After an unbeaten run which I naively thought might never end, it feels like a snap back to reality that the Los Angeles Clippers have lost three of their past five games (sorry, I know I’m a spoiled fan).
It’s not the results in isolation that have caused this episode of sad reflection, but the manner in which they have come about. Although each of the losses have taken different patterns within the games — between shooting slumps, careless turnovers, and losing the rebounding battle — it’s the latter of those patterns that worries me the most.
Despite the win against the Mavericks, it felt like there were spells where Kristaps Porzingis was given the freedom to do whatever he wanted in the paint, especially jarring considering he’s got a reputation for not taking advantage of his size, which this squad took full advantage of during last year’s playoffs. Against the Grizzlies and Pelicans, things were a little different and a little more worrying. The Clippers suffered on the glass in both of those games, losing the rebound battle by a differential of 13 and 12 respectively, including a differential of five and four on the offensive end.
While you could argue that the return of Serge Ibaka to the centre rotation should help the team in terms of sheer size in the paint, as his minutes continue to be ramped up, it feels like something else is still missing beyond the huge efforts seen from both Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein so far this season. That something, to my mind at least, has been Marcus Morris Sr. Okay, it’s slightly more nuanced than that, but Morris’ absence is a big reason.
Morris has actually never even been a huge rebounder throughout his career, in fact he’s averaged just 4.6 per game during his decade in the league. He’s a dog, though, and that will help him free up more opportunities for his teammates to come away with the ball while he wrestles with opposing bigs on the box out. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Clippers have consistently been a better offensive rebounding team with Morris on the court.
While Mook has historically been the kind of player who rubs other teams and guys up the wrong way, it’s a style that has been effective for him throughout his career. It’s also a style that has been effective for the Clippers and, while it has invited some criticism at the times when he’s walked the fine line of making dangerous plays, it’s the kind of thing this squad needs back within its ranks if it is to be able to deal with bullying bigs such as Jonas Valanciunas — who enjoyed a big game against Ty Lue’s men just a few nights ago.
God bless! Happy to be back to doing what I love.— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2) November 22, 2021
The current Clips have managed to win close games and recover from setbacks just as they did to such great effect to make last season a historic one, which speaks to their ongoing never-say-die mentality as a collective. However, they don’t seem to be as gritty as they once were and Morris’s presence, or lack thereof to start this season, has no doubt played a big part in that.
Part of that will also be the result of the loss of some guys of course, on top of a gradual shift in style from the post-Lob City teams that included guys like Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell. Morris, though a late arrival to that crew, has always been a big factor to that end and his spirit — coupled with the legacy and impact that guys like Pat and Trezz have left on their other teammates — means there is more than enough muscle memory for this roster to be able to come out on top against opponents that want to drag them down.
Morris is now listed as probable on the Clippers’ injury report and his recent tweets suggest that he’s not only more than ready to make his comeback, but that he’s also up for the fight — that’s on the court, don’t worry momma. Any team would suffer, in the absence of a guy who brings as much as he does to the floor, but for this squad his return may just mean that little bit more now.