• Joe Makar

Meet the Clippers Ideal Closing Lineup

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Among NBA contenders, late-game coaching and clutch execution can be the difference between a postgame interview drenched in Gatorade and a somber walk back to the locker room, often spent wondering what could’ve been done better.

In league circles, they say it’s not who starts the game that matters, but who finishes it. While a team’s closing lineup usually involves the team’s best players, it makes sense to first evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent, as well as the cohesion and chemistry between members of your closing lineup.

As one of the frontrunners for the NBA championship this season, the Los Angeles Clippers will be performing under a microscope in terms of how they perform in the clutch - when the fate of the entire game is on the line. A closing lineup of Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Montrezl Harrell seems to be the perfect lineup for the Clippers to close out games throughout the playoffs. This unit not only consists of the team’s most prominent names; it is a quintet with strengths that complement each other extremely well. This potential closing lineup provides the perfect mix of offensive firepower and defensive consistency. Let’s examine each player in this potential crunch-time lineup and debate why they should or should not be trusted in the game’s final minutes.

Patrick Beverley is a defensive menace who also happens to be a threat from three-point land. Beverley has shot 38.1 percent from downtown for his career, which complements a lineup featuring Leonard and George quite well. When everything is falling for Leonard, he is impossible to stop and will demand a double-team; the opposition will undoubtedly look to get the ball out of his hands. With dangerous scorers such as Leonard. George, and Williams in the lineup, Beverley might be the option that opposing teams elect to leave open when doubling a star. If he is burying threes at the efficient clip we’re used to seeing, the Clippers are going to be dangerous in crunch time.

Lou Williams is one of the greatest bench scorers in NBA history. The three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award winner has a resume that speaks for itself and undisputedly deserves to be in the closing lineup. He has a proven track record of hitting clutch shots and provides a third scoring option if either Leonard or George are having an off shooting night. While his defense leaves room for improvement (he might even get played off the court against certain teams, such as their cross-town rivals), his offensive capabilities alone are enough reason to incorporate him into the Clippers closing five.

Paul George has battled through inconsistent performances during the first round matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. However, George is the second-best player on this team, and should unquestionably be incorporated into the crunch-time lineup. Even if he is having an off night shooting the ball, his defensive presence makes him an irreplaceable member of the team. When the star player on the opposing team has the ball in his hands, George is often given the assignment to guard him and secure the win for the team.

Kawhi Leonard should be on the floor to close out Clippers games - this is a no brainer. Leonard is the undisputed best player on the team and is one of the best two-way players in the league. His ability to score proficiently at all three levels and clamp down the opposition on the other end played a big part in his title run with the Toronto Raptors last year. Leonard will be given the difficult task of guarding some of the best forwards in the league, but the Clippers organization has full faith that he can hold his own against some of the league’s very best, and rightfully so.

Finally, while Ivica Zubac has been opening games at the five for the Clippers, Montrezl Harrell should be the closing center. At 6-foot-8, Harrell is undersized for a center, but his tenacious style of play translates into the impact of someone much larger and more physically intimidating. Harrell is the player on this team that displays the most heart, evidenced by his ability to clean the glass, defend, and dominate the paint on the offensive end. He is a bruiser and enforcer who inflicts fear into the minds of his foes. In the closing minutes of crunch time when every possession carries heavy meaning and rebounds are critical, Harrell is a guy you certainly want on the court.

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