LA Clippers 2018-19: The Numbers in Review

LA Clippers logo (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
LA Clippers logo (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images /

The Raw Stats

Here, I want to talk about the raw statistics. Things like points, rebounds, percentages, that sort of stuff.

The Clippers made their bones by scoring this year, and the defense lagged behind a bit. We were 5th in scoring at 115.1 points per game. That was better than teams like the Trail Blazers, the Rockets and the Thunder. How did we do this without a top 10 player?

The aforementioned best scoring attack off the bench in NBA history. We ended at 53.2 points per game from our reserves; easily the best in the league.

In fact, as far back as goes, this is the highest scoring bench on record. Of course, this was led by super sixth man Lou Williams, scoring 20.0 per game (a team-high among players not traded at the deadline [*cough* Tobias Harris *cough*]), and 7th man of the year Montrezl Harrell, scoring 16.6 per game.

Passing the ball wasn’t one of the team’s strong suits either. We finished 18th in the league in assists per game, at 24 assists per game. That’s not the most surprising thing in the world; our point guard is a rookie, and as he gets his feel for the game his assist numbers will come up. Also, Lou Williams is an iso scorer at heart, and Danilo Gallinari likes to feel out the situation a bit before he makes his move. Lou actually was our assists leader at 5.4 per game. That puts our number one assists guy at 34th in the league.

Another way of thinking about that, beyond just “they’re a bunch of iso scorers who don’t pass,” is that we don’t have a superstar, right? There’s not really that guy who’s consistently drawing doubles, which lead to open shots for whoever is left open. If only we had the cap space to bring in a superstar or two. Oh, well…..

In the world of misleading statistics, the Clippers were 7th in the league in 3PT% this year! Awesome, right? It’s great to be able to bomb threes. Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that we were 28th in the league in threes attempted, and 25th in threes made. So we weren’t able to just bomb threes with abandon. Encouragingly, though, our guys were smart about the threes they did take. Even though they didn’t shoot much, shooting 35.4% from three as a team is a very nice mark.

Most of those stats speak pretty well about the team. Those stats are also all offensive stats. That is no coincidence. The Clips allowed 114.3 points per game this year, good for a whopping 25th in the league.

The interior was really the big problem here. The Clips were 23rd in points allowed in the paint, 25th in field goal% allowed at the rim, and 22nd in 2nd chance points allowed. Giving up penetration and allowing lots of putbacks isn’t a good formula for success on the defensive end.

To be completely fair to the team, after the all-star break, with Ivica Zubac patrolling the paint, there was one crucial difference. Post-break, the Clips stayed middle of the pack at 19th in field goal% allowed at the rim (down from 17th pre-break), 10th in second chance points allowed (up from 24th pre-break), and stayed exactly at 25th in points allowed in the paint (also 25th pre-break).

So what we’re seeing is the effect of having, really, any competent center under the basket. While there was still a lack of defense in the paint, we prevented a lot of second chance points, which was a big deal for our squad. The more you can stop that, the more chances, too, you have to get out and run in transition. The Clips went from 15th in the league in fast break points pre-break (with 12.8 per game), to 5th in the league post-break (with 18.2).

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This is an encouraging sign, to me. If we can address interior defense in the offseason, our defense can really start to shine and keep up with our offense.