The Los Angeles Clippers will play no part in this year's playoffs, but coach Ty Lue still believes they "can be special" next season.

The Clippers finished eighth in the West to enter the Play-In tournament, only to fall short of the postseason with consecutive defeats.

After losing 109-104 to the Minnesota Timberwolves with Paul George in the lineup, the seven-time All-Star was in health and safety protocols for Friday's make-or-break 105-101 defeat at home to the New Orleans Pelicans.

George's absence was a cruel blow for the Clippers, not that playing without him is a new experience.

Injury limited George to 31 games this year – in which he averaged a team-leading 24.3 points – but that was 31 more games than the team got out of two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who is still recovering from a partial ACL tear in last season's playoff run.

Even Norman Powell, signed in February, suffered a setback and could play only limited minutes in a bench role after returning ahead of the play-in games.

Since the Clippers signed George and Leonard ahead of the 2019-20 season, they have played together in only 104 games across the regular season and playoffs.

The Clippers have a 72-32 (.692) record in those games, versus 83-71 (.539) in the 154 when one of their superstars is missing.

For that reason, Lue can retain some optimism as they hope to have Leonard back for 2022-23.

"We get our main guys back, we can be dangerous," he said after the Pelicans game. "Health is part of it. We've got to stay healthy, continue to work.

"When you get Kawhi back, a top-five player, PG, a perennial All-Star, your team changes tremendously.

"Guys who have taken on bigger roles this year, who have never been in this position before, they can kind of fall back into their original roles.

"We could be very different with those two guys back and healthy. We can be special."

The Pelicans have themselves missed a big name this year, with former first overall pick Zion Williamson joining Leonard in sitting out the entire season to date.

In his stead, C.J. McCollum and, particularly in the play-in tournament, Brandon Ingram have stepped up to lead the Pelicans into a first-round series against title favourites the Phoenix Suns.

Ingram has averaged 18.5 points per game for his career and 22.7 in the regular season this year but 28.5 across play-in wins over the San Antonio Spurs and the Clippers.

His 30 led the team on Friday, prompting high praise from coach Willie Green.

"Brandon Ingram is the truth," Green said. "He just brought it. He had that look in his eye from the time we got on the plane. Shootaround, he's been locked in. He has been waiting for this moment, for this type of moment."

Paul George has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols and will not feature for the Los Angeles Clippers against the New Orleans Pelicans, according to reports.

George spent three months out earlier this season due to a serious elbow injury but returned at the end of March to help the Clippers push for a playoff berth.

They did not quite seal a guaranteed postseason spot but face the Pelicans on Friday in the Western Conference's play-in game.

The Clippers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first game of the play-in tournament but get a second shot against the Pelicans. However, they will be without their talisman George.

George scored a game-high 34 points in the defeat to Minnesota yet will sit out as his teammates aim to secure a playoff game against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the news, with his colleague Ohm Youngmisuk stating that Lawrence Frank, the president of basketball operations for the Clippers, had told media that George had tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

George averaged 24.3 points per game for the Clippers across the regular season, more than any of his teammates.

After the loss to the Timberwolves, George told reporters: "It's win or go home.

"Obviously, [if] we don't win, we go home. I could care less who we play. The mindset is we have to win regardless. There's no pep talk, X's and O's. We've got to win. We've got to win if we want to continue our season."

George has carried a heavy burden this season in the absence of Kawhi Leonard who has not featured at all this season due to injury, though there is hope he may return for the playoffs should the Clippers progress. 

Anthony Edwards ensured the Minnesota Timberwolves did not pay the price for Karl-Anthony Towns' night to forget against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Three-time All-Star Towns fouled out of the seven-eight play-in game in the West on Tuesday.

Having made just three field goals and given up four turnovers along with his six fouls, Towns had a miserable plus/minus of -14 as he exited the fourth quarter.

But the seven-point lead the Clippers held at that point was subsequently overturned – in no small part due to the performance of former first overall pick Edwards.

The second-year wing finished with 30 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, in a 109-104 T-Wolves win.

Edwards faced the media alongside Patrick Beverley afterwards, and his team-mate interrupted when the 20-year-old was asked about his work on offense.

"No one can guard him. I've been telling him that all year," Beverley said. "I don't care who plays him. I've seen the best defensive guys. I'm one of the best defensive guys on Earth.

"No one can guard him, and I just keep preaching that, preaching that to him, and he's been doing it all season, so credit to him, credit to his hard work, credit to his patience.

