Patrick Beverley returns to set tone for Clippers’ hot shooting against Nuggets

Denver Nuggets' Gary Harris (14) keeps the ball from Los Angeles Clippers' Patrick Beverley (21) in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept 3, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)Denver Nuggets' Gary Harris (14) keeps the ball from Los Angeles Clippers' Patrick Beverley (21) in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept 3, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
<figcaption class="C($c-fuji-grey-h) Fz(13px) Py(5px) Lh(1.5)" title="Denver Nuggets' Gary Harris keeps the ball from Clippers' Patrick Beverley in the second half on Thursday.  (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)» data-reactid=»18″>

Denver Nuggets’ Gary Harris keeps the ball from Clippers’ Patrick Beverley in the second half on Thursday.  (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Denver coach Michael Malone, dressed all in black as a homage to Johnny Cash and not because he thought his team was walking into its own funeral, never thought Patrick Beverley wouldn’t be on the court Thursday night.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="While Beverley’s injured calf is the kind of problem that can flare up at any moment, Malone’s gut told him that his team would have to deal with Clippers’ biggest pest in the series opener.» data-reactid=»24″>While Beverley’s injured calf is the kind of problem that can flare up at any moment, Malone’s gut told him that his team would have to deal with Clippers’ biggest pest in the series opener.

“We knew he’d be available,” Malone said before Game 1. “He’s a competitor. And we’re welcoming that challenge.”

That challenge welcomed Denver right back.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Playing for the first time since that calf injury reemerged in the series opener with Dallas, Beverley quickly knocked down a pair of threes and set the stage for the Clippers’ hot shooting night in their 120-97 win.» data-reactid=»31″>Playing for the first time since that calf injury reemerged in the series opener with Dallas, Beverley quickly knocked down a pair of threes and set the stage for the Clippers’ hot shooting night in their 120-97 win.

“This injury has definitely humbled me,” Beverley said.

Those first two shots are an aspect of his game that’s often overlooked, but Beverley has hit at least 38.2% of his threes in each of the last five seasons while taking more than 3 1/2 attempts per game.

“People forget about his offense,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s a terrific, especially, corner shooter. And he knows that and gets to his spots.”

Beverley isn’t the Clippers’ most talented player, and on Thursday, his impact barely cracked the top five. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ivica Zubac and Marcus Morris were all demonstrably better, carving up the Denver defense while locking in and suffocating the clearly fatigued Nuggets on the other end.

But there’s something about Beverley’s presence that just matters on the Clippers. Because when they’re at their best, it’s Beverley acting as the Clippers’ heartbeat, pumping his endless energy to each of his teammates.

During the regular season, they were 38-13 when Beverley played. And when he sat, the Clippers were 11-10. Since Jan. 1, the Clippers lost only five times when Beverley was on the court, snarling on defense and fighting for rebounds.

“Pat, he’s the general,” Morris said. “He’s the head of the snake.”

But the Clippers need to keep him on the court.

Thanks to the blowout Thursday, the Clippers didn’t have to push Beverley up against any minutes’ limit — he played a dozen, scoring eight points to go with six rebounds and two assists. But his durability is (and has) been a concern.

He missed five games in the first round of the playoffs after playing in only three of the Clippers’ eight seeding games. He’s played in more than 70 games just twice in his career.

Continuity has slipped through the Clippers’ hands all season, and the bet has always been that the Clippers could get a solid grip by the time the games got to be their most important.

In 12 minutes Thursday, Beverley showed exactly what he means to his team. Some nights it’s spot-up shooting. Other nights its defense. And others, still, it’s just his presence and energy.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="“I mean I thought Pat had a great impact all game and he only played 12 minutes,” George said. “It’s Pat Beverley’s impact. He’s such a contagious guy with energy and effort. It just flows through the team.”

» data-reactid=»44″>“I mean I thought Pat had a great impact all game and he only played 12 minutes,” George said. “It’s Pat Beverley’s impact. He’s such a contagious guy with energy and effort. It just flows through the team.”