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The Los Angeles Clippers will host the Pelicans Friday night in a battle for the seasons. That is, the winner of the game will advance to the postseason, while the loser will enter the offseason.
Though the Clippers have home court advantage, they’re actually at a decided disadvantage. Why? Because they’ll have to play without star Paul George, who has tested positive for COVID.
After he felt ill on Thursday, George was tested for the virus and the results came back positive, meaning he has to be in the NBA health and safety protocols and cannot participate in the Western Conference play-in game. That’s a serious blow to the Clippers’ chances since George scored 34 points and grabbed 7 boards in LA’s most recent game.
“This is another challenge for our group,” LA’s president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said earlier today, via ESPN. “The group has dealt with challenges all year. We’ve had guys in and out of the lineup and dealt with overcoming large deficits and yet this group has always responded.”
— ESPN (@espn) April 15, 2022
As Frank alludes to, the Clippers are used to playing without their stars. Kawhi Leonard has missed the entire season as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, and George, the 1b to Leonard’s 1a, missed more than half the season with various ailments. COVID is merely the latest.
What’s different about the current injury situation though is that with a loss, there is no tomorrow. Tonight’s elimination game sends the winner to a first round playoff matchup versus Phoenix as the West’s eighth and final seed, and sends the losers, well, home.
When asked how head coach Ty Lue could prepare his team to win the game without George, Frank replied with determination:
“I don’t think Ty has to do any convincing to the group that we have enough to win because they’ve shown it. This group has been very, very resilient. They support each other and they play for each other.”
FanDuel Sportsbook isn’t nearly as confident. They’ve listed the George-less Clippers as .5 point home underdogs. Tip off is scheduled for 10 pm EST.
Follow along on Twitter: @OhioAF