Patrick Beverley is back and Clippers end three-game skid with win over Raptors

1620192064 Patrick Beverley is back and Clippers end three game skid with
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But for the black wrap covering the surgically repaired fourth metacarpal on his left hand, Patrick Beverley looked little different Tuesday night from the version who had last played in a game that counted back on April11.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said before tipoff against the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center that Beverley’s playing time would be capped as a precaution in his return after a 12-game absence. The fiery veteran guard responded by looking for any opportunity to operate at full speed, as long as possible, treating his minutes limit like a racecar driver told to drive only a few miles.

Receiving an ovation from the arena’s limited-capacity crowd upon entering the game with three minutes left in the first quarter, Beverley burst over screens on defense, knocked down three of his first four shots, and recorded one assist and one steal — in eight first-half minutes alone.

“Ain’t no turnoff for me,” Beverley said during a postgame videoconference. “I play one way: I play hard as f— and that’s it.”

With Beverley in the lineup, albeit off the bench for now, the Clippers are beginning to look more like their former selves, with the team’s litany of absences down to center Serge Ibaka (back) and reserve Amir Coffey (health and safety protocols). But as Beverley knows, being back isn’t the same as being at full speed.

Hampered by 10 first-half turnovers and traps and blitzes by Toronto that rarely allowed Kawhi Leonard to attack offensively, all while getting used to new rotations, the Clippers in a 105-100 victory looked more often stuck than able to take advantage of their fresh legs after playing just five games in the last 13 days. The win ended a three-game losing streak.

It took until the fourth quarter for the switch to occur. In the last 5minutes 39seconds, the Clippers flipped a six-point deficit into a five-point win, with Paul George’s 22 points, equaled by Marcus Morris, outweighing the team’s 18 total turnovers.

Leonard added 13 points but on just six shots. Beverley finished with his eight points, playing 15minutes.

“We got guys coming off injury. We’re trying to put it all together,” Beverley said. “We got guys in one unit and other guys in this unit, Kawhi second game back, my first game back, so we’re just trying to put it all together.”

If anything, there could be more nights like this in the coming days. Their playoff berth already clinched, and virtually assured of either the Western Conference’s third or fourth seed, Clippers plan to use their final two weeks of the regular season to work out the kinks after so much time lost to injuries.

One of the first experiments tested Tuesday was how Beverley would play alongside Rajon Rondo for the first time. The Clippers led by two when they checked in and trailed by two when Beverley left the court first, early in the second quarter. That deficit would only grow before halftime as the Clippers committed seven turnovers and failed to generate a single free-throw attempt in the second quarter.

After showing signs of life with a 17-7 run to end the third quarter tied, the Clippers continued their uneven play into the fourth. DeMarcus Cousins allowed a defensive rebound to be ripped away from him underneath Toronto’s basket, and the Raptors’ next miss was nearly grabbed for an offensive rebound even though three Clippers surrounded Toronto’s lone rebounder.

Even with Toronto’s Kyle Lowry on the sideline, two nights after he dropped 37 points in a win against the Lakers, the Raptors were able to poke holes in a Clippers defense that had allowed 120.6 points per 100 possessions during its three previous losses, a rating that ranked just 26th in the NBA.

But in a most encouraging sign on a night when the Clippers already had one, in Beverley’s presence, George blocked VanVleet’s shot with 2:17 to play, then knocked down a three-pointer on the next possession for a three-point Clippers lead. Just 36 seconds later, as Pascal Siakam barged into the lane, George stood in his path and drew a charge.

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