Best of the Best: Top Moments from the 2017-18 Clippers Season

Best of the Best: Top Moments from the 2017-18 Clippers Season

by Caden Kinard and Brantley Watson

LOS ANGELES — Despite narrowly missing the playoffs, the Clippers endured a 2017-18 campaign filled with memorable moments.

Due to the team’s roster changes and injuries, every player on the roster saw significant minutes, leaving their mark on one of the more memorable seasons in recent years.

Here are the top performances, plays and moments from each Clipper over the course of this season:

Lou Williams: Half-century

Warriors coach Steve Kerr turned out to be prophetic. Before the Clippers-Warriors matchup on Jan. 10, Kerr said, in jest, that he expected Lou Williams to drop 50 points that night. And Williams did just that. In 35 minutes of play, Williams torched the defending champions, scoring a career-high 50 points and hitting a career-high eight threes in the process, becoming the fourth player in franchise history to accomplish the scoring feat. His 27 points in the third quarter were the second most by any player in a quarter this season, and his 37 points in the second half were the most by any player this season. More impressively, he led LA to a 125-106 win at Golden State.

Bonus moment: Williams is known as a prolific scorer, but this season, he proved his effectiveness dishing the rock as well. On Jan. 26 in Memphis, Williams scored 40 points off the bench – a feat he accomplished twice this season – and tallied 10 assists, becoming the first player since 1984-85 to register 40+ points and 10+ assists off the bench.

Patrick Beverley: Tone-setter

Patrick Beverley missed 71 of the Clippers’ 82 games this season with a knee injury. Luckily, he set the tone for the team on Oct. 19, in their first game. On opening night, the new-look Clippers played the role of visitor against the Los Angeles Lakers, with all eyes on the matchup between Beverly and Lakers rookie guard Lonzo Ball. On Sept. 15, in response to Ball’s outspoken father saying that Warriors guard Steph Curry won’t be able to guard Ball, Beverley tweeted, “But imma guard him the first game and we will see about that!!!” And guard him he did. With 7:44 left in the first quarter, as Ball crossed half court, Beverley blatantly body-bumped Ball to the floor and immediately raised his hand to take credit for the foul. From that point forward, Beverley harassed Ball all evening, holding him to 3 points on 1-for-6 shooting in his NBA debut.

Danilo Gallinari: Just a taste

More than anything, the Clippers win over Chicago on Feb. 3 was just a glimpse into what could have been and what could be. Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic were suited and ready to make their Clippers debut at STAPLES Center, but it was Danilo Gallinari who was the star of the show. He registered 25 points and 9 rebounds and was a +25 when on the floor. Harris scored 24 points as well, and the thought of Gallinari and Harris on the floor as big, stretch forwards was an exciting prospect for the Clippers. Gallinari suffered from multiple injuries this season, but that night, LA got a glimpse into what the Clippers offense could actually be with a healthy Gallinari.

Wesley Johnson: Difference-maker

From Jan. 11-20, Wesley Johnson was at his best. Johnson is a veteran role player, whose responsibility is to do everything on the floor. And in five games in 10 days in January, he did just that. Johnson scored double-figures in five straight games, averaging 13.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks, while shooting 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. On Jan. 15 against Houston, Johnson put up 11 points, grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds, and tied a season-high with 4 blocks. Lastly, over those five games, LA went 4-1, including wins over the Rockets and the Nuggets.

DeAndre Jordan: DJ on V-day

It was like a Valentine’s Day treat for Clippers fans. LA visited the Boston Celtics on Feb. 14, at arguably the Clippers’ healthiest point of the season. And it was a marvel to see what the team was capable of, highlighted by one of the best games of DeAndre Jordan’s career. Jordan poured in a career-high 30 points on 11-for-14 shooting. He added 13 rebounds and a season-high 4 steals, and more impressively, he connected on 8-of-9 free throws, including 4-for-4 in the fourth quarter. LA defeated the Celtics in Boston, the East’s second-best team at the time, 129-119.

