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LOS ANGELES – Take off 14 games and more than a month of basketball, and certain aspects of the game that typically come second-nature may not look as crisp as normal.

Head coach Doc Rivers said before Friday’s game and the return of Chris Paul, who came back a week earlier than initially anticipated from a torn left thumb ligament, ball-handling is typically the hardest trait to return when a player misses a significant amount of time.

Even for a player with the handles of Paul, as the ball bounced off his foot and out of bounds early against the Spurs, it appeared that thought rang true, and Paul agreed.

“Ball-handling, playing with a splint,” Paul said, as he began to list the most challenging parts of the game to get back, before stopping himself short as his competitiveness took over. “It’s no excuses. I’m going to figure it out. I’m cool.”

Paul, returning five weeks after the start of his initial six-to-eight-week recovery timeframe from surgery, finished with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists in the 105-97 loss to the Spurs, using mostly his non-injured right hand to do what he always does. He stripped the ball twice to come up with two steals, including one that led to a transition bucket for Blake Griffin as the Clippers tried to overcome a fourth-quarter deficit against the Spurs.

Rivers said there were times where Paul’s time off was obvious, much in the same way as Griffin’s first game back from an 18-game hiatus following his knee surgery earlier this year.

“We were moving, but we just weren’t really in sync,” Rivers said. “You kind of knew that would happen a little bit.”

But Paul and the Clippers still had plenty of chances to earn their third win of the season against the Spurs. They just couldn’t finish off the opportunities presented to them.

“We did miss open shots, but we still didn’t play good offense,” Rivers said.

Not that Griffin thought that was Paul’s doing.

Even while it might take time to, as Griffin put it, “re-familiarize” with a player, Griffin said Paul’s style makes it simple to adjust to his return.

“He’s pretty easy to play with,” Griffin said. “It came down to the fight in the second half. We had a stretch of maybe five minutes or so, I don’t know how long it was total, that we didn’t execute the things we need to execute.”

Kawhi Leonard picked up his third foul early in the third quarter, yet it was that quarter when the Clippers watched their lead dwindle until the Spurs chipped away enough that they led heading to the fourth.

When the Clippers worked their way close again in the fourth, an untimely turnover (the Clippers committed 12, which the Spurs turned into 20 points) or a missed 3-pointer (the Clippers went 7-for-23 behind the arc, and sharpshooter J.J. Redick went 2-for-8 from 3-point range) prevented them from getting close enough to threaten San Antonio’s late advantage.

The Clippers never got within a possession of the Spurs’ lead in the fourth.

“It felt good to get through the whole game,” Paul said. “But we couldn’t get stops.”

Paul said he came out unscathed, but all that matters to him is how the Clippers did as a team. He did his best not to think about his injured thumb, and he was hoping it would take no time to regroup as he worked his way back.

Even with the loss – the Clippers’ second straight following the All-Star break – and even with the Clippers having missed Paul and Griffin for 20-plus games apiece this season, the Clippers still find themselves going back and forth with the Jazz for fourth place in the Western Conference.

As they “re-familiarize” themselves with Paul, that’s not the worst place to be.

“I would take it,” Rivers said before the game. “Listen, you look at the injuries and our record, I think there’s not a coach in the league that wouldn’t take our record right now, so that’s been all good. Would’ve been nicer to have them, but I think and I’m hoping that all this will mean something great for us later.”

LOS ANGELES – The Clippers (35-23) had a chance to beat the Spurs (44-13) for the third time this season, but the momentum shifted late in the third quarter and the Clippers could never get it back, falling to San Antonio for the first time this season.

Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers’ 105-97 loss.

Quote of the Night: “It was tough to watch, because you could see it – you could see us out of rhythm, out of sync offensively… We did miss open shots, but we still didn’t play good offense.” – Head coach Doc Rivers

1) Chris Paul returns – Paul made his return to the court after missing 14 games recovering from surgery to repair a torn left thumb ligament, which he suffered Jan. 16 against the Thunder. Rivers said because it wasn’t a lower body injury, Paul has managed to stay “in pretty good shape,” able to run shortly after the surgery. He’s been back practicing since the Clippers returned from the All-Star break, and he felt good enough to go Friday night.

