December 7, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Takeaways from Clippers’ loss to the Nets: Patrick Beverley is missed on defense

Five takeaways from the Clippers’ 124-120 defeat to Brooklyn on Tuesday, a loss that was only their second since Jan. 8:

1. As well as the Clippers have functioned in Patrick Beverley’s absence, Tuesday was a reminder of just how much is lost without him on the floor.

Better than perhaps even expected, Reggie Jackson has filled Beverley’s void offensively in the last five games, after the starting guard injured his right knee against Oklahoma City. Defensively, however, there’s no comparison between him and the guard who made the league’s all-defense team last season. The Clippers are allowing nine more points per 100 possessions when Beverley sits than when he plays.

Asked what he’d learned about the Clippers’ improved defense after facing a Brooklyn offense that has led the league in scoring since James Harden (23 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds Tuesday) arrived in mid-January to team up with Kevin Durant (28 points) and Kyrie Irving (39), Clippers forward Nicolas Batum focused on the team’s missing starter.

“One thing for sure: That we miss Pat Bev tonight,” Batum said. “We forget about that guy a lot I think. It would be huge for us tonight so Pat Bev come back, please. We know long term that we have to adjust. Those guys [on Brooklyn], they’re great players. It was a good game, I think people enjoyed it tonight and for us even we’ll meet them one day — we’ll meet them in two weeks, two or three weeks, I think, come to L.A. We’ll have to make adjustment and when we have Pat Bev back and be another good game for both teams.”

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue has yet to discuss a timetable in his conversations with Beverley.

“I just check on him every other day, just to make sure he’s OK,” Lue said. “Check on his spirits, make sure you’re doing good, but I don’t want to really ask when you’re gonna be back because sometimes we tend to get guys rushing back and they’re not really ready.”

2. Lue wished the Clippers had played faster and his emphasis on pace was a factor in benching reserve guard Luke Kennard.

Kennard had played nearly 23 minutes per game this season before receiving a season-low four minutes, all in the first half, in the loss to the Nets. Lue cited the team’s pace, which had ranked among the slowest in the league to start the season and had improved only to 21st in the Clippers’ last 11 games, for his reasoning.

“We want to go with Lou [Williams] a little bit more, a little bit spark, a little bit more pace,” Lue said. “Just trying to get more pace and, you know, make these guys defend. And I thought we did a decent job. We took care of the basketball, we had eight turnovers, we had 20 more shots than they did. So, you know, usually a game like that, we usually win. So, you know, hats off to those guys, they played well.”

The decision came two days after Lue played Kennard a then-season-low 11 minutes Sunday because he didn’t like that the guard, who signed a four-year extension worth $56 million guaranteed in December, turned down an early opportunity to shoot against the Knicks. The Clippers have constantly told Kennard, a 40% three-point shooter who is coming off an injury-shortened final season in Detroit, to fire away when given the chance.

Kennard wasn’t the only contributor whose minutes disappeared. After moving into the starting lineup last week amid Kawhi Leonard and Paul George’s absences, second-year guard Terance Mann didn’t play against the Nets as Lue tightened the rotation to what felt like a playoff-preview eight-man group.

3. Why was George not in the game during the last 4 minutes 34 seconds of the second quarter, as Brooklyn began its comeback?

When George checked out, the Clippers led by four, a cushion that would grow to 11 just one minute later after back-to-back three-pointers by Marcus Morris. By halftime, however, that lead was down to just one as the Clippers missed six of their last seven shots. The stretch was critical in Brooklyn’s rally. Could George, who had made two of his four shots in the quarter, have made a difference? Lue judged that it wouldn’t have been worth the risk of George earning a third foul, after he’d earned his second six minutes earlier.

“We usually bring him back at the three-minute mark, but it wasn’t worth getting that third foul, especially the way this team draws fouls with James and Kyrie and KD,” said Lue, who also said George’s minutes — he’d played 15 in the first half — were also a factor.

4. Batum was supposed to play a maximum of 25 minutes. He played 38.

“That was the game, a game where I would go in when coach called my name and just go,” said Batum, who had missed Sunday’s win against the Knicks because of an injured groin. Asked whether he would be available to play Wednesday in Cleveland, in the final stop of a six-game trip, Batum said he would wait until the morning to determine that.

Despite coming back from injury, Batum’s value to the starting lineup was clear from the start, making four of his first five shots to score 10 of his 21 points in the first half.

5. A reminder: For all of the intensity of Tuesday’s marquee game, and the stakes riding on the Clippers’ 16-6 start, there is a bigger picture at play.

You can forgive Batum if his mind has been elsewhere during this 10-day trip. His second child, a daughter, was born three days before the trip began. Before his role as a switchable defender and 45% three-point shooter, he is a father and husband first. Keeping his focus on the trip, when his family is at home, has been “tough,” he said.

“My wife has done a good job at home with two kids, and worst part is you’ll be on the phone sometimes FaceTiming and two kids start crying at the same time and you’re very useless, can’t do anything,” Batum said. “So that’s maybe the worst part. But she’s doing a great job so I just can’t wait to play tomorrow, try to get the win against the Cavs and go home and be a family again.”