It is still early in the NBA season but there have been many surprises already. One of them comes from a potential playoff contender from the city of Los Angeles in the L.A. Clippers (8-5). Last Saturday, the Clippers contested for a tough home matchup against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference in the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite the Bucks (9-3) being the overwhelming favorites, the Clippers took down the Bucks 128-126 in overtime from a clutch game-winning shot from SG Lou Williams. Two days later, the Clippers (8-5) took down their rivals in the Golden State Warriors (11-3) with another 121-116 overtime game. While the season is still fresh, the Clippers are making great strides as a team without a true “elite” player. Here are some takeaways of the Clippers’ win over the Bucks and Warriors.
Clippers are creating a brand of Grind City
The Clippers were a team where the lack of an elite player was supposed to make them a non-competitive team. That attitude turned into motivation for the Clippers and gave them a purpose to rise as underdogs. Despite the close statistics and performances, the Clippers were able to outscore the Bucks and Warriors star players by having a multitude of impact players. Milwaukee PF Giannis Antetokounmpo accounted for 27 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 steals but the Clippers had six players with 12 points or more. Golden State didn’t have PG Steph Curry, so SG Klay Thompson and SF Kevin Durant were their only consistent scorers. The Clippers again had six reliable scorers with 12 points or more against the Warriors defense. Through these two games, Los Angeles kept a great lead on both teams and avoided a collapse from a comeback.
Los Angeles has great chemistry
Early in this season, many different teams have shown dynamics and problems with teammates in Minnesota and Golden State. The Clippers have many different personalities on their squad, but they have unique chemistry both on and off the court. The Clippers pass the ball throughout the court and have proper purposes in their passes despite having less total assists in both games. Each player can play in different matchup situation with each other and play in a small-ball or big-man setup. Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris are two of the most flexible players on the team. As are Mike Scott and Ty Wallace coming from the bench.
Clippers have excellent wing presence
It is uncommon for the Clippers to have a decent small forward or a flexible wing scorer. It is even rarer for the Clippers to have two of them in Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari. This is their first full season together. Harris and Gallinari both the capacity of playing small forward or in a power forward position. Both wings have a strong presence in the paint, offensively and defensively, and can shoot accurately from the 3-point range. Gallinari accounted for 13 points and 8 rebounds against Milwaukee and 14 points and 7 rebounds against Golden State. Harris accounted for 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 steals against Milwaukee and 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists against Golden State. With a team full of reliable shooters, these two players are the most distinctive because they can shoot from the 3-point lane and drive to the basket.
The bench is just as efficient as the starters
In order to have a great team, a great bench is needed to create as much input as the starters. The Clippers have one of the most reliable benches due to the high-velocity of SG Lou Williams, PF/C Montrezl Harrell and F Mike Scott. So far this season, Harrell has been a monster with his tenacious scoring of driving to the basketball and rebounding. Harrell brings a high amount of energy whenever he is on the court. Harrell accounted 26 points and 9 rebounds against the Bucks and 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks against the Warriors. The reigning 6th man of the year in Lou Williams has started out rough this season. Williams, though, has been extremely reliable when needed with two clutch shots against the Bucks and Warriors. Williams’ last shot against the Bucks was the game-winner in overtime where he was arguably fouled.
Clippers’ big men can score quickly in a fast-moving NBA
Most teams play small to get a high amount of points, but Los Angeles’ best scorers are big men. Three of the Clippers’ top season scorers can play either small forward or power forward with Tobias Harris (20.4 PPG), Danilo Gallinari (19 PPG), and Montrezl Harrell (14.5 PPG). This is with the Clippers’ tenacious energy to play with aggressiveness but also with speed. Despite playing with a fast-paced Warriors, the Clippers are doing a great job of matching the speed of the game. Los Angeles accounted for 56-points in the paint against the Bucks and 62-points in the paint against Golden State. Much of it comes from the smart shooting decisions but also from the quick passing from the many different players. Head coach Doc Rivers has done a fantastic job of utilizing his team and getting his offense in sync.
Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is already showing his potential as a future star
Los Angeles rarely has a 1st round selection as Doc Rivers usually trades them for a veteran. Clippers President of Basketball Operations Frank Lawrence and advisor Jerry West had a good feeling on PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Just 13-games in the season, Gilgeous-Alexander is already looking like a reliable player and a future star of the organization. Gilgeous-Alexander has been vital for the bench unit before SG Avery Bradley suffered a minor ankle injury. He has been even better stepping into the starting lineup 4 games in for Bradley. In the game against Milwaukee, Gilgeous-Alexander has accounted for 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks. In the following game against the Warriors, Gilgeous-Alexander accounted for 18 points (from an 8-11 field goal ratio), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a block.
Gilgeous-Alexander has been very patient with the baller in his shot selections. He isn’t too determined to shoot 3-point shots, he is efficient driving to the lane with speed and agility. His shot selection, overall tenacious rebounding, and his great lockdown defense are what the Clippers liked most about him. Gilgeous-Alexander has the availability to build his 3-point shooting, but he is still looking to transition consistently in the NBA. Over time, he will step up his game and become a more game-changing player than he is right for the Clippers. Right now, he is the more efficient scoring guard on the team than Patrick Beverley or Avery Bradley. He will be relied on more in the season to get efficient points and will be challenged more to elevate his shooting-game.
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