It's preseason, so there's certainly no reason to panic. Still, if this is truly the best Los Angeles Clippers team in franchise history, it would be nice if they started playing like it. After two exhibition games, the team is without a win and has looked extremely mediocre in the process.
The defense in particular has been pretty sad -- all the more troubling as the conventional wisdom had held that in Doc Rivers' second season at the helm with so many players returning, the defense should be far ahead of where they were in preseason last year. Instead, the Clippers gave up 112 points on 48.6% shooting to the Warriors and 119 points on 53.9% shooting (not to mention 17 three pointers!) to the Trail Blazers. And that was with the opposing All Star point guards doing essentially nothing (Stephen Curry fouled out in 18 minutes and Damian Lillard didn't even play). Yikes.
I'd be willing to stipulate that Portland's three point shooting Sunday night (17-25) was an outlier -- but they did get a LOT of open looks, both inside and outside of the arc.
I suppose it was positive that the second unit looked good last night. The team was actually quite a bit better with Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar and Jamal Crawford in the game (all of them were +8 or +9 in plus/minus for the game). Then again, if we're going to dismiss Portland's three point shooting as unsustainable, the same must be said for the fact that those three combined to make 12-19 from deep. Still, Hawes and Farmar were brought to LA in large part to make threes, and they did exactly that last night. So the second unit looked good, and if we assume that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are going to be fine over the course of the season, you can put a silver lining on the Portland cloud with the strong bench play.
If nothing else, the first two preseason games should be a lesson in NOT overreacting to small sample sizes of data. Griffin made a slew of jumpers on Tuesday night against the Warriors -- then turned around and missed absolutely everything, most of the time very badly, in Portland. Neither game is indicative of what's really going to happen this season. He'll almost certainly be a slightly better shooter this year than he was last year -- not a lot better, but better.
Continuing the theme of "The preseason doesn't matter" the 0-2 Clippers face the 2-0 Jazz in Salt Lake City tonight. And against whom did Utah get their two wins? The self same Portland team that lit up the Clippers last night.
Utah is hoping that their youth movement begins to pay off this season. They have no choice really. Dahntay Jones and Steve Novak are the only players older than 26 on the roster, and neither figures to play a major role. The starting lineup consists of lottery picks stockpiled since 2010, with this year's fifth overall pick coming off the bench.
The problem for the Jazz is an absence A-list talent. All of their young players are nice enough -- but none of them appear to be superstars, and maybe not even All Stars. That didn't keep the Jazz from handing a maximum contract to Gordon Hayward this summer in order to keep him in Utah. (At the time it looked insane, but in light of the NBA's new TV deal, it may not be so crazy after all.)
Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, expect Doc Rivers to loosen up the rotation quite a bit tonight. In the first two games, he played things pretty much by the book. Chris Douglas-Roberts got some run at the three in the first one, not in the second; Reggie Bullock started in place of Matt Barnes in Portland; Hedo Turkoglu got the backup power forward minutes ahead of Glen Davis in the first half last night. But aside from those tweaks, the rotation has been what you would expect.
That will change tonight. Doc amy decide to rest some starters the whole game. Even if he doesn't, he won't play them much. Joe Ingles will likely get his first significant action, as will rookie C.J. Wilcox and Jared Cunningham. (Ekpe Udoh turned an ankle in warmups in Portland and may not be available to play in Utah.)
Two games in, Clippers fans have a new mantra -- it's just preseason, it's just preseason. Hopefully tonight in Utah they'll show us a team that gets us ready for the regular season to begin.
The game starts at 6 PM on Prime Ticket.
For the view from Salt Lake City, head over to SLC Dunk.