The Los Angeles Clippers finally got their first preseason win last night against the Utah Jazz, and tonight they're off to the Nevada desert to face the Denver Nuggets. It has become an annual event -- a Clippers preseason game at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. In fact, Vegas is fast becoming a home away from home for the Clippers. In addition to Summer League (which involves pretty much every NBA team) the Clippers held their training camp in Las Vegas this year, and have announced that they will do so for the immediate future as well. I'm not sure why they would want to per se, but the Clippers seem determined to take the Vegas market away from the Lakers.
The Clippers needed 49 points in 48 minutes off the bench from Spencer Hawes and Jamal Crawford last night, but it's a good thing they showed up because the rest of the reserves failed to score a point. Matt Barnes, the starter at small forward for the latter part of last season and the playoffs, has been essentially non-existent all preseason. Doc Rivers would prefer to bring Barnes off the bench, but one presumes that he was hoping that one of the other options would present an option stronger than Barnes, as opposed to Barnes simply abdicating the position with listless play. Bottom line is, the small forward by committee approach so far has been a disaster so far, but then again, the season hasn't actually started yet. Chris Douglas-Roberts did manage 10 points as the starter last night, the first Clipper wing to scratch double figures in October.
The Nuggets are also struggling at 1-4 -- but it's preseason for them too. Denver's a difficult team to pin down heading into the season. Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson are near stars, and Danilo Gallinari is back after missing all of last season. But it won't be easy for them to break through to the post season in a very, very deep Western Conference this season.
The Clippers still have not looked great, even in their win over Utah last night. Chris Paul remains pretty much missing in action so far. We'll see how Doc Rivers approaches the second game in two nights -- he may give some guys the night off, although the fact that the game is in Vegas, where fans will want to see the stars, may have a bearing on his decision there.
Watching Trevor Booker deliver a hard foul to a driving Blake Griffin last night must surely give Rivers pause about playing any of his stars in meaningless games. It's one thing to have to worry about an excessive foul during a regular season game causing an injury -- the thought of such an injury occurring in the preseason is really depressing. Of course, there's no one on the Nuggets that might want to drop Griffin, is there? (Oh, wait. Timofey Mozgov. Faried. At least Andre Miller isn't there any more.)
On a side note, Rivers responded to a Dan Woike (Clippers beat writer for the OC Register) question last night at the pre-game presser by saying that he was going to start Joe Ingles tonight. I maintain that Doc was clearly joking, but Woike took him at face value. We'll find out who is right soon enough.
UPDATE: Yeah, I guess I should have checked twitter before publishing. Ralph Lawler tweeted that Doc would indeed start Ingles at almost the exact time I was writing the above. Oh well.
Clippers to start Ingles at SF and Crawford at SG tonight v Denver in Las Vegas. 7pm Pre-game on Prime Ticket. Redick gets night off— Ralph Lawler (@Ohmeomy) October 19, 2014