. It is a surreal feeling with fake crowd noise, music and social distancing but that is how it is at this time. The players miss the fans so hope is they may be back before the season is over.
More at www.nba.com/clippers