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San Antonio 100 - Clippers 99 - Pre-Season from Mexico City

I said it a couple of times at the end of the game threads, and I'll say it again now:  I'm really, really happy about this game.  Why?  It's only pre-season. 

Because this is the kind of game that would take a year or so off my life if it were a regular season game.  And of course it's the kind of game we endure far too frequently as Clipper fans it seems.  In broad strokes, the Clippers blew an 18 point third quarter lead, missed 3 of 4 free throws in the final 30 seconds, and gave up a three pointer to a D-Leaguer to lose by a point.

It's too late at night to bother with a super detailed recap for a pre-season game.  Here are some things that jumped out at me:

  • The Clippers first possession lasted three seconds and featured a sick Blake Griffin jam off a sick Baron Davis lob.  This is going to be a lot of fun at times this season.
  • Blake was super-productive - but also showed some flaws.  Although he made an 18 footer and a last second three pointer in the first half, he doesn't have a lot of offensive polish right now.  I can't find the exact damn quote, but in Semi-Pro announcer Dick Pepperfield, upon first being confronted with the slam dunk, says soemthing about "Taking the ball with both hands and throwing it in a downward motion forcefully through the rim."  That's pretty much Griffin's best (only?) move right now, and he's really good at that.  But in the second half he was one  for five, missing three pretty easy ones.  Having said that, he'll average a double double this season with his eyes closed.  Rebounding is a no-brainer - hell, he may lead the league.  As for points, he'll get a dozen on put backs and running the floor.  When he does develop more of an offensive game (and he will), he's a 20-10 guy (or rather a 20-14 guy). 
  • In this game at least, the Clippers were SO much better with Baron Davis on the court.  In the final tally, they were +8 in Baron's 16 minutes, leaving them -9 in the 32 minutes he was out for a 17 point swing, but it felt even more definitive than that.  Baron was 2 for 2 (both triples) and had 7 assists against 1 turnover in those 16 minutes.  Randy Foye on the other hand was 1 for 7 with 4 assists and 4 turnovers in 28 minutes in which he compiled a -17 plus/minus; not easy to do when you're team only loses by one.  This is a good news/bad news situation of course.  The good news is that Baron has played one twelfth of the available point guard minutes so far in pre-season, so we can safely say that the team has not been anywhere near top form without him.  The bad news is that Foye is looking overmatched trying to run the team.
  • Somehow (and this is not easy) Foye's shot selection makes Baron look downright timid.  I thought Baron liked long jumpers early in the shot clock - it's all Foye does.
  • While we're on the subject of Foye, the Clippers' big splashy free agent signings, Foye and Ryan Gomes, combined to shoot 1 for 13 tonight.  It's just one game, and obviously not fair to them to single it out.  But it happened.
  • That Lawler's Law thing is pretty amazing.  The Clippers had the chance to hit 100, shooting a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left.  But Gomes missed the second, leaving LA at 99, and Gary Neal sank his three pointer to get the Spurs to the magic number.  Amazing.
  • Eric Gordon scored 22 - and could have (should have?) had 30 at least.  He was 3 for 9 from three, which is at least respectable, but all of his looks were clean, and I just expect him to shoot better than that if he's getting open looks.  He also failed to finish at the rim on numerous drives, though he was getting to the line.  Of course, he needs to make them when he gets there, and he missed four tonight, including two crucial ones in the final 30 seconds (though Chris Kaman bailed him out by rebounding the second miss and scoring).  Three of his four misses were short - way short.  That's not a good sign.  He was clearly in his head on those last two at the end.  He's far too good a shooter to be languishing in the 70s from the line.  
  • EJ's lob to Griffin on a two on one break with 85 seconds left was one of the worst plays I ever want to see.  I believe (or certainly hope) that the play was a function of this being a pre-season game.  During the regular season, surely EJ is smart enough to keep that ball until George Hill makes him give it up, right?  Looking for the SportsCenter highlight, Eric was planning to make the lob the whole way, and Hill knew it.  EJ then threw an uncatchable pass, when he would have had a layup or a dunk had he kept the ball himself.  The Clippers were lucky that the refs called a foul on the play; it probably should have just been a turnover.
  • Speaking of that foul, it's my experience that the NBA is incredibly inconsistent on that call.  Twice in this game, Blake Griffin was fouled as it went up to get lob passes.  It seems to me that should be a shooting foul, and it also seems to me that it is frequently called that way on tips and lobs.  However, both times tonight it was ruled non-shooting, side out of bounds.  In the spirit of the law, if the shooting foul rule is to punish defenses for committing fouls that interrupt scoring chances, these plays would certainly qualify.
  • The Clipper guards continue to be almost non existant as rebounders.  In 80 combined minutes, Baron, EJ and Foye managed to come up with only 2 rebounds.  Yuck.  Consequently, despite the fact that Griffin and Kaman combined for 29 boards themselves, the Clippers as a team were outrebounded by 5.  On good teams, everybody rebounds.
  • The Clippers seemed way too interested in taking three pointers tonight, especially for a team whose strength is supposed to be inside.  32 three point attempts is positively Orlandovian, and if it wasn't for the white hot Rasual Butler (who made 6), it would have been an ugly result.  Butler's hot shooting made up for Gomes' absence.
  • The great irony of this game is that the Clippers soundly outplayed San Antonio's vaunted starters, and then got beat by their bench (esentially by their third string).    Every Spurs starter had a negative plus/minus and George Hill just broke even.  Meanwhile, six of the eight guys you've barely heard of were in positive territory, led by the likes of Curtis Jerrells (+14), Gary Neal (+11) and Bobby Simmons (+16).   So what do you do with that information?  It's enough to make your head spin.  I guess the Clippers would rather face Duncan, Parker and Ginobili than Jerrells, Neal and Simmons. 
  • Finally, this quote from NBA-TV play-by-play man Bob Neal - "The air is thin at 7200 feet, even indoors."  And here I thought they were pumping oxygen into the hyperbaric chamber of the Palacio de los Deportes.  Thank the FSM we get Ralph and Mike on Thursday.  My IQ was dropping a couple points every minute I listened to Neal and Steve Smith.