Clippers hope to finish strong, get James Harden on track – Orange County Register

The Clippers return home from their final long road trip of the season having shed their “soft” label and picked up wins in three of four games.

But what awaits them now that they’re back at Arena for six of their final seven regular-season games, a stretch that begins with Thursday’s game against the league-leading Denver Nuggets? Western Conference?

Can they continue to play with the grit and defensive mindedness they showed in wins over the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets for their first three-game winning streak since February 5?

Or will they succumb to the potholes they struggled to avoid in front of their fans?

The Clippers (47-28) are 25-15 overall on the road this season and are an NBA-best 19-7 away from home since January. Only two teams in the top four in each conference have better road records.

At home, they are 22-13 after losing their last five games on their home court. Aside from sleeping in their own bed, playing at home hasn’t really been beneficial, and they will play their remaining seven matches in just 11 days with two straight sets.

“It’s definitely a (game) we should be ready for,” All-Star Paul George said of the matchup against the Nuggets in the Clippers’ return home. “It’s a game we need to establish who we are.”

George added that a game against the reigning NBA champion Nuggets (53-23), who will be without All-Star guard Jamal Murray (sprained ankle), will not only help solidify their state of defensive mind refreshed, but will also provide a measure of what they need. to improve in the final days of the season.

“Absolutely. Those are the ones you look forward to the most, especially with the playoffs coming up,” George said. “A game against a really good team, we have an opportunity to gauge that we’re headed to the playoffs playoffs and close out the season.”

The Clippers got a glimpse of where they are during the recent four-game road trip. After beating the Philadelphia 76ers, they closed out the Orlando Magic two nights later after squandering two double-digit leads in the second half. Then on Sunday, the Clippers held off the Charlotte Hornets despite giving up 23 3-point shots.

“Getting a win the right way is the most important thing, but we still have a lot of things to build on and improve on,” coach Tyronn Lue said after beating Charlotte. “We will achieve victory. The Philly and Orlando games were two good games that we needed – two tough wins, tough wins on the road. And then tonight, we have to continue even if we didn’t do a good job defensively.

The 109-95 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night, a game in which Kawhi Leonard did not play, showed that the Clippers cannot rely solely on the two-time NBA Finals MVP. Leonard, who averages 23.7 points. 6.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists missed the game with right knee soreness and his status for Thursday’s game was in question.

The Clippers still have three other future Hall of Famers, including James Harden, who hasn’t been himself lately. For the second game in a row, the former league MVP made just one shot. He scored six points on 1-of-7 shooting in 31 minutes against the Kings, with his only basket being a 3-pointer in the second quarter.

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