"Obviously we have Karl-Anthony Towns, who we feature a lot, so credit to his patience at a young age, understanding the game, being patient, understanding when to attack.

"KAT fouled out, him and D'Lo [D'Angelo Russell] took over the game. Our young core, man, those three guys, man, we're going to be here for a while.

"So, I'm very excited. I didn't mean to interrupt his questions, but I see the boy, he puts in a lot of work, fellas... ladies, too. He puts in a lot of work.

"One of the first guys in the beginning of the year in the gym. It's time to go home, he's the last one in, he comes at night. He brings his dog in there, he's in there.

"So, you've got to give a lot of credit. This is our star and this is his moment. He deserves all of it. This is his moment. My bad."

Beverley could be forgiven for being a little excited, having beaten his former team. He spent four years on the Clippers before joining the T-Wolves this season.

"I wanted this so bad," he said. "I wanted this one so bad."

His message to the Clippers now? "Take their a** home. Long flight to LA, take y'all a** home.

"It's deeper than that for me. I gave my blood and sweat and tears to that organisation. You guys know the story. Blood, sweat and tears, to just be written off like that, 'oh, he's injury prone, he's old', this, this, that, that.

"To be able to come here, play them in a play-in, beat their a**, there's no other feeling, man, no other feeling."

Despite Beverley's apparent ill feeling towards the Clippers, former team-mate Paul George said he "loves" and "misses" his "contagious" antics.

"You need energy guys like that," George said, although Clippers coach Ty Lue was disappointed with the way Beverley was able to get under his team's skin.

"He did a good job, especially in that second half, of just defending, getting into guys, irritating guys like he always does," Lue said.

"He's a big reason why this team is successful this year. I just think the mentality he brought over here has changed the team.

"[You've] just got to be able to keep composure, you can't let it get to you. I thought at times he did. That's what he does.

"He's been with us here forever. We knew that coming into the game. We didn't handle it well, but whatever."

The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 in the first game of the NBA Play-In Tournament on Tuesday.

The Nets are now the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, confirming a playoff matchup with the second seed Boston Celtics.

Kyrie Irving made 10 straight attempts on the way to 34 points and 12 assists, but Kevin Durant took over in the second half with 25 points and 11 assists, as well as two steals and three blocks.

The Nets led by as much as 22 points at one stage, but it was on the back of Durant and Irving starting off hot. The Cavs managed to hang in there and cut it down to single digits with Darius Garland's free-throws and triple following Goran Dragic's flagrant foul.

Garland finished with 34 points on 13-of-24 shooting, but Caris LeVert and Lauri Markkanen experienced a poor shooting night, combining for 25 points but on nine-of-26 attempts from the floor.

The Cavs will play the winner of Wednesday's matchup between the Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks, for a chance to take on the Miami Heat in a seven-game series.

Timberwolves win through to face Grizzlies

The Minnesota Timberwolves reached the playoffs for the second time since 2004 with a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Timberwolves, who lost All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns who fouled out early in the fourth quarter, finished with a 26-11 run to secure victory, which means they will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.

Anthony Edwards (30 points with five three-pointers and five rebounds) and D'Angelo Russell (29 points and six assists) starred offensively, while the relentless Patrick Beverley was excellent against his former side with 11 rebounds.

Paul George kept the Clippers in the contest with 34 points including six three-pointers with seven rebounds and five assists.

The Clippers will next face the winner of the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs' play-in game for a shot at the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles Clippers wing Norman Powell feels his team are a threat in this year's playoffs – and Kawhi Leonard is looking strong.

Powell returned in style from two months on the sideline, scoring 24 points off the bench in the Clippers' 113-109 home win against the Phoenix Suns.

The 2019 champion with the Toronto Raptors suffered a broken foot in an early-February matchup against the Dallas Mavericks but showed no ill effects as he scored six-of-10 field-goal attempts, including going three-of-four from long range, and nine-of-10 from the free throw line.

Despite Clippers star Leonard missing the entire season so far with his recovery from a torn ACL and co-star Paul George only playing 29 games, Los Angeles are somehow 40-40 through 80 games and locked into the Western Conference eight seed.

Speaking with ESPN, Powell said it was a successful return from injury.

"The foot has been feeling good," he said. "The medical staff wanted to give me a few test games, stay-ready games leading up to the game tonight, seeing how it would respond to the extra workload. 

"It was feeling great. Tonight it feels great... I thought it was a good first game after being out for two months."

