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Clippers beat Thunder, but will Montrezl Harrell play in playoff opener?

Clippers center Montrezl Harrell yells after getting called for a foul.
Center Montrezl Harrell is expected to be eligible to play in the Clippers’ playoff opener next week.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

As hopeful as the Clippers were that Montrezl Harrell would watch their final seeding game of the NBA restart in person Friday near Orlando, Fla., the center instead remained in quarantine, where he will stay longer than previously expected.

The NBA is requiring that Harrell quarantine for seven days, according to two people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The timing means that Harrell, a finalist for the league’s sixth man of the year award who returned to the Disney World campus Aug. 10, is expected to be cleared Monday and be eligible for that night’s first-round playoff opener between the second-seeded Clippers and seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks.

Harrell wasn’t the only key Clippers contributor acting as an observer during the team’s 107-103 overtime victory Friday against Oklahoma City. With the Clippers’ playoff matchup already locked, starters including Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Marcus Morris did not play and starting center Ivica Zubac played only 11 minutes.

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Harrell arrived at Disney World with the Clippers on July 8 and departed nine days later because of an ailing grandmother. Later posts on social media indicated that his grandmother had died, with Harrell saying he would dedicate the rest of his season to her.

After Harrell returned to the league’s campus earlier this week, coach Doc Rivers said he was hopeful the center would be able to clear quarantine in time to get some playing time before the postseason began. Such optimism indicated Harrell would be undergoing a four-day quarantine, which is an option for players who have been tested while off campus and returned negative results.

Instead, Harrell will remain isolated throughout the weekend. He is expected to clear quarantine in time for tipoff of Game 1 against the Mavericks, but his readiness for the start of the postseason is in question. Harrell posted several videos to social media showing himself working out while away, and the team delivered a stationary exercise bike and dumbbells to aid his in-room workouts during quarantine.

The Brooklyn Nets have accomplished a lot under interim coach Jacque Vaughn, but things would change quickly if Gregg Popovich becomes their coach.

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“I’m just gonna throw him in there,” Rivers said Friday. “He’s earned that right. The challenge will be just how ready he is. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a guy who hasn’t played in eight games or whatever, hasn’t had any practice, and we’re just gonna throw him out on the floor in a playoff game. And we’re hoping that at this point. There’s no guarantee that will even happen, so we’ll see.”

With Harrell gone, the Clippers never had their full 15-man roster available at any point during the eight-game seeding round. One silver lining, Rivers said, was that the absence allowed for more opportunity to play JaMychal Green at center.

“We need to work on that because he’s such a floor spacer,” Rivers said. “We got way more work on that than we thought, but we actually liked it.”

The Clippers (49-23) finished with the sixth-most victories in franchise history despite the pandemic-shortened season.

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Clippers rookie Terance Mann set career highs with 25 points and 14 rebounds and added nine assists. He was well aware how close he was to a triple-double.

“The whole bench,” he said, “was making it clear to me.”

The Clippers' Terance Mann drives against the Thunder on Aug. 14, 2020.
The Clippers’ Terance Mann set career highs with 25 points and 14 rebounds and added nine assists in Friday’s 107-103 overtime win over Oklahoma City.
(Mike Ehrmann / Pool photo via Associated Press)

Fellow rookie Amir Coffey scored 21 points in 50 minutes.

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Former Clippers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, who were sent to Oklahoma City 13 months ago in the trade that acquired George, scored 13 and three points, respectively, during abbreviated appearances.

Three observations on the Clippers

— With reserves playing in unfamiliar rotations, the game was sloppy. Oklahoma City turned 20 Clippers turnovers into 27 points. The Clippers turned 16 Thunder turnovers into 30 points.

— Center Joakim Noah, who had played 11 minutes in the Clippers’ last six games, played 28 minutes.

— The Clippers finished the regular season with 895 three-pointers, a franchise-record set in only 72 games.

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Greif reported from Los Angeles.

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers highlights


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