Clippers clobber Warriors, but put brakes on Patrick Beverley
Raising his voice and flexing his arms like a man pleading for help, Stephen Curry shook with frustration in front of his seated Golden State teammates Thursday inside Staples Center.
The star was in the middle of a brutal shooting performance, and his team on its way to a 130-104 rout at the hands of the Clippers to open the second half of the NBA season. But as comfortable as the Clippers’ margin made their night seem, they weren’t without their own troubles.
Starting guard Patrick Beverley left after playing just 11 minutes and was later ruled out from returning because of right knee soreness. Yet to be decided was whether Beverley will join the team on its upcoming three-game trip, coach Tyronn Lue said.
This isn’t the first time the knee has sidelined Beverley. In 2017, he underwent arthroscopic surgery for torn lateral meniscus and also had a microfracture procedure on the knee before spending seven months in recovery. After soreness in the same knee cost Beverley eight games this season, he said he’d “rather it happen now than playoffs,” on Feb. 10, in his first game back.
Any missed time without Beverley is worrisome for the Clippers who, starting with Thursday’s matchup with the Warriors, hoped to use their final 34 games after the All-Star break building continuity before entering the postseason.
The Los Angeles Clippers open the second half of the season against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday with plenty more to accomplish.
Beverley’s statistics with the Clippers aren’t eye-popping — 8.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists with 42% three-point shooting — but his presence has consistently energized the roster in ways others have struggled to replicate. A member of the league’s all-defense team last season, Beverley is also the Clippers’ most vocal communicator; the team is just 20-16 without the 6-foot-1 guard in the last two seasons.
“I love basketball with a passion, a very strong passion, wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t have the game,” he said Feb. 14. “When I’m out there I feel like, you know, I’m outside on the streets of Chicago and you know all the pain that I got aside in the past, I’m able to unleash it on the court.”
The Warriors’ two best offensive options are Curry’s shooting (41.1% from deep) and Draymond Green’s passing (10.7 assists per game since February). The Clippers (25-14) took away both. Green had recorded 10 or more assists in four of his last five games but finished with more turnovers (three) than assists (two). He failed to record an assist in a first quarter since Jan. 27 while Lou Williams and Paul George both intercepted passes by jumping into passing lanes.
Curry, meanwhile, made just one of his seven shots, and none of his four three-pointers, during his first 12 minutes and finished one of eight from deep on his way to 14 points.
Lue has often been critical of his team’s slow starts and after leading 12-3, the Clippers found themselves trailing 23-22 with a minute left in the first quarter.
But that finish belied Kawhi Leonard’s production, as he ended the first quarter scoring his team’s final 14 points. He finished with 28 points, with nine rebounds, in 31 minutes.
The Clippers were just as hot to open the second half, opening on a 13-2 run. This time they made sure their lead, which ballooned to as much as 39 in the third quarter, was safe.
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Ibaka gets offensive
How often will the Clippers be able to receive this kind of performance from starting center Serge Ibaka in the season’s second half? He opened by scoring nine of his team’s first 14 points — outscoring Golden State 9-5 alone in that stretch — and had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Ibaka’s shooting accuracy was inconsistent during the first two months. In his final five games before the All-Star break, he scored in double figures three consecutive times before scoring seven points combined in his last two matchups.
The Clippers must hope the more offensively active version remains as the postseason nears.
The Batum factor
As the Warriors unraveled, it was clear they could have used the multipositional versatility and experience of Nicolas Batum this season.
Golden State pursued Batum hard in November after he was waived in Charlotte, coach Steve Kerr said.
“I thought that was probably the best signing of the entire offseason in the NBA when you consider the fact that the Clippers got him for minimum and here he is starting on a championship caliber team,” Kerr said.
Getting to the line
The Clippers were furious about non-calls early in the game, particularly on drives by George and Leonard they believed deserved free throws. Even still, they had 21 free throws by the end of the third quarter, more attempts than they’d been able to generate in six of their last seven games, having taken advantage of Golden State’s inability to defend without fouling.
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