Rivers said ball-handling and timing are always the hardest things to get back after a long hiatus, and there were some elements of that, with Paul one time dribbling off his foot out of bounds. But Paul was also doing what he always does, with his active hands creating two steals to go with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.

2) Austin takes over early – Doc Rivers was asked before the game about the adjustment for Austin Rivers in his return to the bench, and he said “you never know” how a player will handle that, but Paul wanted to make sure Austin stayed aggressive. That wasn’t a problem Friday, with Austin scoring 15 points in his first 12 minutes off the bench, giving the Clippers a second-quarter lead and putting them in control at the time. Austin’s 20 points through three quarters made him the game’s leading scorer at the time. He finished with 23 of the Clippers’ 31 points off the bench.

3) Missed opportunities in defeat – After a late third-quarter Spurs surge, it was still anybody’s game heading to the fourth quarter. San Antonio stayed on the pedal, but the Clippers hung around. There were just too many missed opportunities to make a final push. In the first half, the Clippers didn’t score any points off the Spurs’ 10 turnovers. By game’s end, the Clippers scored just 11 points off the Spurs’ 15 turnovers, while the Spurs scored 20 points off the Clippers’ 12 turnovers.

Early in the third, Kawhi Leonard picked up his fifth foul, yet by the end of the quarter the Spurs still managed to take the lead. When the Clippers cut it close late, more turnovers and good looks from deep that didn’t go down prevented a fourth-quarter comeback.

4) Struggles from deep, rebounding – By halftime, both teams were shooting exactly 41.5 percent, but the Spurs led by going 7-for-14 from 3-point range. The Clippers did a better job protecting the 3-point line in the second half, but they couldn’t get going themselves from long range. J.J. Redick had a couple opportunities to give the Clippers a late spark on good looks from behind the arc, but finished 2-for-8 from 3-point range. The Clippers as a team went 7-for-23 from long distance and were outrebounded by 15.

5) Griffin in attack mode – As the Clippers tried to mount a late comeback, Blake Griffin continued to attack the rim, at one point resulting in a bleeding face on a drive into the lane. Griffin ran to the locker room, got taped up, then came back to the court for his free throws. Griffin scored 23 of his game-high 29 points in the second half, also adding nine rebounds and five assists and going 11-for-11 from the line.

What’s Next? – The Clippers host the Hornets on Sunday.

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Los Angeles Native Kid Ink Performed his new Street Single “Swish” Live at his hometown LA Clippers game last week.

 

During a timeout in the Clippers-Celtics Game, the TD Garden crowd rises as one to give Paul Pierce a standing ovation.

BOSTON — Paul Pierce was back in the starting lineup against his former team on Sunday as LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers gave him a chance to say farewell to Celtics fans.

Pierce, 39, hadn’t played since Dec. 31 and has appeared in just 12 games this season for the Clippers. The forward played the first 15 years of his career with the Celtics and is the franchise’s second-leading scorer behind John Havlicek.

Pierce scored the Clippers’ final points and his only points of Sunday’s game when he hit a 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining, to the delight of fans in attendance. The Celtics defeated the Clippers 107-102 behind Isaiah Thomas‘ game-high 28 points.

Pierce arrived at TD Garden in New England Patriots gear. Boston.com was among the media outlets to tweet a photo of his pregame attire.

Rivers said it was important for Pierce to start Sunday’s game, and his teammates agreed.

“I went to the team first and asked, and they looked at me like, ‘What a dumb question.’ But I thought it was the appropriate question for them,” Rivers said. “They wanted him to start, which I thought was great. Then I went to Paul and he was actually hesitant about it. He wasn’t sure if he should. Then he said, ‘OK.’ Then we made him practice yesterday, which is tough for him.”