Bonus moment: The month of March belonged to Jordan. He grabbed 273 rebounds in 16 games, an average of 17.1 per game, the second most per game in a single month in his career. In 12 of those 16 games, he grabbed at least 15 rebounds, and in the month of March alone, he tallied five 20+ rebound games.

Sindarius Thornwell: Dunking in the spotlight

You know it’s a highlight when the other team celebrates for you. On April 9 against New Orleans, with 2:45 left in the game, rookie Sindarius Thornwell pump-faked, drove down the left side of the lane, and proceeded to drop a bomb on Pelicans’ forward DeAndre Liggins. The highlight-reel dunk sent the crowd into a frenzy and even Pelicans forward Anthony Davis jumped out of his seat on the bench. It was one of the best dunks of the NBA season and put Thornwell on the radar of many who may not have yet known the Clippers first-year guard. He scored a career-high 20 points and dished out a career-high 7 assists that night.

Tyrone Wallace: Into the fire

Tyrone Wallace represented one of three major two-way contract players for the Clippers this season. The rookie guard got the call up at the top of the year, and in his first game, he took the court against the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Jan. 6. He scored 13 points in his NBA debut, and two nights later, he scored 11 against Atlanta. But his best performance, arguably of the entire season, came on Jan. 10 at Golden State in his third NBA game. Wallace dropped 22 points, grabbed six rebounds, dished out 4 assists and tallied 2 steals in 34 minutes. His performance was greatly overshadowed by Lou Williams’ 50 points in the same game, but Wallace was key in the Clippers earning the victory.

C.J. Williams: For the win

It went from a lackluster Clippers performance to a special rookie moment. LA trailed Atlanta at home by two with 23 seconds left. With 17 seconds to go, Lou Williams missed a three but a Wesley Johnson offensive rebound gave the Clippers another shot. And C.J. Williams made the most of it, knocking down a game-winning three from the left wing with 9 seconds to go. It was the biggest shot of the rookie’s career, and in that game, he played a career-high 37 minutes.

Avery Bradley: Defensive dash

In only his second game since arriving in Los Angeles, Avery Bradley saved a Clippers victory over the Mavericks on Feb. 5 by making two incredible defensive plays in the final minute. With the Clippers down one, Lou Williams missed a jumper and the Mavericks pushed the ball on the break. A layup looked inevitable for Dallas rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr., but Bradley tracked him down in a full-fledged sprint to poke the ball loose for a basket saving play. On the next Mavericks possession, Bradley essentially did the same thing, tracking down Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber and forcing him to miss a layup. "There's three to four guys in the league that would have done that," Doc Rivers said after the game. It was a sneak peek into what makes Bradley so special, especially on the defensive end.

Sam Dekker: A little bit of everything

The Clippers were missing Blake Griffin, Milos Teodosic, Danilo Gallinari and Wes Johnson on Dec. 22 against the Rockets, yet, they came away with the victory, and Sam Dekker played a large part. The third-year forward out of Wisconsin slashed and cut his way to the rim, matching a then-season high 12 points. Dekker also tallied a season-high 3 assists, and grabbed 5 rebounds, doing a little bit of everything in the Clippers 128-118 victory.

Jawun Evans: Full-court press

James Harden, the likely MVP for the 2017-18 season, scored 51 points in the Clippers-Rockets matchup on Dec. 22. But late in the game, after a Clippers rally, the 5-foot-11 Jawun Evans clamped up the Rockets 6-foot-6 superstar, defending him full court and standing his ground. Evans took two charges in the game’s final moments, securing the Clippers victory. Coupled with his defense, Evans added 15 points, matching a career-high, and handing out 4 assists. His +20 in the plus-minus category was a team-high.

