Clippers All Star Break Woes
Coming out of the All Star break, the Clippers lost to divisional foe, the Sacramento Kings, without Paul George or Patrick Beverley. This loss would give the Clippers a three game losing streak spanning back to the week before All Star Weekend. Despite being without two starters, the loss to a “lesser” team on paper sparked quite the discussion among Clippers fans as well as the general media. This was newly acquired Reggie Jackson’s first game with his new team, and he was thrust immediately into a starting role with the lingering injury to Beverley. Despite an average performance of eight points on 33% 3PT shooting, Jackson’s fit with the team was a hot topic of discussion. This tweet from Kendrick Perkins pretty much sums up how the nay-sayers felt.
Full Strength Clippers
The next game after the Kings loss would be a rematch against a team that beat the Clippers by nearly 40 points earlier in the season, the young Memphis Grizzlies. Patrick Beverley was in the lineup. Paul George was in the lineup. In fact, for only the fifth time all season, the entire roster was available to play. This became apparent as the Clippers laid down what seemed like their best game of the season thus far. Five players reached double figures, two of them eclipsing the 20 point mark. No one had to play more than 25 minutes because the score was so lopsided. Marcus Morris Sr had a big night going for 13 points on 40% from down town. Everything seemed to be clicking for the team. The question was, as it has been all season, would it last?
Riding a Healthy Wave
Ever since dismantling the Grizzlies 124-97 to improve to 5-0 when the entire roster is healthy, the Clippers have not let their foot off the gas. They proceeded to take care of business against the Phoenix Suns behind yet another 20+ point outing from Kawhi Leonard. Jackson seemed to find his groove off the bench as he scored his Clippers’ career high 12 points on 67% shooting, 50% from long range. Marcus Morris continued to improve as well as he hit four triples on only eight attempts. He ended with a well-rounded stat line of 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block. Beverley seemed to be returning to form coming off of his injury as well, tallying 11 points on 67% shooting as well.
Coming into their contest with Denver, the Clippers sat one game behind the Nuggets for the number two in the West. Because of the circumstances, this game had the potential to be huge as far as playoff seeding. The Clippers came out swinging like they knew what was at stake. While nearly beating the Nuggets by 30 points, everyone got in on the act. Seven different Clippers reached double figures while George was the stand-alone 20+ point scorer. Reggie Jackson turned in his most well-rounded game as a Clipper, contributing 10 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and a steal. This peak performance is exactly what the team needs from Jackson off the bench.
The Clippers’ most recent game came against a depleted Sixers squad. However, anyone keeping up with this game wouldn’t know that Philly was without their best two players, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. This is probably because their newly proclaimed third-best player, Shake Milton, went OFF.
Milton scored a new career-high (college, G-League, or NBA) of 39 points on 7-9 shooting from 3-pointer range. In fact, Milton has been so hot recently, that he set the NBA record for consecutive 3-pointers made without a miss at 14 spanning three games. His hot streak alone kept the Sixers within spitting distance throughout the entire game, as the well-rounded Clippers barely held off the under-manned 76ers 136-130 at home. Nevertheless, the team is now 8-0 when their injury report is empty, a beautiful stat to hold heading into the final stretch of the season.
Clippers Playoff Matchup Projections
The Clippers are currently tied for the second seed in the Western Conference but could end up anywhere from 2-4 realistically. Technically, the team has not even clinched a playoff berth yet, but with the way things are trending, a top-four seed is likely.
This means the first-round matchups will likely include the Jazz, Thunder, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, or Blazers. For the sake of predicting, we are assuming the Clippers hold on to either the 2 or 3 seed and not much changes in the standings between now and April. This narrows down the potential field to likely the Thunder, Mavericks, Grizzlies, or Pelicans. We will detail these matchups in more depth in a later article soon to come!
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