In what became a blowout victory, the LA Clippers defeated a true contender in the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night, winning by a final margin of 129-105. The win marks their sixth-straight victory and improves their record to 32-16.
LA entered the game without four of their core players, missing Paul George (sore right foot) Rajon Rondo (right adductor soreness), Patrick Beverley (right knee soreness) and Serge Ibaka (lower back tightness), but it didn’t matter, as the Clippers’ depth proved formidable yet again. Kawhi Leonard (23 points, eight assists, nine rebounds) was able to generate his usual midrange offense, but Marcus Morris Sr. (25 points), Luke Kennard (21 points) and Reggie Jackson (20 points) stepped up to fill in the gaps. This is the first time all season that the Clippers have had four different players score 20 points or more in the same game.
The Clippers’ historic shooting
LA knocked down 19 of their 34 threes on Monday (good for 55.9%), and that was with Kawhi Leonard missing all six of his attempts from beyond the arc. Every other Clipper that attempted a three shot over 40%. This performance becomes the latest evidence that the Clippers’ historic three-point shooting season is not just a hot streak. They are now 48 games into the season—no longer a small sample size—and shooting 41.9% from downtown. Not only is this the highest mark in the league this season, but if you exclude the 1996-97 Charlotte Hornets team that benefited from a shortened three-point line, it would be the highest mark of all time, beating out the 73-win Warriors from 2015-16.
Every Clipper who has attempted a three this season is shooting over 35% from beyond the arc, with eight of them shooting over 40%. Luke Kennard and Marcus Morris Sr. both rank in the top 10 in the NBA individually. At some point, it must be accepted that this is who the Clippers are. They generate a ton of open looks, and while many of these players are shooting career-highs, none of them were considered below-average shooters prior to this season. The front office has done an excellent job of collecting talented marksmen, and Head Coach Tyronn Lue and his staff have done well at creating a scheme that generates quality looks. It also helps to have two stars like Leonard and Paul George who draw so much attention.
The only flaw within this greatness is that LA probably doesn’t take enough attempts. Just 39.7% of their shots come from beyond the arc, which would rank 15th in the league. It’s hard to complain about anything pertaining to LA’s offense, considering they’ve now overtaken the Brooklyn Nets as the team with the highest offensive rating in the NBA. But if one were to nitpick, they might urge the Clippers to start chucking even more.
Morris Sr. as an offensive engine
With George out, Morris was the secondary option beyond Leonard, and he gave a stellar performance, dropping a team-high 25 points on 9-16 shooting (4-7 from deep). Though Morris has shot the ball well all season as a spot-up shooter, he’s become more dynamic since taking over for Nicolas Batum as the starting power forward. LA seems to have made it a point to find Morris on post-ups, and he’s done well operating as both a triple-threat scorer and distributor on the block. To have Morris as a tertiary offensive creator is a luxury for LA, as he’ll often have a mismatch after opposing teams send their two best defenders at George and Leonard.
Zubac, the wall
The Clippers were nearly perfect on offense, but Lue was more pleased with the Clippers’ defensive performance. The Bucks hold the fifth-highest offensive rating in the league, but LA was able to hold them to just 105 points and keep them under 47% shooting. Lue was particularly proud of Ivica Zubac’s coverage of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
While the Greek Freak was sent to the free throw line 12 times, Zubac did a good job at times of staying vertical, absorbing contact at the rim and forcing tough shots.
LA will play the second game of their home back-to-back on Tuesday, squaring off against the Orlando Magic at Staples center at 7 p.m.