Montrezl Harrell: Heart of the Goon Squad

Montrezl Harrell represented the heart of the Clippers' bench unit, known as the 'Goon Squad.' The 6-foot-8 forward often served as the Clippers backup center this season, fostering a potent pick-and-roll combination with Lou Williams. Averaging 11.0 points in 17 minutes, Harrell scored the most points of anyone averaging 17 minutes of fewer in the last 30 years. Harrell's production was on full display on Mar. 25 against the Raptors. The Clippers trailed, 27-9, before Doc Rivers brought in the 'Goon Squad.' Harrell was dominant, scoring at the rim while giving the team an energy edge, much like he had all season. Harrell finished the game with 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting. It wasn’t his highest scoring total of the season, but it came at a time when the Clippers needed it most, as the franchise chased the playoffs on the verge of elimination LA defeated Toronto, 117-106.

Tobias Harris: Quick-hitter

Rightfully, Lou Williams earned the right as Clippers closer, but Tobias Harris might need to be known as the Clippers opener, as the seventh year forward was often the primary option for the Clippers to begin games. His most important performance occurred in the first half against San Antonio on April 11. As the Spurs offense operated surgically, Harris buoyed the Clippers, keeping them within distance. He scored 17 points in the first half on 58-percent shooting, leading the Clippers as they closed a 19-point deficit to four as the team fought for their postseason lives. Harris finished the game was 31 points in the comeback victory, perhaps the team's signature win on the season. On average, Harris scored 19.3 per game with the Clippers, with an average of 11.3 points coming in the first half.

Boban Marjanovic: A Mile-High Story

Down 19 to the Nuggets on the road late in the third quarter, Doc Rivers searched through his coaching tool kit and grabbed the largest item: a 7-foot-3 Boban Marjanovic. Checking in for the first time with 4:06 remaining in the third, the Clippers then produced a 26-4 scoring run, with Boban leading the way and Denver having no answer for the league's largest player. Boban scored 18 points, with all his field goals coming within three feet of the rim, essentially sealing his defender under the basket on every play. Several times, the Nuggets opted to foul instead of allowing the easy dunk, but Marjanovic made eight of his nine free throws. The Clippers won the game, 122-120, and it was Marjanovic who keyed the victory.

BONUS MOMENT: Boban is a "culture driver" as described by Lawrence Frank, President of Basketball Operations. His personality is joyful and uplifting to anybody that crosses paths with him, and much of Boban's joy was on display during pregame activities, such driving a comically small go-cart with his large frame and dancing on the court with Tobias Harris and DeAndre Jordan prior to tip-off.

Austin Rivers: Scoring bonanza

On Dec. 22, the Clippers trailed the Rockets by 10 at the half. Then in the third, Austin Rivers scored 16 points, his most in any quarter during his career. By the end of the game, Rivers totaled 36 points, a career-high, including six three-pointers and 7 assists. It was a career night for Rivers, leading the Clippers comeback victory over the Rockets. But the celebration needed to be short, as the Clippers played the Grizzlies the next night on a back-to-back, a fact apparently not lost on Rivers. He followed up his career-best with a new career-best, finishing with 38 points against the Grizzlies on 14-of-20 shooting. It was the best two-game scoring stretch of his career by far. He was lethal from deep, hitting 11 threes in two nights.

Milos Teodosic: Flash in a pan

On Serbian Heritage Night at STAPLES Center, LA’s rookie guard from Serbia, Milos Teodosic, put on a show. He opened the game hitting four three-pointers, matching his career-high within the first six minutes. As the crowd roared and his shot fell, Teodosic amped the flare up, throwing full-court outlet passes to streaking teammates, and numerous no-look dimes. But in the second quarter, he had perhaps the Clippers highlight of the season, dribbling past a DeAndre Jordan screen, then throwing an over-the-shoulder no-look pass with his body facing the complete opposite way, leading Jordan to a dunk at the rim. The crowd shrieked in pleasure, and every NBA highlight account quickly posted the play.