Powell went on to speak about the threat his side poses in a postseason setting.

"I think we can be really dangerous," he said. "Paul George drives a lot of attention on the floor, and when me and him and [Marcus Morris Sr.] and Reggie [Jackson] are all on the floor, we've got so many weapons.

"I just think we have weapons at every position, and I can take the pressure off those guys if need be, being a ball-handler as well. 

"It reminds me of that 2019 [Raptors] team. We were able to do that with Pascal [Siakam], with Marc [Gasol], with Serge [Ibaka], Kawhi, Danny [Green], Kyle [Lowry], me, Fred [VanVleet]. 

"What we had, we were able to give them different lineups throughout the course of the game, whatever the game is dictating, to go big, defense, with length."

While George's return from a long-term elbow injury has already given the Clippers a punchers' chance, Powell gave an update on Leonard, who would completely change the team's expectations if he was to declare himself fit for the playoffs.

"I've just [been] asking [Leonard] how he feels, where his head is at," he said.

"He feels good. Seeing him being able to work out, put some shots up, things like that, I think his rehab is trending in the right direction. 

"As you know, and everybody else, you are not going to get too much information out of Kawhi. They keep everything [under] wraps, but I know he is feeling good and his rehab is progressing."

Paul George called on the inspiration of his "idol" Kobe Bryant after returning from injury to score 34 points as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Utah Jazz at the Crypto.com Arena.

George had not played since a win at the Sacramento Kings just before Christmas, missing the last 43 games, but he became the first player in NBA history to score over 30 points on his return to action after having missed his team's previous 30 or more games.

The 31-year-old had suffered a torn ligament in his right elbow, but showed no signs of rustiness as he top-scored for the Clippers in the 121-115 win on Tuesday.

After the game, George credited the late Bryant, who experienced numerous injury layoffs during a highly-decorated career.

"Just having an idol like Kobe Bryant," George said. "He played through stuff like this and I always hold myself to a high standard.

"At the end of the day, when I'm finished I want to look at my career, say I gave everything I had. I wanted to help my guys.

"I didn't want to leave them out here hanging for the rest of the season. I felt good. So you know, it was alright to come back.

"I feel good. There's no pain."

Clippers assistant coach Brian Shaw was involved in George's rehab, giving him running drills that the player acknowledged helped his recovery and prepared him for his return.

"Unnecessary running, but it paid off," a smiling George said. "I trusted him. I've got to shout out to the get ready crew, I've got to shout out those guys for getting me ready to play. They battled. They tested me in practices. And it prepared me for this."

George sank six of his nine three-point attempts against the Jazz, as well as managing six assists and two rebounds.

Head coach Tyronn Lue was understandably pleased to see his star man back on the court, saying post-game: "I was like, 'OK, he's good, he's ready.'

"It's a big morale boost to have him back. Guys were getting worn down and tired. We needed that."

Paul George has given the Los Angeles Clippers a lift with his return to practice on Thursday for the first time since December.

The Clippers have seen their season wrecked by injuries but have still managed to hover around .500, entering Thursday's games eighth in the West with a 36-38 record.

They are set to finish the regular season in that position, securing a place in the play-in tournament – an impressive achievement given the absence of key players.

Kawhi Leonard is yet to play in 2021-22 due to the partial tear of the ACL in his right knee that curtailed his playoff campaign last year.

George carried the Clippers in his stead, averaging 24.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals until he tore a ligament in his right elbow late last year.

A trade for Norm Powell sought to breathe new life into the Clippers' season, yet he lasted just three games – scoring 21.0 points per game – before fracturing a bone in his left foot.

The team's competitive results have given the trio time to recover, though, and now George is back in the mix, cleared for practice even if he remains out on gameday.

"He is doing good," coach Ty Lue said on Thursday. "He hasn't felt any pain, so that is a positive thing.

"He is just working on his conditioning and just making sure he can continue to go through the minimal contact without having any issue. So as of right now, it hasn't been a problem."

Norman Powell ended up on the losing side in his Los Angeles Clippers debut but showed exactly what his new team can expect from him moving forward.

Powell joined the Clippers last week in a five-player trade with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Fellow two-way wing Robert Covington headed to LA with Powell, while the Blazers received Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson and a 2025 second-round draft pick.

Portland look to be building for the future, and the Clippers are too – to an extent.

With Paul George and Kawhi Leonard out injured and uncertain to return this year, a 2021-22 title challenge appears to be off the cards. The Clippers are eighth in the West.

