The 2019-20 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The season is tentatively set to return on July 30 and NBA.com's writers are taking an updated look at each of the league's 30 teams.
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Record: 44-20, No. 2 in Western Conference
Season summary: The team with the second-best record in the Western Conference only had its rotation intact for about the time it takes to read this sentence. Paul George missed the first 11 games. Kawhi Leonard didn’t play both games in back-to-backs. Patrick Beverley sat for a spell, while Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson arrived late as midseason acquisitions. And still, the Clippers never really lost any significant real estate in the standings. That’s the benefit of having an All-Star starter in Kawhi and a solid No. 2 man in George along with a pair of 18-point scorers off the bench in Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams. Despite sitting behind the Lakers in the standings, the Clippers and coach Doc Rivers were comforted by the understanding that this club still had room to improve. The hope was that once Morris and Jackson became comfortable with the system and their teammates, the Clippers would soar and begin to peak right in time for the playoffs.
Breakout player: His season fluctuated at times, often wildly, yet Landry Shamet often finds himself on the floor in crucial moments. It all depends on his confidence, especially with the jumper while left open. He is shooting 39.2% on 3-pointers and averaging 9.7 points per game. Shamet was solid for the Clippers in their surprising first-round effort last season against the Warriors, so there are little questions about his big-game moxie. The key was consistency with his shot and intensity on defense, both of which began to improve as the season progressed.
Statement win: On Christmas Day, the Clippers took all the presents meant for their crosstown enemy and did so without any guilt. They refused to be intimidated by any historical prestige advantage the Lakers held, and certainly not the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. And so, it was a rather decisive five-point victory. It was punctuated by Beverley slapping the ball off LeBron’s hands in the final seconds. Leonard was a wrecking ball with 35 points and 12 rebounds while upstaging LeBron. With the glare of a nation watching and taking notice, the Clippers won plenty of admirers that day.
Most compelling game: It was unsightly how the Clippers went to Houston on March 5 and embarrassed the Rockets, dismantling the “small-ball” club that until then had begun to make believers out of some basketball skeptics. It was a rout, really, even though the final score had just a 15-point difference. Houston made only seven of 42 shots from deep and James Harden was done after three quarters. The Clippers were convincing despite a poor shooting night from George. Kawhi dropped 25 points and the Clippers left town with a big pelt.
Memorable moments: George missed the first 11 games following offseason shoulder surgery but announced his arrival in loud fashion. Not only did he get 33 points and nine rebounds in his first game as a Clipper, but followed up with 37 two nights later in a 49-point rout of Atlanta. Then after scoring 18 in a win over his former team, the Thunder, George had a big splash against the Celtics with 25 in an overtime win. For those games, he averaged 28.3 ppg on 53% shooting, and for the month of November, the Clippers won seven of the nine games they played with George back and healthy.
Team MVP: He may have changed teams but not roles; once again Kawhi is the most indispensable player for his club, paying immediate dividends for the Clippers after his triumphant one-year stopover in Toronto. Leonard leads the club in points, rebounds and steals and commands so much attention that others get open looks. His defense remains sharp, and his chemistry with George is problem-free.
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