The Los Angeles Clippers, on the first night of a back-to-back, drubbed Phoenix Suns to the tune of a 115-99 victory. The Suns, who sit at 4-17 on the season, may not be the cream of the crop in terms of competition for the 14-6 Clippers, but what are some of the takeaways from their performance?
A Tale of Two Halves
The Clippers couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half; while they made five of 12 three-point attempts (41.7 percent), they shot at just a 35.4 percent clip in the first 24 minutes. When combined with the 12 first half turnovers, a strong defensive effort was necessary in order to keep Doc Rivers and Co. in the game.
That was far from the case in the second half, however.
The offense came to life after the break, there was better flow all around and the shots started falling. The team rushed out to a 40-25 third quarter before salting the game away in the fourth. Phoenix managed to bring the one-time 20-point lead down to 11 but, from that point on, Los Angeles matched them bucket for bucket and the game was over.
Too Many Turnovers
Turnovers were a problem early and often for Los Angeles; they logged 12 in the first half and finished the game with 21. Nine different players registered a turnover, while Tobias Harris, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lou Williams managed to log four apiece.
The Clippers haven’t had many problems with turnovers this season – they are 11th in the NBA in turnovers per game (14.6) – but this should be something they iron out while they still can; the Clippers are 2-4 when they turn the ball over more than 15 times. While they still managed to pull out the win, better teams than Phoenix will capitalize on their mistakes, and that could force them into some ugly losses.
Montrezl Harrell with Another Solid Night
Montrezl Harrell has squarely placed himself at the center of discussion for the Most Improved Player award. His play against the Suns only adds to his case.
While he was quiet against Phoenix early, Harrell made an impact when his team needed him to; as the Clippers offense started to go cold in the fourth quarter, Harrell stepped in and scored 12 points while he also registered a steal and two blocks.
Harrell finished with a line of 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks. It was his twelfth straight game with double digit points.
Could the Offense Become a Problem?
While Los Angeles sits atop the Western Conference, a long season still looms on the horizon. And, as we all know, anything can happen over the course of the season.
So, could the Clippers, who have averaged the fourth most points per game in the NBA this season (116.8), suddenly go into the tank on the offensive end?
The Clippers offense is a peculiar one, almost throwback in style. While a lot of their efforts are predicated on ball movement, there is a 2000s-esq shot selection; a large portion of Los Angeles’ offense has found its home in the inefficient mid-range. While they shoot the long ball at a good percentage (38 percent), the Clippers average just 25.4 three-point attempts per game, good for 27th in the league.
As it was very clear during the first half, the Clippers’ offense can find itself stuck in a rut at times. Combine that with the lack of efficient offensive production and opposing teams could give the Clippers fits if they match up on a bad day.
While they have succeeded to this point, it may be advisable for Rivers scheme for more shots on the perimeter.
How Long is Avery Bradley for the Starting Lineup?
Avery Bradley has not looked good this season.
While he has still been a hound on the defensive end, there has been a severe lack of production from Bradley on offense. After he averaged 14.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists during time split between Los Angeles and the Detroit Pistons last season, the 6.4 points on 33.6 percent shooting he has averaged this season has been a major disappointment.
Against the Suns, who have let opposing offenses average of 114.1 points per game, Bradley managed to log two rebounds, two blocks, three fouls and a turnover in the stat sheet.
And that’s it. He managed zero points on 0-7 shooting and logged no assists.
Bradley’s presence on defense is a welcome one, but having an offensive blackhole in the starting lineup could be a detriment to the teams future prospects; it provides other teams with a weakness that can be exploited. And, with the Clippers already a surprise contender in the Western Conference, it may not be best to press their luck by leaving such a liability in their starting lineup.
Clippers Will Continue to Feed Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Minutes and Offensive Touches
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander just has it. Whatever it is.
For a rookie of just 20-years-old, Gilgeous-Alexander has an almost veteran-like confidence about him. He has ran with the starting role that Rivers placed on him back at the start of November, and the Clippers are better for it.
Since his insertion into the starting lineup, Gilgeous-Alexander has bumped his averages 12.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and three assists. The team is 9-2 in his 11 starts. He is smooth with the ball in his hands, can get to his spots with relative ease and, when he is out on the floor, the team just looks better.
In his 11 starts, Gilgeous-Alexander’s has also seen a rise in both his minutes per game and usage rate. Expect that growth to continue for the young rookie as the season chugs along.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com.