The Kawhi Leonard-less Los Angeles Clippers fell to the Khris Middleton-less Milwaukee Bucks 119-106.
Tyronn Lue insisted that Leonard’s absence was purely precautionary as they continue to manage his recovery from an ACL injury, while Middleton was on the second night of a back-to-back having helped his team beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. Both rosters were also without their new additions, though that harmed the home side more with Eric Gordon, Bones Hyland and Mason Plumlee limited to a courtside appearance.
Here are the takeaways…
No Boardman, no pay
Ivica Zubac will have been pleased to see some help at the center position arrive before the NBA Trade Deadline, but the Clippers still need to do more to help their big man out. While he had the challenge of guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo and carrying some of the scoring burden with Kawhi out, his team got killed on the glass. Brook Lopez was one of the biggest beneficiaries for the Bucks, as he had 15 of his squad’s 49 rebounds, limiting their opponent to just three offensive boards.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 35 points, but the true backbreaker for Clippers was what Brook Lopez did:— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) February 11, 2023
22 points, 9/13 FGs, 15 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 blocks. 4/6 3s.
He was phenomenal on both ends of floor and a big reason LA had only 3 offensive rebounds, tied for season-low.
Full health or ill health, our guys have to do a better job of crashing the offensive boards and not just expecting their center to do all of the dirty work. The fact that their starting power forward had zero rebounds is pretty damning, especially given the fact that he’s increasingly being seen as a weak spot on the roster.
‘Plumdog Millionaire’ will help with that, but his new teammates will still have to do their fair share…
PG without Kawhi
Speaking of fair share, and having talked about the need for urgency just a few weeks back, it’s time for Paul George to start carrying more of the weight of this team again. Whenever he has sat this season and Kawhi has been the lone star, the Klaw has more than held his own and put his teammates on his back. That’s what a star should do and PG knows that more than most, but it’s time for him to kick it up a gear this year and take his own advice.
Against the Bucks, George wasn’t even the Clippers’ leading scorer. He was an inefficient 8/23 from the field, just 3/11 from deep, and he didn’t get to the free-throw line once. It’s time to be more aggressive, not settle for jumpers and put your body on the line in the paint.
Hopefully he’ll be ready to ramp it up by the time the postseason rolls around, because the competition has only got stronger…
I mentioned the Clippers upcoming restful run in my bigger picture takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks loss, but this now-rare second consecutive defeat marked the end of a mammoth run for the team. They’ve now got three days off to rest up and hopefully get a practice session in for the sake of the new faces on the roster.
Bucks beat Clippers 119-106 to sweep Clippers. First back-to-back losses for Clippers since middle of January.— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) February 11, 2023
Bucks were on 0 days rest, but Clippers were the team that looked worn. This ends stretch of 16 games in 29 days.
They will return after 3 days off to host Warriors.
It would be nice to see them make the most of Steph Curry’s absence against the Golden State Warriors before they then face the Phoenix Suns without newly-acquired star Kevin Durant, who is out until after All-Star weekend.
Given that those two teams immediately surround them in the standings, beating both represents a good opportunity to boost their seeding before the break.