The Clippers won their most exciting game of the season, outlasting the Milwaukee Bucks 128-126. With the clock running down, Lou Williams drove past Eric Bledsoe — the hero for the Bucks in regulation — and finished a floating tear drop over Brook Lopez as time nearly expired, giving the Clippers an overtime win that was as tense as the final score indicated. The scoring margin was never more than two possessions throughout the second half and the extra period.
LA had a chance to finish off Milwaukee in regulation, but the two-man game between Williams and Danilo Gallinari resulted in a missed Gallinari jumper, sending the game to an extra five minutes. The Clippers didn’t waste their second chance at victory and move to 7-5 on the season.
Montrezl Harrell led the way for the Clippers with 26 points and nine rebounds. His energy throughout the second half was infectious for the rest of the team, as he hustled to close out on Bucks shooters, rebounded the ball aggressively on both ends, and ran the floor to give LA quick opportunities on offense. He entered the game with five minutes remaining in the third quarter and played the rest of the way, never relenting throughout. Tobias Harris called Harrell’s play the “fuel of the game.”
“I come in here every night just looking to give my team the extra boost and that extra push to just will us to win the game,” Harrell said. “I’m blessed to be able to come out here and play the game of basketball and call it my job. So I come in everyday, ready to work and leave it all on the floor.”
Early in the game, it didn’t look like the Clippers would need that extra effort from Harrell. A strong start on offense and defense gave the team a 15-point lead in the second quarter, despite an uncharacteristic poor shooting night from Williams. LA was able to effectively limit Milwaukee’s threes, aided by poor ball movement from the Bucks. They executed well on their own offense, in part because of the surprise inclusion of Marcin Gortat in the starting lineup. Gortat set excellent screens at the top of the key, initiating the Clipper offense, and finished well in the pick-and-roll in his first game action since November 1 against Philadelphia.
Sindarius Thornwell and Ty Wallace also received unexpected minutes early in the game. Thornwell was tasked with defending Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Wallace juiced the ball movement in the second unit in place of Milos Teodosic. Wallace was fearless attacking the rim and Milwaukee’s overwhelming length, and had the benefit of Harrell cleaning up his misses on the offensive glass.
The Bucks got back in the game as the Clippers forgot their defensive principles, collapsing in the paint on Antetokounmpo’s drives and leaving Milwaukee’s shooters open. Brook Lopez caught fire in the second quarter. He hit four threes en route to a 40-point quarter for the Bucks, as Milwaukee quickly erased LA’s lead and took a 2-point advantage into the half.
The second half was more closely contested; neither team could create a comfortable lead. Harris and Williams kept the Clippers within reach throughout. Harris had 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting and added 11 rebounds. Williams, despite having on off night from the field, added 10 assists, showing a strong affinity for lobs to Harrell.
LA’s defense tightened up again in the second half. The team was active in the passing lanes, deflecting a number of passes, even if it only resulted in six steals. Defensive rebounding was an issue throughout, though Harris and Gallinari did a better job closing out possessions as the game wore on.
The Clippers held a six-point lead with 1:56 remaining off of a corner three from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The rookie once again had a stat line that doesn’t jump off the box score, but belied all the good work he did to keep the offense humming. The triple was his first of the game, and he took it with full confidence, despite being reluctant to shoot from distance earlier in the contest.
“They don’t make rookies like him anymore. Especially ones that come to work, always listen, and always try to get better,” Harris said.
The Bucks came back to force overtime as Bledsoe hit a step back three over Gallinari that had no business finding the net. They drew first blood in the extra session, but another three from SGA gave the Clippers a lead, and they never fell behind again, ultimately winning on Sweet Lou’s heroics.
“I’ve been around too many of the Lous in my world, and Ray Allens,” Doc Rivers said. “There’s a group that just has confidence. They think every miss means that they’re closer to making 10 in a row, not missing 10 in a row.”
Williams missed 10 shots during the game, but he made the one that counted most.