Los Angeles Clippers advance but will need much more from Montrezl Harrell

Los Angeles will need more Montrezl Harrell in round two.

As most predicted the No. 2 seed Los Angeles Clippers defeated the No. 7 seed Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2020 NBA playoffs, doing so in six games. Unlike many predicted, the series was far more competitive than many might have expected. There was a lot to glean from the Clippers performance, but heading into the second round, they are desperately going to need more from Montrezl Harrell.

The Clippers were never quite able to find their stride as the NBA’s next big star, Luka Doncic, literally willed his team to victory on two separate occasions despite being without his partner in crime Kristaps Porzingis for one of those.

No one has had a rougher go so far in the NBA bubble than Harrell, and it clearly affected his play as he attempted to get back into game shape through the Clippers series against Dallas. As you might remember, Harrell was forced to leave the bubble very early into his stay to be with his ailing grandmother, missing very valuable time with his teammates through the last eight games of the regular season.

Harrell would ultimately return following her passing rocking an incredible tribute to her during his first game back – but it was clear he still wasn’t quite ready to contribute at the level we had seen during his career best season.

He found himself in an unnecessary “controversy” following comments directed towards Doncic in a skirmish during game three that quickly brought unwanted publicity and questions during such an important time. The “controversy” was nothing more than a media-made issue – but despite that, Harrell apologized to clear the air in game four.

Harrell awoke a sleeping beast during a game three win, and it resulted in Doncic ripping the Clippers to shred. As one of the NBA’s top defensive teams the Clippers have been unstoppable at times this season, and it’s a big reason why many have predicted them to win the title, but in game four they literally could do nothing to stop Doncic.

The NBA’s leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year has never shied away from battles on the floor, even dating back to his time at Louisville. But what made this series unlike most was Harrell’s play didn’t meet the expectations that he has set throughout the last two seasons.

It’s hard to blame Harrell considering what he’s dealt with over the last few weeks with being away from the floor while dealing with the death of his grandmother. It’s also difficult to be away from the game of basketball for multiple months only to get in basketball shape before having to step away again.

Harrell has shown rust and the effects of not being in “game shape” during this series but even still he hasn’t looked quite like himself. As one of the NBA’s most effective scorers, Harrell has made his hay coming off the bench at the five position and flipping games upside down with his energy and ability to score & rebound around the rim.

We saw that Harrell in spurts, but for the majority of the season it was a different player out there for the Clippers. After putting up season averages of 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, including 66 percent from the field & ranking ninth overall in real-time +/-, Harrell finished the first round series against Dallas with a disappointing 9.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game while averaging a -7.2 +/-.

Not good.

Montrezl Harrell’s game-by-game performance against Dallas Mavericks

  • Game 2 – 10 pts, 2 rebs, 2 TO, 3 FLS, -17
  • Game 3 -13 pts, 2 rebs, 1 blk, 2 FLS, -15
  • Game 4 – 2 pts, 1 rebs, 3 blks, 2 TO -19
  • Game 5 – 19 pts, 11 rebs, 1 ast, 1 blk, 2 TO, 3 fls +34
  • Game 6 – 4 pts, 2 rebs, 3 PF -19
  • Totals = 9.6 pts, 3.6 rebs, 1.0 bpg -7.2 
  • Season Averages = 18.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg

Despite that, the Clippers were able to pull out a victory thanks to the incredible scoring prowess of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, while getting solid contributions from role players like Lou Williams, Ivica Zubac, Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, and others.

LA will now await the winner of the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets which could extend to a game seven should the Nuggets in on Sunday evening. During that time, Harrell will have plenty of time to work himself back into the same playing condition he played during the regular season and his mind ready to dominate.

Even in the struggles Harrell has been an incredible teammate and stayed positive, never once sulking, and it’s that mentality that has me confident his game will come back to him. Free agency is  approaching and a lot is on the line for him, considering he’s likely headed towards a major pay grade.

Harrell’s performance in game five where he scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds is what everyone is expecting out of him, and if he’s able to get to that level in the second round the Clippers will be as dangerous as ever.