Moving forward into next season, however, with two superstars returning, both Powell and Covington should improve the team.

Powell's Clippers bow suggested as much, as he scored 28 points from the bench in Sunday's 137-113 defeat to defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

"Literally for all my career, I have been in every single role on the team," Powell said afterwards.

"[I have been] the guy fighting and scratching trying to get into the rotation, being in a rotation, being taken out of a rotation, playing alongside Kyle [Lowry] and DeMar [DeRozan], playing alongside Kyle and Kawhi, playing off of them [in Toronto].

"So, I think I can fit perfectly in here, with PG and Kawhi."

The 28-year-old, who signed a five-year, $90million deal last August, is scoring a career-high 18.9 points per game this year.

Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said: "We never thought it was realistic for us to get a player like Norm Powell for a team that won't have salary cap space for a long, long, long time.

"It's really, really hard to get players like Norm, who are under a long-term deal, who are in their prime.

"Norm's ability as a three-level scorer – the fact that when he's playing off the ball, he's such a prolific catch-and-shoot player – really, really, complements Kawhi and PG."

Covington, who had 13 points in his debut, added: "[I am] beyond excited.

"[The trade] is going to make us dynamic – more dynamic than what we already are – and it's going to be scary defensively."

The Los Angeles Clippers are uncertain if injured star pair Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will return this season.

Two-time NBA Finals MVP Leonard has been out since June with a torn right ACL which forced him out of last season's playoffs.

George has missed the Clippers' past 22 games, having been sidelined with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right shooting elbow since December 22.

The Clippers made the 2020-21 Conference Finals but are 27-27 this season, with injuries taking their toll.

Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank conceded he was uncertain whether 30-year-old small forward Leonard would return this season.

"I think the best answer is we don't know," Frank said. "He grinds every single day. He works. His focus is on his rehab.

"No one knows. He doesn't know. But all you can do is, just every day, continue to control what you can control and see how he responds."

Clippers head coach Ty Lue had alarmingly mentioned on Thursday that they "know Kawhi's probably not gonna come back," but he moved to clarify that comment.

"Hope is stronger than fear," Lue said. "So I'm hoping that these two guys can come back. But you never know."

Seven-time All-Star George will undergo an MRI on his elbow on February 24 but Frank said that would dictate his return date.

"You don't treat the MRI, you treat the player," Frank said. "When the MRI comes in, it's not a 'boom' that all of a sudden is a 'Eureka' moment for what we do. I think it's just part of the process.

"I think it's you see how Paul is responding. He's feeling better each and every day. The MRI is another kind of benchmark.

"I think the doctors put it all together and that's how they come to what the next steps are. My expectation is regardless of what the MRI says, it's just part of it. That's not going to be the ultimate decision-maker in what happens."

The Los Angeles Clippers have confirmed All-Star Paul George will be out of action for three to four weeks with an elbow injury.

George suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will need to rest the injury prior to a re-evaluation in the next three to four weeks.

The Clippers, who made last season's Conference semi-finals, are 17-16 this season having been without two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard all campaign.

George hurt his elbow earlier this month before missing five games, but returned on December 20 against the San Antonio Spurs.

The Clippers lost 103-100 to the Denver Nuggets without George on Sunday.

The Los Angeles Clippers have confirmed All-Star Paul George will be out of action for three to four weeks with an elbow the injury.

George suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will need to rest the injury prior to a re-evaluation in the next three to four weeks.

The Clippers, who made last season's Conference semi-finals, are 17-16 this season having been without Kawhi Leonard all campaign.

George hurt his elbow earlier this month before missing five games, but returned on December 20 against the San Antonio Spurs.

The Clippers lost 103-100 to the Denver Nuggets without George on Sunday.

Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton rose in the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Houston Rockets 126-106 on Wednesday.

The reigning champions were without Antetokounmpo for the fourth straight game after he entered the NBA's health and safety protocols last week.

The Bucks had lost their last two without their Greek star but Holiday finished with 24 points, 10 assists and four rebounds, while Middleton added 23 points and six assists on his return from a knee injury.

Young small forward Jordan Nwora hit four triples in his 18-point haul, while center Christian Wood had a double-double for the Rockets with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

The win improves the Bucks to a 20-13 record and third spot in the Eastern Conference.

 

Brown shines for Celtics

Jaylen Brown scored 16 first-quarter points to finish with 34 for the game including five three-pointers as the Boston Celtics got past the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-101. Darius Garland had 28 points and six assists for the Cavs.

