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The Clippers are playing the long game at the expense of wins

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How is that affecting their place in the standings?

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Clippers went 2-2 this past week as they faced a bear of schedule, including two dates with the league-leading Jazz and a matchup with the red-hot Nets. LA finally welcomed back Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Nicolas Batum for the last two games. However, there is still a lot of rust to work through for the team’s stars.

In particular, George, who said Friday that he didn’t feel like he had 30 minutes in him (he played 27 that night against Utah) was pulled after 32:31 Sunday despite being the catalyst in the team’s fourth-quarter comeback. George said postgame, “I was ready to go, I wanted to keep going,” but the Clippers coaching staff elected to be cautious with their superstar as he continues to get his legs back underneath him, George’s six turnovers against the Nets a clear indicator of that rust.

The end game isn’t to beat Brooklyn during the regular season — it’s to be fresh during the postseason, and the Clippers were noticeably not so last year in the bubble. The Clippers have plenty of time to work towards that peak over the next forty games, and they’ve been steadily introducing new wrinkles in their development throughout, including more of their small lineup this past week. Even if they have had to sacrifice some victories in the process, this team is comfortable with the progress they have made thus far.


ESPN

This week: 2nd | Last week: 3rd

The Clippers started last week without Kawhi Leonard (leg contusion) and Paul George (swollen toe) before losing Nicolas Batum to a concussion. They finally got all three starters back on Friday and stopped a red-hot Jazz. But the Clippers continue to keep an eye on the big picture as they ease George back on a minutes restriction that kept him out of the final minutes of a tight loss to Brooklyn. At 22-10, the Clippers are still where they want to be — they continue to build chemistry and try to stay healthy. The Clippers’ defense needs to catch up to the offense and should get better as Leonard and George get back into the swing of things.

NBA.com

This week: 5th | Last week: 3rd

Down the stretch of their two weekend games, the Clippers played Marcus Morris at the five against Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Jordan. They spread the floor and went on big runs, a 13-2 run to take control against the Jazz on Friday and a 16-7 run to tie the game against the Nets on Sunday. In 36 minutes with Morris at the five alongside Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers have scored 114 points on just 84 offensive possessions. But they’ve been hurt on the glass (grabbing just 42% of available rebounds) in 64 total minutes with Morris at the five, and after they tied the score on Sunday, Jordan reached over Morris for what turned out to be the game-winning tip-in.

CBS Sports

This week: 3rd | Last week: 2nd

The Clippers pulled off an impressive victory over the Heat without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, then split a pair of games after the duo came back against the Jazz and the Nets. The loss to a Kevin Durant-less Brooklyn team on Sunday was not without controversy, as Kawhi Leonard’s late, potentially game-tying layup was wiped off due to an offensive foul. Hopefully the Clippers stay healthy so we can see exactly what they’re capable of over the next few weeks.

Bleacher Report

This week: 4th | Last week: 6th

It was a big week for the Clippers. Without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, they were able to beat the Heat but not the Jazz in their first game of the miniseries. They got back their big guns for the second game of the miniseries and put an end to Utah’s winning streak but couldn’t stop the Nets’ run.

After missing seven games, Paul George averaged 24.5 points on 54.5 percent shooting from the field, six boards and six dimes in his two games back. The Clippers had to hold him out of the last three minutes of their game against the Nets because of his minutes restriction, but he has come back to the court without missing a beat.

The Athletic

This week: 3rd | Last week: 2nd

We know the Clippers will get Kawhi Leonard in as a starter, and Paul George will be a lock as a reserve selection. PG’s season is pretty historic so far, and he’s found himself in some rare company in terms of volume scoring and efficiency. Going into this season, we’d seen 10 campaigns in NBA history end with at least 24 points per game and a true shooting of 65 percent or better. But only four of those seasons (Steph Curry twice, Kevin Durant, Amar’e Stoudemire) happened in the last 30 years. George’s 24.4 points per game and 66.1 percent true shooting has him ready to kick that door open to become the fifth. This is the bounce-back season the Clippers were hoping for.

Will we see George throw himself into the 3-point shooting contest with that 47.1 percent accuracy from deep? Is Marcus Morris at 50 percent worthy of a spot in the contest if possible?

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