Pierce, who has said he will retire after the season, had played only once since Christmas Day but appreciated the opportunity to start in Boston.

“It’s feels great. You know, I’m glad Doc was able to get me out there one last time, knowing that this would be my last game as a player in the Boston Garden,” Pierce said. “So it’s an honor. You know, [18] years ago today was my first game as a starter, and I’m ending that off in 2017 as a starter in the Boston Garden, ending my career, last game here on the same day, which is pretty ironic.

Paul Pierce said it was “an honor” to get the start for the Clippers in the final NBA game he will play in Boston. Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

“But my whole career, the way I got here, and how everything ended up, is pretty ironic, too. Being a Laker fan, beating the Lakers in the Finals, ending up the 10th pick, you know things just happen for a reason.”

Pierce got a big cheer when he came out for pregame warm-ups. The crowd was filled with fans wearing his No. 34 jersey — even more than those wearing Patriots jerseys on Super Bowl Sunday.

Celtics fans gave Pierce a loud ovation during introductions and then continued to chant, “Truth! Truth! Truth!” before introductions could continue.

Pierce played the first five scoreless minutes, missing his only attempt, to start the game. During the game’s first timeout, a tribute video ran recapping his time in Boston.

An emotional Pierce couldn’t fight back tears as the Garden gave him a standing ovation. A “Thank you, Paul!” chant continued as play resumed on the court.

ESPN’s Chris Forsberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

I think we can all agree, the best part of All-Star weekend has to be the Dunk Contest. It would also be fair to say that DeAndre Jordan is one of the more exciting LA Clippers players to watch. So, why not combine the two?

Admit it, we have all had those kinds of dreams. You know, the ones you normally don’t talk about? The dreams where DeAndre Jordan graces the Dunk Contest with his presence. No? I guess I’m the only one then—awkward. Well, his longstanding stipulation has always been that he has to be an All-Star before he’ll do the Dunk Contest.

“I just told them I wanted to see what happens,” Jordan said. “I’m not trying to disrespect them. But I want to be in the All-Star game as a player and not just as a dunker.”

 Let me be the first to say, it’s about damn time. DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers high-flying center, has made the All-Star team.
“I JUST TOLD THEM I WANTED TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS, I’M NOT TRYING TO DISRESPECT THEM. BUT I WANT TO BE IN THE ALL-STAR GAME AS A PLAYER AND NOT JUST AS A DUNKER.”
-DEANDRE JORDAN

DJ has recently admitted that he was at peace with the notion he may not have ever be an All-Star. He even booked a vacation to Hawaii for this year because he wasn’t sure he would make the cut. Luckily, for all of us Clippers fans, DJ made it.

Now, he has yet to confirm that he will participate, but the league has reached out to him. DJ joked earlier this week with reporters about his plans.

Should DJ take part in the event, he won’t have to face 2-time Dunk Champion, Zach LaVine, after Zach announced he wouldn’t compete. DJ would still have his hands full with last year’s runner up, Aaron Gordon.

Hopefully, DJ decides to participate. His decision either way should come soon though, being that All-Star weekend is right around the corner. I, for one, will keep my fingers crossed, and twitter feed up to date, waiting on Jordan’s decision. In the meantime, here are some of DeAndre Jordan’s more flashy dunks. Enjoy!

 

NOTES: The Clippers have won six of their last eight meetings with the Nuggets … The teams have split the season series, 1-1, so far … The Clippers’ seven game winning streak that was snapped tied for their longest to open a calendar year in franchise history … The Clippers are 2-6 this season when both Paul and Blake Griffin don’t play … Wesley Johnson returned Thursday following the birth of his child … The matchup in Denver is the first of a five-game road trip. Only one of the Clippers’ next 11 games will happen at home …

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING: “Our spirits definitely aren’t down. We know we didn’t execute down the stretch. Have to tighten things up and we’ll be OK. Looking to bounce back and not lose two in a row.” – DeAndre Jordan

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