Clippers cap ‘great overall team road trip’ in good spirits – Orange County Register


After 10 days, six games, four states and hours of PlayStation or Pokemon to pass the time while confined in their hotel rooms, the Clippers finally headed home Wednesday night, having survived – thrived, even – on their most challenging road trip of the season.

They went 4-2, a satisfying tally, they said, considering, well, *waves hands* everything going on.

“You know what?” Paul George surmised after scoring 36 points and making a season-high eight 3-pointers in the Clippers’ road trip-closing victory in Cleveland on Wednesday. “It was just a great overall team road trip.”

When they embarked on the daunting East Coast swing on Jan. 25, it was without three starters: stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, as well as Patrick Beverley, their emotional, vocal leader.

There was no clear expectation about when they’d be back, either, with Leonard and George going through the league’s purposefully opaque coronavirus-related health and safety protocols and the Clippers’ tendency to limit descriptions of injuries – such as Beverley’s – to terms such as “knee soreness.”

And when, without them, the Clippers couldn’t keep up with the Atlanta Hawks in a 108-99 loss in their first game of the trip on Jan. 26, it was fair to wonder whether Coach Tyronn Lue’s squad was on the precipice of a precarious tipping point in its so-far, so-successful season.

If anything, though, the Clippers tipped the scale further in their favor, rebounding for a spirited 109-105 comeback victory in Miami.

Still down two superstars, the supporting characters led the charge back from an 18-point, first-quarter deficit. Six of them scored in double digits, including Marcus Morris Sr., who had 10 clutch fourth-quarter points. Seven-footer Ivica Zubac threw himself on the court in pursuit of loose balls. And they rallied around Reggie Jackson after he mistakenly called a timeout the Clippers didn’t have.

That blunder resulted in a technical foul that kept Miami in the game in the final few seconds – but in no ill will toward Jackson, who went from exclusively watching games before Beverley’s injury to starting in his place, averaging 12.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and only 1.3 turnovers in 30.7 minutes per game on the trip.

“(To) be able to come together and get that win, I think it was huge for us,” Lue said, looking back on the six-game swing Wednesday night. “Those are the type of wins you need, momentum-builders throughout the course of the season. That was a huge step forward for us.”

Said Leonard, who was impressed from afar: “They sucked it up, came in Miami, got a win.”

He and George caught up with the Clippers in Orlando, where they overwhelmed the Magic before handling an early tip-off – 10 a.m. in L.A. – in a victory against a young, tough New York Knicks team that had no answer in the first half for … Patrick Patterson.

With Nicolas Batum sidelined for that game with a groin contusion, Patterson made the most of his only appearance on the trip – canning all five shots he took.

The Clippers lost their high-profile showdown against the star-studded Brooklyn Nets a couple of nights later, a 124-120 defeat might have stung more if it weren’t so closely contested and fun to be a part of, and if they hadn’t been able to bounce back the next night in Cleveland.

“You know, we dropped one last night at Brooklyn but we came and bounced back,” Leonard said. “Pretty tough trip, with those back-to-backs and then basically having a Los Angeles 10 a.m game against a young Knick team, winning that game.

“I think we did a pretty good job.”

“We” included just about everyone – Beverley, too, injured at home, his energy translating as best it could via texts and tweets. In his absence, the famously stoic Leonard said, yes, he sought to raise his voice to help direct the action: “We got a pretty quiet group, especially while Pat’s gone right now, so just want to make sure that we know what’s going to happen.”

And they grew closer, too, the Clippers said, as they weathered the trials both built into the schedule and those that were not.

“We built a lot of just team chemistry,” George said. “We played some pretty good teams on this trip. Each team’s been playing well, whether they’re a young team or a team that’s been together. Or a really talented team. I thought we really just played well over the whole trip.

“Out of six games, to go 4-2, we’ll take that. Obviously, things could’ve been different, we could’ve played a little better in Brooklyn. Had we been full strength in Atlanta, we could have had an even better trip. But we battled. We played hard. We competed.”

And they had enough, happy to come to the end of this roadie.

Especially Batum – who with his family welcomed baby Nayeli into the world on Jan. 22, just a couple days before the trip commenced – shared his sentiments in a Wednesday night tweet: “Good win to end this trip! Time to go back home!”

EARLY ALL-STAR VOTING

While the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and the Lakers’ LeBron James lead their respective conferences in the first fan returns of NBA All-Star Voting, the Clippers’ Leonard (1,285,777 tallies) and George (549,280) currently stand third and fifth among Western Conference frontcourt vote-getters.

The league and the players association reportedly reached an agreement on Thursday that they’ll hold the All-Star Game on March 7 in Atlanta, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

CLIPPERS OF ONTARIO IN ORLANDO

The Agua Caliente Clippers – the franchise’s G League affiliate – announced its roster for the 2021 NBA G League Season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

Included: Rookie center Daniel Oturu (as an assignment player); Amir Coffey (two-way player); Ky Bowman, Malik Fitts and Jordan Ford (affiliate players who played preseason games for the Clippers this year). Also: Tyrone Wallace, who played 92 games for the NBA’s Clippers between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, averaging 5.2 points and 2.2 rebounds. The 26-year-old guard is among the returning rights players who will participate, along with JJ Avila, Donte Grantham, James Palmer Jr. and Emanuel Terry. Jay Scrubb, the Clippers’ injured two-way player, is on the roster but not with the team in Orlando.

Agua Caliente will be led by new head coach Paul Hewitt, whose bench will include assistants Natalie Nakase, Chris Holguin, Darryl LaBarrie and Doug Martin.





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