The Clippers got their first pre-season win in their third try Saturday night in Oakland, 99-89 over the Warriors. All the usual caveats... pre-season is meaningless, blah blah blah... but, since the Warriors have already beaten the Lakers twice, this proves without a doubt that the Clippers are better than the Lakers! Yes! Whoo-hoo!
Seriously though, let's take a look at the box score. Ah! My eyes! It burns!
I didn't see or even hear it, but this game must have been ugly. The Clippers had 28 assists (good) against 27 turnovers (awful). The Warriors had 19 assists (so-so) against 23 turnovers (awful). That's an even 50 turnovers for the game.
The Clippers shot 40%. The Warriors shot 33%.
The Clippers did at least rebound well (of course there were a lot of them to be had given the poor shooting). Their big guys were not the reason for the rebounding advantage. Chris Kaman had as many rebounds as Brevin Knight (5), while Josh Powell and Paul Davis (2 each) had fewer than Dan Dickau (3). So how to account for the Clippers 59 to 42 edge on the boards? Two small forwards - Corey Maggette had 14 and Ruben Patterson had 11.
Kaman, in his first preseason action, was still missing - literally. After making his first shot, he missed his next 6, and ended up with more turnovers (5) and fouls (4) than points (3). Let's hope that was just rust and not a sign of things to come.
So, it's still hard to imagine how the Clippers won this game. Most of the numbers look frightful - Diaz 1 for 6, Davis 1 for 7, Kaman 1 for 7, Korolev 1 for 4, Cassell 2 for 7, Knight 2 for 6... but two guys carried the load. In what ClipsNation hopes is a preview of a great career, Al Thornton scored 24 points on 11 for 15 shooting in 26 minutes, while Ruben Patterson scored 19 on 9 for 14. Maggette scored 18, with 11 of those coming from the line.
(The contrast between Maggette and Thornton, at least in this game, is striking. Thornton scored 24 points on 15 shots - he made two 3's, but took not a single free throw. Maggette scored 18 points on 9 shots. He was a mere 3 for 9 from the field, but 11 for 13 from the line. So while Thornton had a true shooting percentage of 80% compared to Maggette's 33%, Maggette's points per shot of 2 is better than Thornton's 1.6. Maybe Corey can teach Al how to get to the line, and Al can teach Corey how to shoot jump shots.)
If the Clippers have any hope of being successful this season, they will have to hope that a couple guys on the roster get hot each game, and that as a team they are able to find and feed the hot hand. The team does go 10 or 11 deep (though while the 'depth' is excellent, the talent is less than spectacular, even at the top of the depth). Can Thornton and Patterson carry them one night, Cassell and Kaman another, Mobley and Dickau another (Maggette, with his ability to get to the line, should be the one constant)? The answer is, probably not. But tonight they did.