Former Clippers teammate energizes team to big win over Rockets

Houston Rockets guard Dennis Schroder shoots as Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. defends.
Houston Rockets guard Dennis Schroder shoots as Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. defends during the first half Thursday at Arena.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
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Wearing a sly smile and an Ivica Zubac jersey over his cream sweatshirt that draped well past his waist, Patrick Beverley walked to his sideline seat Thursday inside Arena.

The smile was the face of a man who’d pulled a surprise. Beverley said he had not told his former Clippers teammates that he would be in attendance, one night after his Minnesota Timberwolves played their final game before the NBA’s All-Star break. The jersey reflected a bond that began three years earlier between the fiery Chicago guard and a 7-footer from a small town on the Croatia-Bosnia & Herzegovina border.

As he did when he wore a Clippers jersey, and shorts, too, Beverley quickly drew attention. When Zubac scored on a deft turnaround on the opening possession, Beverley shot out of his chair and clapped while looking like a proud older brother. Clippers guard Reggie Jackson chatted up his former teammate during the earliest breaks in play. Team owner Steve Ballmer, who earlier this month shared a Timberwolves tweet asking for retweets “if you love @patbev21,” drifted over for a conversation between the first and second quarters.


The timing of Beverley’s surprise visit was impeccable. Facing one of the lowliest teams in the league, in the last game standing between this weary Clippers roster and the break they cannot wait to begin, was the exact recipe for a letdown that the Clippers could not afford with a postseason berth hardly guaranteed with 21 games remaining. In other words, it was the kind of circumstance where Beverley’s no-off-switch intensity was particularly valuable during his four seasons with the team.

Beverley “was a big part of this culture,” Terance Mann said. “Just seeing him there meant a lot for us. Even though we’re in the race in the playoffs [with Minnesota] it’s pretty cool.”

Clippers can’t repeat their impressive win from the other night and fall short against the Suns 103-96 on Tuesday in Phoenix.

Feb. 15, 2022

The Clippers, however, needed no outside energy in a 142-111 runaway in which they set a season-high for points. Two days before competing in the three-point contest in Cleveland, guard Luke Kennard was afforded plenty of extra practice while making eight of nine three-pointers, one make away from tying a franchise record shared by Caron Butler, in 2012, and JJ Redick, in 2016.

“Any kind of space [coaches] want me to get it off and I thought that I kind of had the mindset tonight of just doing that,” Kennard said. “Last game going into the break, let’s try to work on some of the things that I saw the last few games.”

Kennard’s six threes set his career-high for a half and he celebrated by shaking his left shooting hand, as if to put out a fire. He finished with 25 points. And it wasn’t Kennard alone. The Clippers made 59% of their first-half shots to score a season-high 71 points before halftime, by which time starting guard Reggie Jackson had needed only 19 minutes to record only his fourth double-double as a Clipper. He finished with 12 points and 14 assists, his most since 2017, Mann scored 20 points, his third time in four games with at least that many, and in the third quarter alone Marcus Morris Sr. scored 17 of his 27 points to allow Clippers starters an early start to their break, with reserves playing the entire final quarter.

Terance Mann had another strong game with 25 points as the Clippers defeated the Golden State Warriors 119-104 on Monday night at Arena.

Feb. 14, 2022

Coach Tyronn Lue said he was wary of Houston’s youthful energy before tipoff, and Houston’s pace could be relentless. So was their carelessness.


Missing guards Kevin Porter Jr. and Eric Gordon, the Rockets (15-43) already shaky defense could not keep up after 19 turnovers led to 36 Clippers points. Zubac had approached Beverley with a smile at halftime and left their catch-up with a slap of hands, and within minutes had his career-high 16th double-double of the season, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Zubac said he and Beverley still talk after nearly every game, a mixture of encouragement and smack talk, and it was during their chat Tuesday that Zubac told Beverley to stop by when he was in Los Angeles.

“That’s my guy, that’s my brother,” Zubac said. “He’s still on me about stuff I do in a game.”

Beverley wasn’t the only courtside spectator of note.

Sandwiched between Nicolas Batum and Norman Powell, whose left foot remains in a walking boot a week after fracturing a bone in a toe, Paul George spent the second half clapping as the gulf between the teams stretched to 28 points before the third quarter finished, when the Clippers had already scored 107 points — more than their season scoring average that ranks 26th in the NBA.

George is one week away from an MRI on the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, an injury that has sidelined him since Dec. 22. The Clippers remain hopeful their leading scorer can return, though Lue would not comment on a TNT report earlier this week that George would likely return in early March after a two-week ramp-up should his MRI return clean.

In the immediate aftermath of George’s injury, some expectations surrounding the team’s playoff hopes were lowered. Powell’s injury only three games after his acquisition in a trade from Portland was another damaging hit. And yet the Clippers reach the break 30-31 and in eighth place in the conference. The Clippers, who have not been above .500 since Jan. 3, could reach that number soon after the break — two more games against the Rockets remain.


Beverley had seen enough with the Clippers leading by 32. From across the court he bowed toward his former teammates, then reached the tunnel where he hugged Clippers consultant Jerry West. Maybe he’ll see them again in mid-April: In the current standings, the Clippers and Timberwolves would meet in the league’s play-in tournament.