Wasn’t that game last night (Monday’s win over the Raptors) weird? A contest that truly had no rhythm or flow to it and featured poor shooting, tons of turnovers, game-ending injuries to two starters on both sides, stars of the respective teams struggling, and stunted scoring quarters. Man, just a weird watch. I think Justin Russo said it best in his Twitter thread on the game:
This game is so freaking dumb. There's no beauty. It's all bashing a face into a brick wall. This is like watching a brick wall fight itself.— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) November 12, 2019
That game was symbolic of a lot of what has been happening so far this season for LA. Despite having guys that shot at or above 40% from three last season (Beverley, Shamet, Green) the team as a whole is shooting 26.2% from three in November thus far. Despite having two of the most efficient bigs in the league (Zubac and Harrell), the Clips are shooting just 40.4% from the field as a whole this month. The even weirder part? They are still averaging 108.5 points per game and are 3-1 with a Kawhi load management loss. This goes to show the themes of this season: poor shooting, inconsistent, but sometimes stellar, contributions from ancillary players (for example, PPat hitting four threes last night but JaMychal Green airmailing three long balls) and a defense that makes teams cry. Also, very strong fourth quarters. Last night, the Clippers only allowed the Raptors, coming off a hot shooting third, to ten points in the final frame. While we didn’t see Kawhi (who had his worst shooting night at a Clipper so far but still almost had a triple-double, because he’s a star) go off scoring wise in the fourth, he had his hands in everything and made life hard for the Raps wings, in particular, Pascal Siakam. It was a weird win, kind of like every win the Clips have had this season outside of the Lakers and Warriors, but I think we’ll all take it.
The Clippers schedule has been nuclear to start, yet they find themselves 7-3 (7-1 with Kawhi) and only a half game out of first-place. The best news of all? Reports indicate that they could be getting Paul George back from offseason IR this week. We don’t know yet if it will be Wednesday’s game against the Rockets, Thursday’s against the Pelicans (one of which will almost assuredly be missed by Kawhi) or Saturday at home against the Hawks. LA will be playing five games in seven days (bookended by a game against the Thunder, in which SGA will go off and I will be sad), and if they are all as hard fought as last nights, we might see more resting of players than anticipated. It’s also their easiest stretch thus far, with three of their next four coming against teams under .500. But, we all know how the Clips like to keep games close against teams below them. Also, with the exodus of Landry Shamet from last nights game (that ankle injury didn’t look good), we will see what the new rotations looks like (maybe some Terance Mann? More Jerome?) and could be moving forward with PG in the lineup. Exciting week ahead!
Let’s see where the Clippers stand after the third week of the season in the eyes of the NBA media.
This week: 5, Last week: 3
Notes: “The Clippers have allowed less than a point per possession in the last four games that Kawhi Leonard has played and less than 90 per 100 in his 131 minutes on the floor over that stretch. The defense has helped make up for an offense that, after a hot start to the season, has scored just 103.3 per 100, with their regular starters having shot 19-for-77 (25%) from 3-point range, over the last five games. They’re 0-2 (and have allowed 110 points per 100 possessions in the two games) without Leonard, but everything starts over this week, because Paul George appears set to make his Clippers debut at some point in the next seven days. They have a third straight Wednesday-Thursday back-to-back (at Houston and at New Orleans), but going forward, they can have one All-NBA forward in the lineup when they’re resting the other.”
This week: 2, Last week: 3
Notes: “Load management dominated the conversation around the Clippers this week and prevented a real look at what a Bucks-Clippers Finals might look like, as Kawhi Leonard sat. He played a night later, scoring 18 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to ice Portland. Blazers coach Terry Stotts had the appropriate response: “He looked well-rested.” The expectation is that Paul George will return this week, which means that when the Clippers decide to rest Leonard again, they’ll have an available star. It also means we’ll finally see how this team looks when fully operational.”
This week: 3, Last week: 4
Nothing eases the strain of playing without one superstar like replacing him with another.
That’s not to say Leonard has lacked help. Montrezl Harrell piled up 34 points, 13 rebounds and five assists during Wednesday’s Leonard-less 129-124 loss to the Bucks, and L.A.’s bench leads the league with 50.6 points per game. Its reserves are shooting a remarkable 50.5 percent from the field as a unit.
Injecting George into the starting five and staggering his minutes with Leonard to further bolster the backups almost seems unfair.”
This week: 5, Last week: 4
Notes: “The cloud of ‘load management’ has shrouded the Clippers’ early success this season, and they’ve still only lost one game with Kawhi Leonard in the lineup. It would have been nice to see him match up with Giannis Antetokounmpo, but Kawhi showed once again what a killer he is by scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Blazers the following night. The Clippers could become the league’s top team with the return of Paul George imminent.”
This week: 3, Last week: 2
Notes: “Montrezl Harrell’s $6 million salary is an absolute steal, but it won’t last for long. The 2020 free agent is scoring 1.50 points per possession as a roll man this season, and he’s a ravenous offensive rebounder. He should cash in next summer, perhaps one month after the Clippers’ first title in franchise history.”
This week: 7 (?), Last week: 3
Notes: “The decision to give Kawhi Leonard a rest day for the nationally televised match-up against Milwaukee last Wednesday created so much media outrage that the league eventually fined the Clippers’ organization $50,000 when head coach Doc Rivers admitted that Leonard was fine and wasn’t sitting out because of injury. The Clippers should be ready to take off when Paul George returns to the lineup very soon.”