Wins are fun. Wins against your hated rival are better, though. Even in the preseason. Tonight, the Los Angeles Clippers finally shut up the Golden State Warriors once and for all by snatching Golden State’s championship away from their lifeless hands after a 130-95 walloping. Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Andrew Bogut were held out of tonight’s game because the team from the Bay Area knew those three couldn’t handle the bright lights of Los Angeles. Hope you enjoyed your championship belt while you had it, Warriors, because it belongs to the Clippers now. Wait, that’s not how any of this works? Darn.
|Golden State Warriors||20||23||33||19||95|
|Los Angeles Clippers||31||36||33||30||130|
In a lot of ways, this was a pretty terrible preseason game. There were 87 combined free throw attempts, 66 personal fouls, 8 technical fouls, and one ejection. Quite often, this game lacked a flow because referees were too whistle happy in an effort to prevent any would-be skirmishes. The only notable thing that happened was Draymond Green and Lance Stephenson barking at each other to the point where double technical fouls were handed out. And then there was Chris Paul getting ejected for literally telling the referee “don’t talk to me like I’m a little kid.” Apparently that’s grounds for an ejection. Cool story, Eric Lewis.
As for the actual game being played on the floor, the Clippers took Golden State behind the woodshed for an old fashioned beatdown that was primarily only possible because the three aforementioned players were sitting this game out. Despite that, the team did look good. Especially the starting unit. Lance Stephenson got the start at small forward tonight in an effort by Doc Rivers to see what Lance was capable of there. Not shockingly, the starting lineup produced well offensively. It’s what they do. Stephenson looked okay, but not great. He’s more than worth his salt defensively, but offensively he was out of position and making the wrong reads – the latter being what led to two direct turnovers for the club. Stephenson could work at small forward. He just needs to find his flow offensively.
The other four starters looked as good as they usually do. Chris Paul shot just 2-of-8, but he had 10 assists in 19:43 of action. Late in the first half, he eviscerated and devastated Golden State with his crossovers and passing ability on one play, and then crossed them over before nailing a three on the next play. He’s still a dazzling crescendo of brilliance. People can debate “Paul or Curry” all they want. It doesn’t matter. Paul’s what we got and he’s better than what we’ve ever had. He’s one of the greatest to ever lace ‘em up and he’s a joy to watch dismantle opposing defenses night-in and night-out.
Not shockingly, J.J. Redick was excellent from the floor and also in the first quarter. He finished with 15 points – 9 of which came in the opening frame – on 5-of-7 shooting. Redick’s ability to move without the ball is one of the best parts of a Clippers’ game. It’s like watching The Godfather on repeat. You know what’s going to happen, but you still adore how magical it is as it takes place. DeAndre Jordan had 10 points and 10 rebounds, as well as 4 steals and a block, in 26:44. He still is good defensively and might make a run at Defensive Player of the Year. Jordan also hit 4 of his 7 free throw attempts. Perhaps it was the new hairdo he sported. Prosper, DJ.
The real story of Los Angeles’ starting group was Blake Griffin. He poured in 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting in just 24:59. Griffin was also 7-of-9 from the line and repeatedly tortured whoever was guarding him. That man was, more often than not, Draymond Green. In the game, Green committed four fouls. Three of them were him trying to stop Griffin, but being unable to do so. Cool fouls, Draymond. While he finished with just 2 rebounds and also racked up 5 personal fouls, Griffin was the knight in shining armor tonight. He was knocking down mid-range jumpers, eating people alive in the post, and generally being a god among children. It’s hard to say if this Blake is here to stay, but if he is then the league has a problem on their hands.
There was a lot to like about the bench tonight, believe it or not. Austin Rivers torched the opposition to the tune of 16 points on 11 shots, including a thunderous dunk. Jamal Crawford had 13 points on a tidy three shot attempts and Josh Smith chipped in with 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks of his own. Smith made both of his threes. Paul Pierce had 7 points and 6 rebounds, C.J. Wilcox hit all three of his shots and finished with 7 points, Cole Aldrich had 3 points, and the trio of Branden Dawson, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Wesley Johnson each had 2 points. The bench moved the ball and actually looked like they understood basic concepts. Maybe this is the plus to starting Lance Stephenson at small forward. It limits how much Jamal and Lance can play together which, in turn, limits how much the ball gets stuck. Good job, guys. Progress was made.
As for Golden State, Klay Thompson finished with 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting. However, he was ice cold in the first half and went 1-of-5. He scored 15 of his 21 in the third quarter, thanks to 5-of-7 shooting, and still looks like he’s the Thompson of last season. Even without Curry in the backcourt, Klay can light it up. Ex-Clipper Shaun Livingston got the start at point guard in place of the reigning MVP and put up 10 points on 5-of-7 from the floor. It’s great to see how hard he’s worked on his craft since that horrific injury he suffered all those years ago. He’s turned into an adequate mid-range shooter and seeing him even play is one of the greatest joys when watching basketball.
Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli both looked like guys who want a max contract, but have no idea what one even is. Barnes finished with 6 points on 1-of-3 shooting and still looks like the Harrison Barnes who coasted through college at North Carolina. That’s not a good thing. Maybe it was an off game because Curry wasn’t there, but Barnes has to be better if he actually wants to get paid. As for Ezeli, it’s still unsure why Golden State would want to pay him anything more than a couple million per year. His hands are still terrible and he still fouls way too much for a big man. Ezeli finished with 5 points and 5 rebounds, but had 5 turnovers and 4 fouls in 16:21. If you can’t stay out of foul trouble and constantly fumble the ball when it’s passed to you then you’re pretty worthless. Ask Kwame Brown.
Their bench played admirably despite being shorthanded. Jason Thompson had 9 points and 5 rebounds, Marreese Speights had 9 points and 6 rebounds, Ian Clark had 11 points, Leandro Barbosa had 7 points, James Michael McAdoo managed to score 5 points when he wasn’t getting massacred by Blake Griffin, and Chris Babb registered 3 points. Their bench without Andre Iguodala is a train wreck. There’s little spacing and little movement. It’s nice to see Brandon Rush out there on the floor again, but it could be a long year for their bench if guys can’t rekindle their magic from last season.
The team has just one preseason game left and it’s Thursday night in Los Angeles against the Portland Trail Blazers. Don’t sleep on Portland, by the way. That’ll be a test for the Clippers. Portland is energetic, young, and feisty. They might not have the name talent that they had last season, but they have talent that’ll push the Clippers to the brink because of their never-say-die attitude. After all, they nearly stole a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night because of that mentality.
As for tonight, the Clippers looked good against a team missing three of its most vital cogs. You’d expect the team to look great when they get a break like that. One might even say that the Clippers were lucky. Either way, it’s nice to get a win and the team moves to 2-3 in the preseason with one game remaining. They’re 2-0 in the United States, though. 81 of their games are in the states this year so 81-1 isn’t out of the realm of possibility at this rate. Clip clip, hooray!
Ball movement was better, energy was better, defense was better, and just the sheer will was better. Los Angeles played like a team that wanted to win and wanted to prove a point. No one knows if that point was proven, but the fact remains that the team is still one of the best teams in the Western Conference and will be right there for the crown at the end. Results don’t matter in the preseason. Process does. Tonight, the process was very good. It’s something to build on. And building is what this team has to continue doing.