The Clippers blew a 21-point lead in Game 4, allowing Luka Doncic to steal the show and become the youngest player in NBA history to hit a game-winner in the playoffs. Looking back, here are three numbers that stand out from Sunday’s matchup.
Montrezl Harrell played 17 minutes, and the Clippers were outscored by 19 points in that time. He was only bench player to have a negative plus-minus. Harrell only had two shot attempts and scored two points. It is just the sixth time this season that Harrell has scored in single digits and his fewest shot attempts of the year. However, the four games of the postseason represent all four of Harrell’s fewest field-goal attempts of the 2019-20 season, so there is a trend.
Clearly, Harrell has not been himself since returning to the bubble, and that’s to be expected considering the emotional weight of losing his grandmother and the fact that he hadn’t played a game of organized basketball between March 10 and Aug. 17. Over five months of being off has disrupted Harrell’s timing and conditioning. He is averaging fewer than eight points and two rebounds per game, paltry stats for the presumptive Sixth Man of the Year.
In fairness to Harrell, the Clippers have not put him in position to be successful. In Game 4, once again, the majority of his minutes aligned with those of Boban Marjanovic. Marjanovic is too big for Harrell, something that should have become clear to Doc Rivers in the past three games, if not during the full year that the two were teammates in Los Angeles, and that matchup has not been favorable for the Clippers. It might be time to unleash JaMychal Green as the backup five again, a role he excelled in during the seeding games.
That might be a fun stat line on Pi Day, but not during the NBA Playoffs, when the Clippers need more from their second-best player. Paul George has shot 29.0% from the field this series, including 21.3% over the last three games, a historically awful figure, and particularly surprising for a player who converted 43.9% of his field goals this season. George will never have the efficiency numbers of a player like Kawhi Leonard, especially because so many of his shot attempts are threes, but this is simply atrocious.
Going into the series, the theory was that George would be able to feast on the Tim Hardaway Jr. or Seth Curry, the lesser of Dallas’ perimeter defenders, as Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber would be occupied with Leonard. Instead, George looks decreasingly confident in his offensive game and unwilling to use his size advantage over Hardaway and Curry. George shot 1-of-5 when defended by Hardaway and 1-of-3 against Curry. The Curry stats are especially dispiriting because George’s closest shot attempt was 22 feet away from the basket. Yes, George has a smooth jumper, but he has six inches and 40 pounds on Curry — he needs to use that strength to get closer to the rim.
Rivers said after practice Monday that the team needs to get George
Doncic shot 8-of-20 when his primary defender was George, Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., or Ivica Zubac, per NBA Stats matchup data. Those possessions accounted for 18 of Doncic’s points.
That means Doncic got 25 points elsewhere, and he shot 10-of-11 when defended by someone else, including 5-of-5 against Reggie Jackson. That level of shot-making is absurd, even for someone of Doncic’s stature, but the Clippers can’t simply bank on their other defenders to get better. They have to make Doncic uncomfortable, and they need to put their best players on Doncic as often as possible, even if that means switching with less frequency. The Clippers should also avoid bench-heavy lineups that only have one of those four players to keep their defensive integrity intact.