The loss to the Suns on Tuesday stung for the Clippers, but it shouldn’t take away from the larger purpose of the seeding games. The Clippers aren’t concerned with their record or jostling for playoff positioning. They have two primary objectives before the postseason starts: to get healthy and hopefully get some reps together with their complete roster.
The Clippers were already down a man before their game against Phoenix due to Montrezl Harrell’s continued absence from the team, and suffered another setback with Patrick Beverley’s calf injury, which limited the starting point guard to eight minutes.
Doc Rivers said that Beverley’s injury didn’t appear to be serious, but that the team was “going to be very cautious” moving forward. Unfortunately, that means the Clippers are missing out on even more time to figure out who they are during this NBA restart.
When asked what his team needs right now, Rivers said on a Zoom call before practice Wednesday, “All the players in the gym. Number one, I just want all our guys working on execution, try to get our stuff together. We’re here, we’re almost all here. But that’s the most important thing we all need, is everybody in the gym at the same time.”
Remember that the Clippers are 25-10 when both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George play, which is a .714 winning percentage. That record improves to 22-7 when both superstars play with Beverley, a .759 winning percentage. Per Pivot Analysis, in those 29 games, the Clippers’ effective field-goal percentage is 54.6%, and their net rating is +10.1, compared to 53.2% and +6.5 overall.
The Clippers have been waiting to have their whole team together for most of the season, and it’s fair to wonder if lack of availability is simply a bug of this roster. The eight-game stretch when the Clippers went 7-1 heading into the hiatus is the only time that we have seen this team at full strength, and it was tantalizing, but maybe that’s the only glimpse we’ll get.
We know that the Clippers can be world-beaters when their full complement of stars plays together, but they still need some time to get used to that team again after five months away. Leonard gave a measured response when asked if the Clippers could just flip the switch once everyone comes back.
“I mean, you really never know,” Leonard said. “There’s going to be a time where you make a turnaround as a team. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. All we can do is just keep using these games as a learning experience, [make] less mistakes next game, give a better effort, more energy. That’s pretty much it. Just got to keep fighting.”
Rivers seems more optimistic about the team’s potential shining through eventually.
“I told our team a while ago, you know we’re a team when you see it,” Rivers said. “It’s sometimes hard to explain, but you know it. We’re still working on becoming that.”