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Kawhi Leonard, Clippers doomed by one glaring blunder in Game 2

The loudest narrative back in 2019, when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joined forces on the Los Angeles Clippers, was how their wing defenders would terrorize the league. But after Luka Doncic ripped the Clippers to shreds in round one, we’re seeing more of the same against Donovan Mitchell in Game 2.

The Clippers eventually put Leonard on Doncic more often in the final games of the first round series, which made it extremely difficult for the Mavs star to produce in closing situations. But it seems LA is once again reluctant to deploy their best defenders at full force to open the series.

Despite Tyronn Lue having both 2-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and 4-time All-Defensive Team inclusion Paul George on the floor, the Clippers coach went with Patrick Beverley to try and stymy Donovan Mitchell.

Why did Clippers have Patrick Beverley close Game 2?

Clippers, Patrick Beverley, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George

While it’s arguable if PatBev really did bother Mitchell, who finished with 37 points on 51.7% shooting from the field, what’s not up for debate is Beverley’s negative impact on LA’s late-game offense. The Clippers guard has been downright putrid in this postseason in terms of scoring the basketball. He’s shot 30.2% from the field and 25% from three-point range.

Beverley’s ineffectiveness was on full display at the game’s most critical stretch. After Reggie Jackson gave the Clippers life in the 4th quarter, they found themselves down by a single point with five and change left in the contest. That’s when the Jazz decided that Leonard, George, and the red-hot Jackson weren’t going to be the ones to beat them.

Marcus Morris missed a wide open three-pointer, but LA got the rebound and had Beverley clank one hard off the rim as well. The Jazz were able to capitalize with a Rudy Gobert three-point play on the other end. The next two offensive possessions were another Morris missed three, then a miserable floater attempt from Beverley against the reigning DPOY Gobert in the paint.

Check out the sordid sequence extended, via ClutchPoints’ Tomer Azarly:

It’s true that some of the looks were indeed open. But you’d rather have much more dynamic offensive options on the court there than Beverley. At the very least, you’d want someone who isn’t making just one out of every four attempts from beyond the arc. When the clock is ticking and your stars are clamped up, he’s not the guy you want trying to create a play.

Luke Kennard scored 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep in Game 1. He played just 10 minutes in Game 2. Terance Mann hasn’t even compiled 10 minutes through the first two games, after making a positive impact for the Clippers in certain stretches during the Mavs series.

If Beverley was in there for his defense, then what’s the use of having an all-world tandem of wing stoppers as your star players? The Clippers seem put themselves into these situations by not utilizing their players at their maximum capacity. They were able to dig themselves out of this hole in the first round, but it might be too late this time around.