Paul George recorded five steals along with 17 points and six assists as the Los Angeles Clippers finished strong to beat the Sacramento Kings 105-89.

The depleted Atlanta Hawks went down 104-98 to the Orlando Magic, despite Cam Reddish's season-high 34 points.

 

Jokic silenced by the Thunder

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic had a rare quiet night with only 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists as well as three turnovers as the Denver Nuggets went down 108-94 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (27 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists) had a second career triple-double for OKC.

Joel Embiid inspired the Philadelphia 76ers to a thrilling 108-103 road win over the Boston Celtics with 41 points including 17 in the fourth quarter on Monday.

Embiid's remarkable final period also included a steal from a last-ditch Celtics inbound with 3.9 seconds on the clock and the 76ers leading 106-103.

The 76ers center made 14 of 27 shots from the field (52 percent) and collected 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and four blocks.

Tobias Harris (25 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and Seth Curry (26 points, four rebounds and seven assists) provided good support for Embiid.

Jayson Tatum had a down game for the Celtics, only managing 17 points, while Jaylen Brown scored 30 points with five rebounds and four assists.

 

Draymond's season-first triple-double

Stephen Curry scored 30 points including four three-pointers but Draymond Green (16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) stole the show with his first triple-double of the season as the Golden State Warriors beat the Sacramento Kings 113-98. Green also had two blocks and two steals.

Dejounte Murray became the first player in San Antonio Spurs history to reach six triple-doubles in one season, with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists as they won 116-92 over the Los Angeles Clippers. Paul George returned from an elbow injury with 25 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Clippers.

Rudy Gobert dominated with 23 points and 21 rebounds as the Utah Jazz improved to 21-9 with a 112-102 win over the Charlotte Hornets. LaMelo Ball (21 points, 11 assists and six rebounds) and Miles Bridges (21 points and 11 rebounds) were good for the Hornets.

 

Grizzlies cannot win with Morant

Ja Morant could not lift the Memphis Grizzlies upon his return from injury, managing only 16 points in a 102-99 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had rookie Josh Giddey (19 points and 11 assists) impress. The Grizzlies bizarrely went 10-2 without Morant during his three-week absence, having been 9-10.

Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George will return for Monday's game against the San Antonio Spurs after a fortnight out with an elbow injury.

George has missed the Clippers' past five games due to a right elbow sprain. He last played on December 6 in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

The seven-time NBA All-Star is averaging 25 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists across 24 games this season.

The 16-14 Clippers, who reached the Western Conference semifinals last season, have not been at full strength all season, with Kawhi Leonard still absent with an ACL knee injury, while Serge Ibaka, Jason Preston, Marcus Morris and Isaiah Hartenstein have all had issues too.

"It's frustrating," Clippers head coach Ty Lue said. "We can't get a rhythm of how we want to play when all of our guys are here.

"But everyone is dealing with the same thing, I am pretty sure ... but just having a chance to have our whole team for five, 10 games, just see how it looks going forward. ... But it is frustrating."

Stephen Curry had a wayward shooting game but moved closer to Ray Allen's all-time record as the Golden State Warriors were humbled 102-93 by the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

Joel Embiid scored a game-high 26 points along with nine rebounds and four assists for the 76ers, who ended the game with a 41-20 run to improve their record to 15-12.

Curry, who started the game 10 triples away from Allen's all-time NBA record for most three-point attempts made, finished with 18 points including three triples.

As a result, two-time MVP Curry is seven three-pointers away from breaking Allen's mark of 2,973 career triples.

Curry drained two three-pointers late in the second quarter but did not add to his tally until the fourth quarter, shooting a disappointing three-of-14 from beyond the arc. The guard finished the game shooting 30 percent from the field.

 

Jokic stars but triple-double run ends

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic's run of three straight triple-doubles ended but he still managed a double-double with 35 points and 17 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 127-112 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Reggie Jackson hit a late two-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the Orlando Magic 106-104, finishing the game with 25 points in Paul George's absence.

The Utah Jazz extended their winning streak to seven games as Donovan Mitchell had 28 points with Ruby Gobert grabbing another double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds in their 123-98 win over the Washington Wizards.

 

Turnovers cost Bulls vs Heat

Point guard Lonzo Ball committed five turnovers and only managed 15 points as the Chicago Bulls lost 118-92 to the Miami Heat. Zach LaVine was also guilty of four turnovers, although he finished with 33 points including seven three-pointers.

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