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What Adjustments Can the Clippers Make for Game 5?

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The Clippers have their backs against the wall, and the time for desperation moves is here. What might the Clippers turn to in Game 5 to stave off elimination?

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers are one game away from their magical 2018-2019 season being over. They fought and clawed their way to the playoffs, and have put up a better fight against the defending champion Warriors than most people expected, including an all-time comeback in Game 2. However, they’re now nearing the end of their rope. The Warriors, implacable and unrelenting, are closing in for the kill. Is there anything Doc Rivers and the Clippers can still do to throw the Warriors off in Game 5, even for a little bit? Here’s a potential list of adjustments the Clippers could make for what could be their final stand.

  • Don’t force Gallo’s looks: Danilo Gallinari has struggled mightily in this series thus far. If the Clippers are to have any chance at extending their season to another day, they will need a big game from Gallo. However, he’s never looked comfortable at all in this series, with the lone exception being the 2nd half of Game 2, where he finally got in rhythm down the stretch. In that period, Lou and Trez were drawing all the attention from the Warriors on defense, allowing Gallo to shake free. When the Clippers have tried to feed Gallo to get him going, it hasn’t worked. So maybe, instead of really forcing the issue, the Clippers should go away from him early, and hope he gets loose with some easier shots. This would put a lot of pressure on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Pat Beverley, but both guys seem up for the challenge.
  • Push the tempo, hard: The Clippers have only cracked 105 points in one game this series after being the 9th best offensive team in the NBA in the regular season. Sure, they need to get stops on the Warriors, but their biggest problem has really been on offense. One way to try to get an offense going is to push the pace, and while the Clippers haven’t really done a lot of attacking off of made baskets this season, now would be a good time to start. Shai in particular has shown good flashes at attacking in semi-transition, and the Clippers will need him to be aggressive if they’re to make a strategy like this work. Of course, if the Clippers miss in transition, they will have poor floor balance the other way, so this could just as easily lead to some quick Warriors’ buckets in transition the other way, and the start of a massacre. Nonetheless, it’s something I’d try.
  • Excise Wilson Chandler from the rotation: I’ve been wary of Chandler’s involvement in the playoffs since he came over at the trade deadline, and my position has not wavered through four games of this series. Chandler hasn’t been particularly awful, per se, but he hasn’t been good either. He’s a step slow on defense, even at power forward, and has not been able to get any of his shots to drop. If he’s not hitting outside shots, he’s not providing value, and there’s no reason to think he’ll be able to get better looks in Game 5. JaMychal Green only played 22 minutes in Game 4, which is far too low considering how effective he was on both ends. Similarly, Garrett Temple has been playing under 10 minutes per game, and while he’s struggled offensively as well, he’s leagues better than Chandler defensively. Those two guys should get more minutes, and the only real way to do so is to remove Chandler from the rotation. Chandler is a respected veteran, and he plays hard. But he’s just not giving the Clippers enough this series.
  • Start Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell: This appeared to be a more viable option after Game 3, when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander really struggled and JaMychal Green’s effectiveness in the starting lineup hadn’t been shown yet. But after Game 4, where Shai was the Clippers’ best player, and the starters looked far better with Green out there, it seems highly unlikely that the Clippers would move Lou and Trez off the bench. Doc Rivers has also repeatedly emphasized how much Lou prefers coming off the bench, and that seismic a shift in the rotation could hinder the team more than potentially help. This seems very unlikely.
  • Some kind of gimmick defense: The Clippers’ biggest struggle has been offensively, but their defense has not proven very effective against the Warriors either. Since Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in 2016, no defense has stood against them long, except for the Rockets’ switch-everything tactic last year, and the Clippers do not have the personnel to play that way. A zone clearly won’t work against the Warriors’ shooting, but there could be some other kind of defensive ploy that Doc will throw against the Warriors, even if for a little bit, just to disrupt their rhythm.

There are certainly other changes that can be made as well, particularly defensively, but these are four that I thought might be in play for Game 5. It will be interesting to see if Doc and the Clippers’ coaching staff shake things up significantly, or go down with the ship playing their usual style and rotations.