Last Word On Basketball

Los Angeles Clippers No Longer Flying Under the Radar

OAKLAND, USA - JANUARY 10 : Head coach of LA Clippers Doc Rivers speaks during a press conference before the start of an NBA basketball match against the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, United States on January 10, 2018. (Photo by Joel Angel Juarez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In what was supposed to be a “rebuilding” year, the Los Angeles Clippers (8-5) are currently ranked 4thin the Western Conference, fresh off two overtime wins at home against the Milwaukee Bucks and reigning NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors.  How are they defying the odds?  Let’s examine three keys to their success to date.

Los Angeles Clippers No Longer Flying Under the Radar

No All-Star, but Plenty of Chemistry

Much ado has been made of the fact that the Clippers have no “all-stars” or franchise players on their roster. On paper, the Clippers look like nothing more than a hodgepodge of mid-level talent that pales in comparison to the Lob City roster of days gone by. However, this Clippers’ squad has strong and undeniable chemistry. Every player on the Clippers’ current roster, without exception, puts team success over individual accolades. They personify a quote long attributed to former New York Knick and Detroit Piston Dave DeBusschere: “The best teams have chemistry. They communicate with each other and they sacrifice personal glory for a common goal.”

This team does not have the drama and personality conflicts of past line-ups. That is a good thing. They genuinely enjoy playing ball together and take every opportunity to lift each other up. The positive impact the Clippers’ chemistry and unselfishness has had on their success cannot be underestimated.

Defense on Point

The Clippers have redefined themselves as a scrappy, blue-collar team that is all heart, hustle and hard work. Defense is a clear focus of the franchise’s identity. Although the Clippers have been without key defensive players Luc Mbah a Moute and Avery Bradley due to injury, they have still managed to shut down opponents and establish themselves as a defensive juggernaut. The Clippers are currently 19thof 30 in the NBA in opponents points per game (112) and have a defensive rating of 108.4(13th of 30).

On Monday the Clippers held the usually prolific Warriors to numbers well below average. The Warriors shot 46.8 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from beyond the arc, well below their per-game averages of 51.9 percent and 41.9 percent respectively.  Mr. 94 Feet Patrick Beverley was particularly efficient, holding sharpshooter Klay Thompson to 13 for 31 from the field and 5 for 15 from 3-point range.  When asked about the Clippers’ defense after the loss, Thompson reportedly responded: “They’re good, but they’re nothing special.” Bitter much?

Beverley, the undisputed Mayor of Clamp City, responded in kind.

Depth for Days

The Clippers have the best bench in the NBA, hands down. Incredible depth with multiple guys who can step up on any given night. Three of the Clippers’ bench players have had a particularly positive impact so far this season: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Rookie Gilgeous-Alexander was added to the Clippers starting lineup on November 7, 2018, replacing Avery Bradley (ankle injury).  Since that time he has averaged: 14.8 points on 52.4% shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.0 steals and 2.3 turnovers per game. Gilgeous-Alexander is ridiculously good with his length and offensive skill set. Additionally, his defensive abilities are much stronger than was believed pre-draft. It would not be surprising for Shai to continue in a starting spot for the Clippers even once Bradley returns to the line-up. His play has been just that good.

Montrezl Harrell

Harrell has been ridiculously effective off the bench for the Clippers, even spurring talk of the need to create a “7th Man of the Year” award. The energy and hustle he brings to the floor night after night is of immeasurable value. Harrell is averaging 14.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game, well above career averages in all categories.  He has had three 20+ point games so far this season: 30 against the Houston Rockets, 26 against the Bucks and 23 against the Warriors. To say Montrezl steps up in big games would be a gross understatement. Recently, he’s drawn comparisons to Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman.

Lou Williams

Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Williams is coming of the best season of his career. The professional scorer has seemingly picked up right where he left off.  Sweet Lou is averaging 19.1 points and 4.2 assists per game for Los Angeles and like last season, has been clutch down the stretch. Williams is second in the NBA in fourth quarter scoring, averaging 8.1 points per game.  Only Jimmy Butler is better, averaging 9.0 points per game in the final frame.

Notably, the pairing of Harrell and Williams has a net rating of 6.9, compared to the team’s overall net rating of 4.4. They are clearly the second unit’s dynamic duo.

Conclusion? Don’t sleep on this squad. They are the real deal.

Next Up

The Clippers play the San Antonio Spurs at home on Thursday, November 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Main Image:
Embed from Getty Images

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