The Los Angeles Clippers do not get the same extensive media coverage as the LA Lakers and LeBron James, but while you were not paying attention, the Clippers amassed a 15-6 record for first place in the Pacific Division.
On Monday, the NBA awarded head coach Doc Rivers the Coach of the Month award. Although LeBron and the Lakers get all the love in LA, the Clippers are the best hoops team in Tinsel Town. With the Golden State Warriors struggling, the Clippers have taken control of first place in the Pacific.
OK Computer Harris
The Clippers are in the top spot in the Pacific because of Tobias Harris. Last season, the Clippers acquired Harris for Blake Griffin in a blockbuster trade with the Detroit Pistons. The Clippers shipped out embittered big-man and All-Star Blake Griffin, along with Willie Reed and Brice Johnson to the Pistons. In exchange, the Clippers received Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a future protected first-round draft pick and a future second round draft pick.
At the time of the Griffin trade, Harris averaged 18 points and 5 rebounds a game for the Pistons. This season, playing in his eighth year in the NBA, the small forward is putting up 21 points per game with 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
In the offseason at his home on Long Island, New York, Harris and members of his family worked out relentlessly. One of the things he worked on was his perimeter shooting, which is one of the reasons why his shooting improved to 41 percent behind the arc.
The coaching staff on the Clippers is amazed at Harris’ ability to soak up scouting reports and watch game tape.
“He’s like a computer, I swear he is,” said head coach Doc Rivers.
His teammates nicknamed Harris “The Machine.”
Italian Rooster and Montrezl
Danilo Gallinari, a ninth-year forward from Italy, is the second-best scorer for the Clippers. Gallinari, nicknamed “The Rooster” (but in Italian), is averaging 19.1 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. Gallinari is also hitting his three pointers at a 46 percent clip.
While Gallinari is helping Harris with the offense, Montrezl Harrell is known as the heart and soul of the Clippers for his emotional output and boundless energy on the defensive side of the ball.
Defense has been one of the keys to the Clippers’ success and that begins and ends with Harrell.
“I’ve watched him 15 straight games give other guys at his position hell on both ends of the floor,” says Lou Williams, a 14-year veteran and the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.
Harrell is no slouch on offense either, averaging 16.1 ppg and 7 rebounds.
.@gallinari8888 dropped 20+ for the 12th time this season.
📊 24 PTS / 5 REB / 4 AST pic.twitter.com/fxdg1sM3ZE
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) December 4, 2018
Good Ole Doc
After guiding the Clippers to first place in the highly-competitive Pacific, Doc Rivers won the Coach of the Month Award. It marked the 11th time that Rivers won it in his career.
This might be one of Rivers’ best coaching jobs in recent memory. Harris is playing the best basketball of his career and Rivers even has Gallinari playing (more) defense.
Last year the Clippers were 42-20 and finished in second place in the Pacific behind the Golden State Warriors. However, they finished tenth overall in the Western Conference and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
Rivers is getting some credit for transforming the Clippers from a bubble team to one of the top teams in the West. Nowadays, the Warriors are in second place and chasing the Clippers. But can they keep up the pace the entire season?
The Clips were in the middle of a stretch where they won nine out of ten games. However, they have been on slippery ice this past week while closing out a four-game road trip. The Clips lost two of their last three games away from LA, including a disappointing outing in Memphis against the Grizzlies.
The Clippers play the Miami Heat on Saturday and visit the Suns in Phoenix on Monday. Their big test will be next Tuesday night when the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors and Kawhi Leonard, visit Hollywood for a game against the Clippers.
Currently in Las Vegas, the South Point Casino and Sports Book list the LA Clippers at 50-1 odds to win the 2019 NBA Championship. During the preseason, the Clippers were 300-1 odds and drastically improved over the first month of the season.