Clippers Notes: Harden, Game 5 Loss, Leonard, Coffey

Clippers guard James Harden drew praise for his strong play in the first four games of the team’s first-round series with Dallas.

However, in Wednesday’s 30-point home loss, the 34-year-old turned in the latest in a lengthy history of dreadful playoff performances, going 2-of-12 from the field and scoring just seven points in 33 minutes, per Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times. Harden did not speak to the media after the game, notes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.

As Hernandez writes, Harden wasn’t the only Clipper who played poorly, with Paul George (15 points on 4-of-13 shooting) and Russell Westbrook (six points on 2-of-11 shooting) struggling as well. But L.A. obviously needs more from Harden, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, if it hopes to advance.

According to Ben Golliver of The Washington Post (Twitter link), Harden now has 13 playoff games shooting 20% or worse on 10-plus shot attempts, which is the most in NBA history since the league implemented the three-pointer in 1979/80. Westbrook is third on the list with nine.

The Clippers now trail the series 3-2 and are facing a potential elimination game in Dallas on Friday.

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • Prior to Wednesday’s Game 5, head coach Tyronn Lue said the Clippers were still uncertain about when Kawhi Leonard might be able to return to action, tweets Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints. “We’re not sure when he’s coming back,” Lue said. “It’s a day-to-day thing. When he’s feeling good and medical says he’s cleared to go, then that’s when we’ll go. Right now, we’re just focused on tonight.” Leonard, who has been battling right knee inflammation and clearly wasn’t 100% in his two postseason appearances, appears unlikely to be ready for Game 6, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter video link via FanDuelTV’s Run It Back show).
  • Despite the disappointing effort in Game 5, Lue noted the Clips have a recent history of winning on the Mavs’ home floor in the playoffs, including Game 4, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “We’ve shown that past two playoff series,” Lue said of being able to win in Dallas. “We were down 3-2 [in 2021]. We didn’t play our best game and we understand that. I think we all understand that collectively. So we’ll be better for Game 6.”
  • While the Clippers are certainly capable of winning two straight games to advance to the second round, the Mavericks have played with much more urgency to this point in the series and look hungry to advance, according to Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group. That doesn’t bode well for L.A.’s chances in Game 6 in Dallas, says Swanson.
  • He hasn’t posted impressive numbers in the series, but Lue said wing Amir Coffey has gained confidence starting in place of Leonard, per Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. “He’s always been able to attack in transition. He can make a shot,” Lue said. “… He can defend. He can defend multiple positions. So, just his confidence, I think his growth, understanding the NBA game, understanding what we need from him on a nightly basis, and he’s grown, and he’s gotten better and better. So, it’s just good to see that he could finally be in the rotation and get consistent minutes too.”
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