Lou Williams’ greatness leading the second unit — he’s not a three-time Sixth Man of the Year for nothing — sometimes belies the fact that he’s not a true point guard. He can run the offense, but he’s a scorer at heart, and the Clippers’ roster construction hasn’t allowed Williams to fully embrace that part of his game over the past two seasons.
The arrival of Reggie Jackson as an honest-to-goodness point guard changes that dynamic for Williams. Williams entered the All-Star break shooting 41.2% from the field, his lowest percentage for a full season since 2016, but since the acquisition of Jackson, Williams is shooting 46.5% (20-of-43), including 12-of-24 with his new backcourt mate on the floor.
“I think for Lou, he can just be a scorer,” Paul George said after the team’s win over Denver, when Williams scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting and added seven assists. “He doesn’t have to worry about playmaking. Lou’s just so good at playmaking that he finds ways to get people shots, but he doesn’t have that pressure to do it with Reggie in that unit with him. I think it just makes Lou more comfortable just being a scorer and playing that role for us.”
“You could see Lou’s energy is coming back, because he doesn’t have to do all the work,” Doc Rivers said. “Lou got a wide-open corner 3 tonight. He wasn’t gettin those shots before, because he always had to have the ball. Now he’s the guy on the back end of the play. That’s really nice for him.”
The Clippers’ second unit, already one of the most formidable in the league, is now an offensive juggernaut. With Jackson, Williams, Landry Shamet, JaMychal Green, and Montrezl Harrell, there are no weak links. Everyone is a threat to score and demands to be guarded, resulting in a 125 offensive rating (and plus-46.4 differential) through 56 possessions thus far, per Cleaning the Glass.
Unleashing Williams is enough of an impact, but Jackson has had strong performances of his own since joining the Clippers. After floundering a bit in his first game as a spot starter in place of the injured Patrick Beverley, Jackson has settled in to the second unit. He’s distributing the ball well, spacing the floor with a high volume of threes, and converting his shots at high efficiency, despite having the lowest usage rate of his career. Jackson has scored double-digits in back-to-back games off the bench, and added eight rebounds and seven assists against the Nuggets.
“He’s a great point guard, a vet, seasoned player — we needed that, somebody to keep the momentum going, the tempo,” Green said. “He can pass the ball, score, so he can do it all,”
Jackson said after the Denver win that he was at a point in his career when he was ready to give up being the man. He’d been the alpha dog in Detroit and led a team to the playoffs. But after losing so much time to injuries, he realized he wanted to take a step back, play with really players, and fill a role.
Being in Los Angeles is a perfect opportunity given his longtime friendship with Paul George, the Clippers’ need for another ball handler, and the abundance of veterans in the locker room. Jackson is one of three players from the 2011 draft class (Kawhi Leonard and Marcus Morris Sr. are the others), and seven players on the team are between 28 and 30 years old. It was a group that was easy to fit into, both on and off the court.
The good fortune isn’t lost on Jackson. He didn’t think a buyout was in the cards until the Pistons decided to shift towards a youth movement. Now, he’s on a team competing for a title and making a valuable contribution in the process.
While the Clippers integrate two new pieces, they welcome some familiar faces Sunday who were traded at last year’s deadline: Tobias Harris and Mike Scott. Philadelphia has struggled on the road and is without two of its key cogs, but no one knows a revenge game quite like Tobias Harris.
The Sixers beat the Clippers three weeks ago in Philadelphia when LA was without its starting point guard in Beverley. Now, the Sixers are without their starting point guard and center, leaving them at a severe disadvantage in springing an upset, especially since the Clippers are rolling.
Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
When: 12:30 p.m. PT
How to watch: ABC
Projected Starting Lineups:
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac
Sixers: Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, Glenn Robinson III, Tobias Harris, Al Horford
Sixers: Ben Simmons (back) — OUT, Joel Embiid (shoulder) — OUT
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