Clippers look to bounce back in Game 3 with or without Patrick Beverley
The lasting image of Kawhi Leonard’s 2019 postseason was the most valuable player of the NBA Finals raising the championship trophy for Toronto in an emptying Oakland arena. Yet it began not with celebration, but a need for introspection, after Leonard and the top-seeded Raptors lost to eighth-seeded Orlando in the opening game of their first-round series.
More than a year later, that moment returned to the current news cycle this week after the top seed in each conference opened the postseason with a loss for the first time since 2003.
The Raptors responded last season by winning the next four games to claim the series comfortably, and they trailed 2-0 in the conference finals to Milwaukee before rattling off four consecutive victories to advance to the NBA Finals. Leonard knows from experience how to respond after a postseason setback. The Clippers could heed his advice after Wednesday’s 127-114 loss to Dallas in Game 2 evened their first-round series at one game apiece.
“Every moment is a learning moment, to learn from mistakes, even learn from what you did good,” Leonard said Wednesday. “I mean, yeah, right now it’s a loss. We got to get through that adversity, step up for the test.”
The test that continues with Game 3 on Friday won’t be any easier if starting guard Patrick Beverley cannot play because of the left calf strain that sidelined him Wednesday. Coach Doc Rivers said Thursday that Beverley’s availability probably will be determined closer to tipoff.
Speaking before practice Thursday, Rivers said he did not anticipate Beverley would participate in the workout. When practice began inside a ballroom at Disney World’s Coronado Springs resort, Beverley arrived looking like an observer, carrying two bags of cheesy popcorn and a sports drink.
This unprecedented postseason tournament has produced several surprises, including the Clippers’ loss to Dallas on Wednesday night.
The Clippers are 11-11 this season when Beverley does not play. He first injured the calf Aug. 4 and missed the next five games before returning for Game 1 of the first-round series.
“He’s one of our anchors on the defensive end, gives us a different look, gives us so much energy, plays at a passionate level, energy is contagious,” guard Lou Williams said after Wednesday’s loss. “I thought we missed that [in Game 2]. I felt like we didn’t pick it up until the second half. I think some of the tangible things, some of the small things he does for this basketball team was missing.”
Though Beverley’s absence removed an experienced perimeter defender from the rotation, his reliable shooting was perhaps the greater loss during a defeat in which the Clippers struggled to convert open shots.
Beverley has made 37% of his three-pointers this season when the closest defender is between four and six feet away, and 41% when the defender is six or more feet away, according to league tracking data. The Clippers made only 19 of their 53 uncontested shots (35.8%) Wednesday, according to Second Spectrum data. The Mavericks, meanwhile, made 29 of their 58 uncontested shots.
Beverley “is a very important player, guarding, energy, being a point guard, calling sets, seeing what’s on the floor,” Leonard said Wednesday. “I mean, everybody plays a big role. Being in and out of the lineup, it can affect the chemistry. We should be a team that a man go down, a man steps up. That’s what we got to do.”
Boban brings it
Dallas center Boban Marjanovic became the first player in playoff history to record at least 10 points and seven rebounds in 10 or fewer minutes when he had 13 and 9, respectively. No one was less surprised by his quick impact than the Clippers.
The 7-foot-4 Marjanovic frequently scored more points than minutes played throughout 56 career games with the Clippers — he once had 19 points and eight rebounds in fewer than 14 minutes — until he was traded in February 2019.
The Mavericks inserted Marjanovic for an offensive mismatch against 6-foot-7 reserve center Montrezl Harrell, against whom Marjanovic made four field goals in less than three minutes. The Clippers’ offense failed to take advantage of Marjanovic’s slow lateral quickness because of poor spacing, Rivers said.
“You’ve just got to know how to attack him on both ends,” Rivers said. “But if you’re going to let him catch it deep [in the paint], there ain’t much you’re going to do because you’re not going to grow — once he gets it, you’re shorter than him, it’s guaranteed.”
Greif reported from Los Angeles. Staff writer Tania Ganguli contributed reporting from Orlando, Fla.
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