Wilson Chandler has officially been a Clipper since Feb. 6 when he was sent to Los Angeles as part of the Tobias Harris trade. Because of a right quad strain he suffered while a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, it took 13 games for Chandler to make his debut, and he has only played 113 minutes in an LA uniform.
The veteran forward had his finest performance since joining the team in the game against the Bucks. He scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting with all of his makes coming from three-point range, and added 2 rebounds and 1 assist for a 12.6 Game Score; that is his fifth-best game score of the season, and his highest output in a losing effort.
Chandler has been mostly asked to space the floor and spot up when he enters the game. LA doesn’t have any plays to run for him, so his role is somewhat limited, but the Clippers have enough ball-handlers and creators and Chandler really just needs to finish plays. He has gotten a little iso-happy in previous instances, but Chandler made quick decisions against Milwaukee.
His first three-point attempt in the first quarter was created by Montrezl Harrell. Harrell was surveying the floor at the top of the key, motioned for Chandler to curl from the corner to the wing behind a JaMychal Green screen, and hit Chandler for a fairly open look before Giannis Antetokounmpo could arrive for the contest. It was a simple action, well-executed, and almost had the desired result, but Chandler’s three rimmed out.
Chandler really got going in the fourth quarter, draining his first triple in semi-transition after bringing the ball up himself and using a mini-drag screen from Harrell. Chandler’s second triple came with Harrell directing at the top of the key again, finding Chandler on the right wing. He hit another from that spot after a Green drive-and-kick that pulled the Clippers to within 9 points with 6:12 remaining in the game. The lead ballooned again, but Chandler got fancy with his fourth triple, spotting up from about several feet behind the arc. He finished off his scoring with another three in transition, this time a catch-and-shoot jumper assisted by Landry Shamet.
During the quarter, Ralph Lawler and Ryan Hollins couldn’t stop gushing about Chandler’s defense, as his defensive rating is 102.7 since coming to Los Angeles, and if his offense can come around, that will make him more playable. “This ball club is going to need him, especially his defense,” Hollins said.
Small sample caveats, and other qualifiers, obviously apply. For one, the game was mostly out of reach in the fourth quarter when Chandler went on his shooting streak. With Lou Williams unavailable, Chandler was able to have a larger share of the second-unit offense. There’s also the fact that Milwaukee has a defensive strategy to deliberately concede open three-pointers to below-average shooters; Chandler entered this game 2-of-16 from deep as a Clipper, so he definitely fits the bill.
Then again, the fact that Chandler was able to find quality shots when Williams wasn’t there to create them suggests that he’s getting more comfortable on the floor after joining a new squad and missing so much time due to injury. He has played in garbage time multiple times during his brief LA tenure, and he hasn’t yet shown this amount of pop, so it’s worth celebrating.
Chandler has already cemented his spot in the second unit. He is probably the 10th man in the rotation, but Doc Rivers has expressed his desire to keep a large rotation heading into the playoffs because that is the team’s strength. Chandler also gives LA an opportunity to stay big off the bench, which fits with the physical, bruising identity the Clippers have espoused all season.
This version of Chandler gives the team more lineup flexibility and raises the team’s ceiling. Let’s hope he sticks around.