The way this team is playing right now, the Clippers genuinely look like a top-flight team in the NBA. Riding a five game win streak that has the Clippers in sole possession of the 6th seed out West, we are seeing a team clicking on all cylinders and riding a beautiful wave of chemistry and egalitarian energy that is rarely seen in the NBA. Everyone contributes when they are on the floor, and Doc Rivers is having his best coaching year since his 1999-00 “Heart and Hustle” Orlando Magic team that was led by Darrell Armstrong. He won Coach of the Year that season, and should be heavily considered for the award this season as well.
Against the Boston Celtics Monday night, fans were treated to an offensive virtuoso performance that saw the Clippers shoot their highest percentage of the season, score the most points they have all season, and put seven players in double-figures. There have been some gems this season, but Monday night’s game might take the cake for best all-around team performance this year — despite L.A. coughing the ball up 19 times.
I was looking back at an article I wrote for this site on February 1 recently. It talked about how the Clippers regressed to the hard mean of mediocrity (this is post OT Lakers loss, six days before the trade deadline — their record at the time was 28-24) and what they could potentially do to fix this. The four points of emphasis were: inconsistency, Doc’s inability to properly maneuver rotations (especially the starters), lack of a true number one option and defensive inconsistencies. Six days later, we traded for two 21-year-old’s, got rid of our leading scorer and picked up some expiring contracts.
Since then? A 10-3 record, the new starters have outscored their opponents by almost 16 points per 100 possessions in their 125 minutes together, are the fourth best defensive team in the league since the All-Star break and Lou Williams has established himself as the best player on this rag-tag team. Funny how things work out when you try to “punt” the season (yeah I’m looking at pretty much every NBA media member when I say punt).
Let’s see where the streaking Clippers rank in week 22 after a 2-0 record last week.
Authors note: These rankings don’t reflect the win over the Celtics Monday night
This week: 12th, Last week: 12th
Notes: Lost amid the revolving door to the Clippers’ locker room is Danilo Gallinari, who has quietly assembled the best season of his 11-year tenure in the NBA. He’s posting career-best numbers in true shooting percentage (62.5), player efficiency rating (20.0), and win shares per 48 minutes. He also has been more durable than he’s been in quite some time, missing only 11 games this season.
This week: 7th, Last week: 10th
Notes: It’s a great time for the Clippers to finally have a starting lineup that functions well on both ends of the floor. The starters have outscored their opponents by almost 16 points per 100 possessions in their 125 minutes together, the Clippers rank fourth defensively (105.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) since the All-Star break, and they’ve won four straight games for the first time since November. Danilo Gallinari has rebounded from missing 61 games last season to have the best year of his career, registering career-high marks in true shooting percentage (62.5 percent), assist-turnover ratio (1.69) and rebounding percentage (9.7 percent). And he had a season-high 34 points against a top-five defense as the Clippers beat the Thunder on Friday. Not only are they comfortably in playoff position, but they have a real chance to avoid the Warriors in the first round, though the eighth-place Spurs have an easier schedule going forward.
This week: 7th, Last week: 10th
Notes: For the sake of everybody reading this and anybody else on The Crossover staff who didn’t expect the Clippers to make the playoffs, I’m sorry Patrick Beverley. A lot of us were wrong about what this team was going to be, and even after seeing it perform well, we spent our time waiting for the downfall for this season so we could go back to speculating if Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis would end up in the locker room next season. Instead of anticipating when this team’s season will end, I’m going to enjoy all the scrappiness of Beverley and Montrezl Harrell that matches perfectly with smoothness of the soon-to-be greatest bench scorer in NBA history Lou Williams.
This week: 13th, Last week: 13th
Notes: We’re already there, folks. I’m not sure if you could have envisioned a more successful season for this Clippers squad. They’re almost certainly going to make the playoffs, despite trading away their best player at the trade deadline in Tobias Harris. Doc Rivers should be mentioned in conversations for Coach of the Year. Montrezl Harrell has morphed into something resembling a star, and the front office performed a magic trick by flipping a player on an expiring contract (Harris) into some incredibly valuable assets (Landry Shamet, who has been lights-out since joining the Clippers, and two first-round picks, including the incredibly valuable unprotected 2021 first-rounder from the Miami Heat). Bravo. Nobody saw this team coming.
This week: 14th, Last week: N/A
Notes: How are they doing it? Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams are making shots, Patrick Beverley is impolitely intruding and Montrezl Harrell is doing beastly work in the paint.
This week: 10th, Last week: 12th
Notes: After capping a perfect 3-0 week with a 113-105 win over their Staples Center roommates, the Los Angeles Clippers boosted their playoff hopes by potentially dashing the Lakers’.
Bulldog point guard Patrick Beverley viewed that as the perfect opportunity to send a friendly reminder about a preseason declaration he’d made.
”The Clippers are the best team in L.A.,” Beverley said, per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha. “Motherf--kers thought I was joking. Thought I was on drugs.”
Note to self: Trust Beverley on everything from now on.
The Clippers are tied for the third-best record since the All-Star break (5-2), a feat made even more impressive considering this came after the deadline subtraction of then-leading scorer Tobias Harris. But with the holdover trio of Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell each providing at least 19 points a night and newcomer Landry Shamet cashing everything in sight (3.0 threes per game at a 42.9 percent clip), this offense is more than capable of consistent potency.