2. Patrick Beverley
Through the first two games against Dallas, Beverley has scored 13 points over 40 minutes of action with three assists and one steal. When he’s been on the floor, the Clippers have been outscored by 24 points. He is surely trying to get back into form after missing time to injuries this season. But his presence on the defensive end, and maybe just as importantly the edge he can bring as an agitator, has been absent.
Luka Doncic is obviously a tough cover, and the Clippers don’t have anyone this side of Kawhi Leonard or George that can matchup with him 1-on-1. But any idea of a much-needed better plan on the defensive end, centered on Doncic and extending from there, has to have Beverley in better form.
1. Paul George/Kawhi Leonard have to lead the Clippers
A bad first half in Game 1 had “Pandemic P” trending, as a nod to George’s “Playoff P” moniker after last season’s dismal showing. But 10 of his 23 points in that game came in the fourth quarter, as Leonard faded. Then George had 28 points in Game 2, on better overall shooting (12-for-22) with 12 rebounds and six assists.
But George only went 1-for-7 from beyond the arc in Game 2, and he’s 3-for-15 from 3-point range over the first two games after being a 41 percent 3-point shooter during the regular season. The Clippers also need him to assert his presence defensively, especially when matched up on Doncic. It’s worth noting he scored nine points in the fourth quarter of Game 2, even with a couple low-lights, as Leonard now totaling seven shot attempts in the series’ two fourth quarters
A co-No. 1 nod here goes to Leonard. Of his 41 points in Game 2, 30 came in the first half. In the aforementioned Game 1 fourth-quarter disappearance, he posted two points. Terance Mann had more shot attempts than Leonard in the fourth quarter of Game 2 (4-to-3). That lack of assertiveness won’t cut in the playoffs and practically leaves George as the one to take the brunt of the criticism.
The way the rest of this series goes will drive a major narrative on Leonard choosing the Clippers. And what seems like a looming first-round playoff exit (possibly a very quick one) may open the door for him to exercise his opt-out and leave this offseason.