Can the Clippers Rebound in Time for the Playoffs? – TechVerdant

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The month of February was not a good one for the Clippers. They went 6-5, which isn’t great for a team with championship aspirations. Furthermore, this cold streak included a number of high-profile losses against potential playoff opponents. Can the Clippers get back on track in time for the playoffs?

Clippers Suffer String of Disappointing Losses

Potential Clippers Playoff Problems

The 5 losses that the Clippers suffered in the month of February were all to teams in the playoff/play-in hunt. Arguably the most high-profile defeat was a February 12 matchup on primetime TV against the Minnesota T-Wolves. Both teams were at full strength with no major injuries. At the time, the T-Wolves were the #1 seed and the Clippers were the #3 seed, so it was viewed as a potential preview of a late-round playoff series. Unfortunately, the Clippers looked outclassed through the entire game. All three of the Clippers’ main stars, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, and Paul George, were held to under 20 points. It seemed that 3x DPOY Rudy Gobert just had their number and they couldn’t score. The 121-100 loss was disappointing, but not worrying on its own

10 days later, on February 22, the then-#3 seed Clippers faced the #2 seed Thunder. Once again, both teams were at full strength and the Clippers just weren’t good enough. Thunder superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went for 31 points, while no one on the Clippers scored more than 20 points. The Clippers were seemingly outclassed the entire game. The 129-107 loss only served to further fuel the fans’ fears of a flagging season.

The true most worrying loss was in a symbolically important matchup against the Clippers’ inter-arena rivals, the LA Lakers, on February 28. The Clippers led for 3 quarters and looked to have the game in the bag. Then, the Lakers had a 39-16 4th quarter and the Clippers collapsed. Even without George, this was a winnable game and the Clippers choked it away. This game also caused the Clippers to miss the “Phil Jackson contender rule“, which is 40 wins before 20 losses, as losing this game put the Clippers at 37-20. Regardless of whether that rule is real or not, this loss was a bad omen for the Clippers

Potential Causes of Clippers’ Woes

The first main cause is that franchise star George has been dealing with injury. He has been in and out of the lineup, missing games like the aforementioned Lakers game. The injury has been diagnosed as a meniscus irritation, George has already said that he expects to miss at least one end of the March 2-3 back-to-back against the T-Wolves and Bucks.

Beyond just George, key bench leader Russell Westbrook also suffered a fractured left hand in a March 1 win vs. the Washington Wizards. Clippers standout center Ivica Zubac has also been dealing with persistent illness. The Clippers have been dealing with injuries that have dulled the once-dominant Clippers lineup. The remaining non-injured players have to step up.

2 years ago, Leonard was injured during the 1st round of the playoffs, causing George and former Clipper standout Reggie “Big Government” Jackson to have to step up. They successfully did so, carrying the Clippers to their first conference finals appearance in franchise history. Now, Leonard must return the favor and keep the Clippers afloat while George deals with his knee injury.

The final cause has been bizarre lineup choices from coach Ty Lue. PJ Tucker registered zero minutes throughout the first half of the season, in which the Clippers were incredibly successful. After the all-star break, Tucker has seen vastly increased playing time, which has gone very poorly. Tucker was once a very good player, but at 38 years old and in his 18th NBA season, he is a liability on the court and Lue must stop giving him so many minutes.

Last Word on Clippers Playoff Chances

The Clippers were red-hot for most of the season before the All-Star break, but have recently seemed to come back to earth amid injuries and questionable lineup decisions. However, the season isn’t over. The Clippers are still the #4 seed in the Western Conference with a 38-20 record. They can recover from this cold streak and cement themselves as championship contenders going into the playoffs. However, players like Leonard, Daniel Theis, and Mason Plumlee must step up amid injuries to their teammates. The Clippers faithful have been starved for a championship for nearly 70 years. This can be the year if the Clippers can rebound going into the playoffs.

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