Clippers face tough Bucks and the ‘Greek Freak’ next

The Clippers returned from Portland packing a fifth loss, more valuable experience for rookie Shai Gilgeous Alexander – and, for sneakerhead Montrezl Harrell, bags and bags of shoes, courtesy of a stopover at one of his favorite shops, IndexPDX.

Harrell and his teammates will lace ’em up early Saturday when they host Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in a 12:30 p.m. game at Staples Center.

The Clippers have won 10 of their past 13 meetings with Milwaukee, but at 9-2, this season’s Bucks are tough – just ask the Golden State Warriors, whom Milwaukee beat 134-111 on Thursday.

The Bucks are off to their best start since 2001-02, and like the 6-5 Clippers, they’re statistically among the NBA’s best-rated teams on both sides of the ball: Milwaukee is scoring 115.3 points per 100 possessions and allowing 102.4 points per 100 possessions, which ranks second and third in the league, according to nba.com/stats. The Clippers are scoring 111.5 points per 100 possessions (sixth in the NBA) and giving up 107 points in that same span (13th).

Harrell has helped. Over his past six games, he’s come crashing off the bench to score on 30 of his 41 attempts (73.2 percent).

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Gilgeous-Alexander has been productive, too. In just his 11th game – and second start – as a pro, he faced the Trail Blazers’ formidable backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and finished with season-highs in points (19), field goals (seven) and 3-pointers (two) in Thursday’s 116-105 loss.

“I thought he did a pretty good job defensively, too,” Rivers told reporters afterward. “You can put him on a Lillard or a McCollum and he can do pretty good, so I was overall  happy with him.”

Portland got a combined 48 points from its starting backcourt, but Lillard and McCollum needed 45 shots to do it.

Before the trip, Rivers predicted the matchup would help Gilgeous-Alexander grow.

“Playing in the NBA’s hard, and it should be,” Rivers said. “I don’t think practices are easy for Shai. Going against Avery (Bradley) and Pat (Beverley) … every day is good for him – in Shai’s case, bad is good. Just the fact that he needs to keep getting better and the fact that he wants to is probably the best part of it.”

BIG THREE

Beside the Clippers, only the Warriors have three players averaging 19-plus points per game.

The Clippers’ top scorers are Tobias Harris (20.7 points per game, a career high), Danilo Gallinari (20.0, a career high) and, off the bench, Lou Williams (19.2). (The Warriors’ Stephen Curry is leading the league with 29.5 points per game, and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are putting up 26.8 and 20.8, respectively.)

Harris has scored 15 or more points in a career-best 11 consecutive games and Gallinari is the top scorer in the league among players averaging less than 30 minutes a game (he’s playing 29.3 minutes per contest).

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Gallinari also has been almost perfect at the free-throw line, making 57 of 58 attempts, including 53 consecutive — just five shy of Jamal Crawford’s Clippers record.

Williams, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, is averaging 21.6 points over his past seven games. He’s leading the NBA in bench scoring and total fourth-quarter points, with 91.

ASSIGNMENTS AND RECALLS

The Clippers on Friday reassigned rookie guard Jerome Robinson to the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, with whom he scored 28 points in his G League debut last weekend – an outing he said helped his on-court rhythm when he was called back to join the L.A. Clippers this week.

Second-year guard Sindarius Thornwell was also assigned to Agua Caliente on Friday, before the Clippers announced they recalled him a couple hours later. In his first game this season in Ontario last weekend, Thornwell had 15 points.

NEW JERSEYS

The Clippers will debut this year’s Nike City Edition jersey Saturday against the Bucks.

The jersey’s design celebrates the team’s 35th season in Los Angeles. The “L.A.” on the front is created in the style of the 1984 Olympic Games’ “Stars in Motion” logo, and the jersey’s navy blue, red and white color scheme was inspired by the uniforms worn by the gold-medal winning 1984 USA Basketball Team.

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