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Clippers 124 - Warriors 117 (Pre-season) - A Tale of Two Halves

Warriors vs Clippers boxscore

To see what they're saying about this game from the other perspective, head over to Golden State Of Mind.

Let's start with the obligatory caveat - it's only pre-season.  But mon dieu, what a crazy pastiche of themes shown through in this game. The Clippers trailed late in the first half by 20, 71-51, but used a 28-7 run over the course of about 8 minutes to turn the game completely around and win their second consecutive pre-season game, 124-117 over the wacky Warriors.

It's way too early, but tempting nonetheless, to say that the Clippers exhibited a level of professional pride in this game, coming back strong in the second half after playing a terrible first half, that we literally never saw last season.  There were no second half comebacks last year (nor the year before that, nor really the year before that for that matter).  There were games that started well that the Clippers won.  And then there were games that started well that the Clippers lost.  And then there were games that started badly and ended worse.  But there were no second half comebacks.  But tonight, in a pre-season game, the Clippers came out of the halftime locker room with something to prove.

It's way too early, but tempting nonetheless, to say that Rasual Butler is simply a better fit than Al Thornton as the starting small forward for this team.  For the second game in a row, Butler was the team's leading scorer, but this time it was with an impressive 27, rather than a best-of-the-balanced lot 14.  And it hardly seems like a coincidence that Thornton was the starter when the Clippers were outscored 21-10 to start the game, while Butler was the starter when they opened the second half 22-5.  To be fair, the Warriors are as we've discussed the weirdest team in the league, so what works against them won't necessarily work against other teams, but Butler makes sense with the Clippers' starters.  He spreads the floor for the bigs, he can catch and shoot off of Baron's penetration, and he plays better defense than Thornton.  Even before tonight's game, I felt like it was a foregone conclusion that Butler would be the starter - this just reinforces that feeling.

It's way too early, but tempting nonetheless, to say that Baron Davis is now ready to be the impact player the Clippers thought they were getting - a year later than expected, but better late than never.  After being dismantled by his former teammate Monta Ellis in the first half, Baron came out and embarrassed the kid in the second - picking him clean twice in about 40 seconds to set the tone for the rest of the game - not in my house Monta.  The Clippers early third quarter comeback was all about Baron - during the 22-5 run that turned the game around, he scored nine points and assisted on eight - that's 17 of the 22 points the Clippers scored.  This is the player - the presence - we remember from that Warriors team in 2007.  He even spiked Anthony Randolph at one point - he literally spiked the dude, Baron making like Dain Blanton on the AVP tour.  With Sebastian Telfair resting a tweaked hamstring, Baron was the only true point guard available - and he was +18 in his 30 minutes on the floor.  And yes, I think he may be that important to the team this year.

Like I said, it's way too early to say any of that.

It's not too early to talk about how good Chris Kaman looks.  He's 17 for 25 in the pre-season so far, including 6 for 9 in this game, and (although I don't generally like to echo the things being said by the taller half of Milph) he just seems so decisive right now.  He gets the ball, he makes a move - and things tend to turn out well when he does that.  When he fakes four times, spins twice and opts for the leftie reverse layup when the rightie dunk was staring him in the face, things rarely end well.  Here's the stat of the night for Chris - one turnover in 38 minutes played - against the wacky Warriors.  He may have trouble replicating his Kaman 2.0 rebounding numbers from two seasons ago, sharing the court with other voracious rebounders like Marcus Camby and Blake Griffin this season (the three of them had nine each tonight), but on the other hand his shooting percentage and assists should be much better with so many other options on the floor.

It's also not too early to say that Eric Gordon, as good as he was last season, has a very good chance of being even better.  He scored 22 points on 15 shots, which is kind of typical for him.  But he just looked so good scoring.  Whether he was driving to the basket, drawing fouls, spotting up for threes, or freezing defenders with step backs, he displayed the full arsenal tonight.  There are a lot of capable scorers on this team and EJ doesn't have to carry too heavy a load - but I'm completely convinced that he could if he had to.  He's the complete package.  In the absence of Telfair, he even played about 8 minutes at the point tonight, and didn't look half bad.

It's also not too early to conclude that Blake Griffin is going to be very, very good.  Around the time of this summer's Clipper blogger summit, we spent a lot of time discussing some NBA archetypes like "Glue Guy" and "Energy Guy" and I concluded that these are labels that people put on certain players that don't qualify for more high-falutin' descriptions like "star".  Well, Blake Griffin may soon become the league's first star "Energy Guy".  His numbers tonight (15 points and 9 rebounds in just 23 minutes) extrapolate out to terrific overall productivity.  But he just adds more to the team than that.  He needs to cut down on the dumb fouls, and his offensive game is still a work in progress (although the move he laid on Mikki Moore early in the fourth was big time, as long as you ignore the travel at the beginning as the refs did).  But he can be a 15-10 guy strictly on fast breaks and putbacks - it just goes up from there as his game continues to develop.

But let's face it - it's way too early to get too excited.  And I'm getting pretty excited.