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Clippers, playoff spot clinched, eye Patrick Beverley return

1620084245 Clippers playoff spot clinched eye Patrick Beverley return
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Even when he was hurt, Clippers guard Patrick Beverley couldn’t be kept away from the court.

During the last six weeks, as he was healthy enough for just two games because of a reinjured knee and fractured hand, Beverley spent many a timeout inside Staples Center chatting with officials near his team’s huddle. Sometimes he approached with the air of a lawyer litigating a non-call. Often the conversations ended with laughter, Beverley smiling behind a gaiter.

Those conversations could resume Tuesday when the Clippers host Toronto, with the possibility Beverley will have the opportunity to stay on the court.

After Beverley played 5-on-5 Sunday — a step that is typically one of the last before a player is cleared for a full return — the team was going to see “how he’s feeling with his hand and the strength of it, if it’s swollen or not,” coach Tyronn Lue said before a practice Monday morning.

Lue said last week that the team hoped Beverley could return within the next few games.

Upon his return, Beverley, who averages 8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists, won’t represent a one-man panacea for all that has led to a three-game losing streak that ties the Clippers’ longest this season. Despite that, the team became the third in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff berth Sunday because of the Lakers’ loss. But as guard Reggie Jackson outlined the ways he believed the Clippers (43-22) must improve with seven games remaining, they lined up with Beverley’s strengths.

Jackson pointed to limiting teams’ transition points, improving defensive rebounding and spacing the floor offensively to give Kawhi Leonard and Paul George more room to operate with the ball.

With Beverley, a three-time NBA All-Defensive player, on the court, opponents have scored 5.9 fastbreak points per game; when he is off the court, that increases to 9.2. The Clippers’ defensive rebounding percentage rises from slightly below their season average when he is off the court to a percentage point better when he plays; he is considered one of the best rebounders among the NBA’s smaller guards, particularly on the offensive glass. By making a career-high 41.6% of his three-pointers, he has hurt defenders who shade a step too close toward the Clippers’ leading scorers.

“From Pat, that’s the one thing I’ve learned, there are no plays, no days off, he’s always about getting better,” Jackson said. “… I know it’s been an up and down, tough season for him with injuries and everything going on, and all that he’s wanted to come in and accomplish this year and we still have a chance to accomplish that great feats as a team.

“But he’s been a great leader for us, he’s been staying engaged, he’s been staying here, and you know, that he’s always with us. We’re just hoping that he gets back here very soon, as soon as possible, we want him back fully 100%, but as soon as possible, so we can build some continuity, get rolling and hit the ground running and get ready for these playoffs.”

As a backup whose usage largely has been tethered to Beverley’s availability, Jackson could see his role reduced should Beverley regain his starting role, unless Lue decides to stick with a lineup featuring Jackson, Leonard, George, center Ivica Zubac and forward Marcus Morris that has outscored opponents by 13.6 points per 100 possessions. That group has played together 151 minutes. In the 25 minutes that Beverley has played alongside the other four members of that lineup, instead of Jackson, the Clippers’ net rating is 12.2.

“We know each other, so we can pick up on it quickly, even though we might have a few moments where we sputter here and there just because we are switching lineups,” Jackson said. “But we’ve been pretty vocal. Everybody’s talking to each other and then that makes it easy not just for myself but for everybody with these lineup changes.”

Reintegrating key players, finally healthy, back into the lineup in the season’s final weeks is a tricky exercise. But whether because Leonard returned Saturday after missing nine of his last 10 games, or because of Beverley’s pending return, Lue was in an upbeat mood Monday, on his birthday.

“Coming from where I come from and things didn’t look great coming up as a kid, and just to be where I’m at today, year 44, you know I’ve come a long way,” Lue said. “So I’m just excited. You have two choices: Get old or die young. And I’d rather get old.”

UP NEXT

VS. TORONTO

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday.

On the air: TV: Bally Sports SoCal, TNT; Radio: 570, 1330

Update: Toronto and the Clippers haven’t played each other in 511 days. Their next meeting will require only a seven-day break — the teams finish their two-game season series May 11 in the Raptors’ temporary Tampa, Fla., home. … Raptors center Chris Boucher is unavailable because of a left knee sprain. The team didn’t have guard Gary Trent Jr. (leg contusion), OG Anunoby (strained calf) or Fred VanVleet (hip) available Sunday yet ended a three-game losing streak by beating the Lakers.





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