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Clippers 114 - Lakers 95 - Pre-season - That Went Well

I love this backcourt.
I love this backcourt.

If you went into this game with a wish list of things you wanted to see happen from the Clippers' perspective, you would have hit almost all of them.

You would want Chris Paul to be Chris Paul. To control the game, make good decisions, and have fun. He did all of that, to the tune of 17 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 5 steals in just 24 minutes played. He was a remarkable +26 in those 24 minutes, and his 7 rebounds led the team.

You would want Chauncey Billups to make shots and look comfortable in his new uniform. He certainly did those things, scoring a game high 23 points in just 20 minutes, while making 4 of 6 threes and all nine of his free throws. Billups was absolutely ruthless from deep, taking one 30 footer, and another on the pull up while 1 on 4 to give the Clippers an 18 point lead. As for comfortable, well on a two on none fast break he threw a pass off the backboard to Blake Griffin for the jam. It was totally worth the technical foul Griffin got for hanging on the rim.

You would want Caron Butler to look healthy and to hit shots. Butler finished 3 for 8, but looked smooth on his jump shots, making two three pointers along the way. He opened the game defending Kobe Bryant, which tells me he's not very worried about his lateral movement or quickness.

You would want DeAndre Jordan to be a defensive force and to finish plays around the rim. Jordan had 4 blocked shots in 27 minutes and defended Andrew Bynum well enough to hold him to 5 for 11 shooting. One of his blocks was defending straight up against Bynum, which is unusual for DJ who usually gets his blocks from the weak side. He also blocked a Kobe Bryant dunk attempt which found Kobe on his wallet after the play. On the other end, he had three monster dunks in the game, two on lobs from Chris Paul. As much as Paul loved playing with Tyson Chandler in New Orleans, I really think Jordan can be even better, at least as a finisher. As Paul and Jordan start developing real chemistry, I really can't wait to see what will happen. In addition to the two that connected, Paul also threw one too low that Bynum deflected, and DJ mishandled one. They'll be even better Wednesday than they were tonight.

You would want the backup bigs to play well enough to make that position look a little less thin. Brian Cook had 12 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes, and rookie Trey Thompkins had 8 points and 5 rebounds in 13 minutes. They both hit two threes, and that ability to shoot from deep is a perfect complement to the starting front court of Blake Griffin and Jordan. Even camp invite Marcus Hubbard looked serviceable, though he'll still have to be considered a long shot to make the team.

You would want players to make shots. In addition to Cook and Thompkins, the Clippers basically are putting waves of shooters around Griffin and Jordan. Billups, Butler, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Paul, Cook and Thompkins can all hit a jump shot, and can all move out to the arc as needed. And they all demonstrated that tonight. As a team the Clippers shot 49% overall, while also making 13 of 28 threes. That comes out to a effective field goal percentage for the team close to 57%. The Clippers have, for as long as I can remember, been a terrible perimeter shooting team. That started to change last year, but this team looked positively like a Stan Van Gundy Orlando team tonight - a stud in the middle and shooters everywhere else.

The only thing that didn't go exactly right for the Clippers tonight was Blake Griffin. Griffin was pretty ordinary, truth be told. He shot 4 for 11, his four makes all coming on assists, and three of those dunks. He didn't make a single job shot, he didn't score in isolation nor come particularly close, and he missed two free throws. But although Griffin wasn't great, he's the least of the Clippers' worries. Does anybody really think that Blake is going to be less than great this season? Pau Gasol is long and clever and gives Blake some issues. He'll be fine.

So all of the above is the good news. Is it also good news that the Clippers beat up on their big brother Lakers, at one point going on a 31 to 7 run to blow the game wide open? It's OK, but it's not really what is important here. In this shortened training camp, with so little time together and only two pre-season games, it's much more about how the team looks that whether they win. If the team can look great and win at the same time, so much the better.

Talk radio is going to go nuts tomorrow over the Clippers embarrassing the Lakers, over how LA now belongs to the Clippers, making this pre-season game into more than it is. It's just the pre-season, so try to stay calm.

But yeah, I know, there's a lot to be pumped about.

By the way, I'll be on KFWB AM 980 tomorrow morning at around 8:10 to discuss the game and the Clippers in general.