This was an interesting week for L.A. A really lucky one, actually. The Clippers have been fortunate in the health department so far this season. Besides Luc Mbah A Moute being out basically the whole season, the Clippers have only seen 13 missed games from Danilo Gallinari, a few from Lou Williams, and some various nights off for small things and rest for some of the other guys. However, this week saw some of L.A.’s finest hit the deck and scare fans.
Landry Shamet went down in a heap against the Knicks last Sunday grabbing his ankle. However, Shamet only missed one game (a win in Minnesota Tuesday night) and returned to average 30+ minutes over the last three games. Patrick Beverley also left a game this week grabbing his hip (the Minnesota win), yet only missed the game against the Bucks before returning to the starting lineup. Saturday night perhaps saw one of the scarier moments of this season, as energizer and all-around tough guy Montrezl Harrell hit the deck grabbing his right ankle against the Cavs. As a game against one of the worst franchises in the league, this injury against a team they should beat was another big scare. However, Trez shook this off and preceded to dominate the fourth quarter en route to 23 points on 10-13 shooting.
More fortune came for the Clippers in injury situations for opponents. Against the Timberwolves, Minnesota was down their two best guards (Rose & Teague), best wing defender (RoCo) and notorious Clipper killer Taj Gibson. After a schedule loss where L.A. rested Gallo and Lou against the Bucks, the Cavs were without Kevin Love and the tanking Grizzlies damn near sat everyone on their roster. L.A. was able to cruise to two easy weekend wins on a home back-to-back to increase their separation from the 8th seed in the West. They also didn’t have to exert their starters or main bench guys, definitely rest well needed given the difficulty of their last four games over the next week and a half to finish the season and maintain solid playoff standing.
This week, starting Wednesday, L.A. will face the Rockets in what should be a fun, yet competitive game. Slowing down James Harden, Clint Capela and Chris Paul will be a tall task. but the Clippers have fared well against Houston these past two seasons (2-0 this season, 4-2 in last six) and will be at home. A Friday matchup against the Lakers should be another breather for the heavy-usage guys, as the Lakers are extremely injured and LeBron James is sitting the rest of the season. Sunday will be perhaps the biggest test of the week, as L.A. travels north to face the Warriors in a game that means a lot to both teams. The Warriors have been struggling as of late and only hold a one game lead over the Nuggets for first-place in the West. Thus, Sunday’s matchup will be an important game for positioning and will (hopefully) be hard-fought. This week will be a huge test for L.A. and if they can go 2-1 or 3-0, they will assure themselves of a top 6 seed most likely. Let’s see where they stand in the eyes of the NBA media heading into the second-to-last week of the season.
This week: 9, Last week: 8
Notes: At 17-5, the Clippers have the best record in the NBA since Feb. 9, the first game in a Clippers jersey for Landry Shamet, Ivica Zubac, Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green. If the Clips can sustain their current momentum for another four games, they will find themselves in the West’s No. 6 seed, thereby avoiding Golden State in the first round in favor of a possible matchup with Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets.
This week: 8, Last week: 8
Notes: The Clippers had the league’s best record (13-2) and its best offense (116.4 points scored per 100 possessions) in March, with Danilo Gallinari (who scored 27 points, taking just 11 shots from the field against the Grizzlies’ top-10 defense on Sunday) averaging 23.9 points on 52 percent shooting over his 13 games last month. Montrezl Harrell (63.8 percent) and Gallinari (63.6 percent) rank sixth and seventh, respectively in true shooting percentage among the 168 players with at least 500 field goal attempts this season. Gallinari and Lou Williams, meanwhile, are two of the four best free throw shooters among players that have averaged at least five attempts per game. This team can score efficiently and its had the league’s fourth most improved defense since the All-Star break, allowing 1.4 fewer points per 100 possessions than it did before the break. Of course, it’s been more than two months since the Clips faced either of the league’s two best offenses, and they’ll see both of them this week.
This week: 8, Last week: 9
Notes: As has been the case all season, any postseason success for the Clippers is dependent on playing as a team. This is one of the most tightly knit teams in the NBA. Doc Rivers’ coaching job has been incredible. The one player who most personifies what this team does best -- try hard, and overachieve, and not care about their stats -- is Montrezl Harrell. He should be considered a candidate for both Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player.
This week: 3, Last week: 3
Notes: The Clippers’ bench is on track to score the most points of any bench since the league started keeping track of those numbers. Popular opinion says not having at least one All-Star will be the main reason this team’s season will end in the first round. But maybe Doc Rivers can find a way to utilize his depth and exploit a matchup and advance. He’s got a lot of pieces to work with.
This week: 11, Last week: 13
Notes: The Clippers have the best win percentage in the NBA over the last month. They got even better after trading Tobias Harris.
The Athletic (hidden by paywall)
This week: 10th, Last week: 11th
Notes: The Clippers have the second-best record in the NBA since the prediction and they have the fifth best net rating (plus-7.0). They had a five-game win streak during this stretch and a six-game win streak during this stretch.....
Authors notes: The rankings below were posted before the games against the Cavs and Grizzlies
This week: 5, Last week: 5
Notes The Clippers are tied with the Magic for the longest active winning streak in the league at 6 games. Over that stretch, they have taken care of business against some weak competition but also have some quality wins in between. In their Tuesday night win over the Clippers, Danilo Gallinari is on fire, putting up 25.7 PPG over his last 10 contests.
This week: 8, Last week: 9
Notes: The Clips’ 11-2 mark in March is tops in the league, and their 122-111 victory over the Wolves clinched their spot in the playoffs.
Yes, the schedule has been soft. Seven of those 11 wins came against non-playoff teams. And yes, much of this run feels like found money ahead of a big summer that could vault the Clippers into the level of serious contenders—particularly if they poach a certain taciturn two-way star from the Toronto Raptors. But it’s still hard to ignore the good vibes emanating from this team.
A lot of that has to do with a focused and patient approach that contrasts so starkly with that of their Staples Center co-tenants.
The Clippers completely hosed the Lakers on the Ivica Zubac trade, and Doc Rivers has no interest in switching L.A. allegiances. While the Lakers rely on mystique (and borderline tampering) to build their team, the Clippers are making shrewd moves with a clear long-term plan. Right now, their superiority in Los Angeles is undeniable.