Yuck. That game was not exactly pleasant to watch. Even when the team had a five point lead two-thirds of the way through the opening quarter, it was not an easy game to sit by and observe. There were lots of stoppages in play, lots of random turnovers, and the fouls were mounting up. It was just a brutal display of basketball for the most part. As far as the Los Angeles Clippers go, it only got a whole lot more repugnant from there and the team ultimately lost by 20 points to a team who out-everything’d them. While it is preseason, you still don’t want to see what happened tonight transpire at any point.
|Los Angeles Clippers||16||18||28||11||73|
There were 14 total turnovers in the first quarter, 26 in the first half, and 46 for the game. It was sloppy. The team who finished with 21 turnovers on the night actually won the game by 20 points. I’m not sure that’s happened in recent memory. It was just a brutal display by the Clippers and the only semblance of competent basketball by them was played by their starting unit. While that’s not shocking, it’s still depressing. Especially after how much time, effort, and money went into trying to build the bench up. But more on the bench later.
The starters played solidly at times and the best player of the bunch was probably DeAndre Jordan. It’s safe to say that he’s been the team’s top player through the first two preseason games and tonight he showed his improved patience defensively. On more than one occasion, Jonas Valanciunas tried to dupe him into a foul, but Jordan stayed grounded and altered shots really well. He finished the game with 8 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 21:22 while going a perfect 4-for-4 from the field. Jordan’s night will probably be best remembered for a flurry of dunks, but his defense was really good.
J.J. Redick had a strong game, going 5-for-9 and finishing with 15 points while playing tough post defense against DeMar DeRozan. It’s no secret that Redick and Jordan are pretty much BFF’s on the court in the screen game so it was awesome to see them keep up their high level of chemistry. Redick came off of a few Jordan screens and sunk shots that seemed to energize the team. Unfortunately, that energy wasn’t sustained. Wesley Johnson only made one shot – a dunk – but generally looked solid. His defense will be overlooked by the stat sheets everywhere, but he did a really good job on DeMarre Carroll whenever they were matched up.
The big two – Blake Griffin and Chris Paul – looked really rusty early on. They combined to go 2-for-12 and score just 5 points in the first half, but they turned that around in the second half and scored 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting. All of that came in the third quarter. They missed shots they normally make, so there’s no real reason to panic about them. Paul missed a couple wide open jumpers, as did Griffin. They’re going to be fine. They just need to shake the rust off. Happens to the best of them.
No clue what’s going on, but the bench was woeful yet again. In the first half, the unit went a combined 3-for-13 and scored just 6 points while turning the ball over a staggering 8 times. It doesn’t matter how good your starters are if your bench is constantly playing poorly. There’s still no real system in place at this moment for the bench, but you’d still like to see them show you something – anything – that indicates they can at least play minutes together and give the starters a break. That’s yet to happen, but we still are just two games into this.
Collectively, the bench shot 10-for-35 (28.6 percent) tonight and committed 18 turnovers. There’s no way any franchise can survive with that hideous level of play. Jamal Crawford was 2-for-7, but had 7 turnovers. Josh Smith was 2-for-8 from the field, with both makes coming from three, and had 3 rebounds and 2 turnovers. Paul Pierce only played 8:34 and went 1-for-1. Austin Rivers shot 2-for-5, but he had 4 fouls and 3 turnovers. Lance Stephenson went 0-for-4 tonight and is a worrisome 2-for-14 from the field in the preseason. He did not score tonight and had a turnover. Cole Aldrich actually showed nice passing and rebounding ability when in the game, though. So, there’s a plus. Pablo Prigioni didn’t play too terribly, neither did Chuck Hayes and C.J. Wilcox who got into the game late in the fourth quarter. Also entering late was Branden Dawson, who went 2-for-6 – both makes were dunks – and took some horrendous spinning baseline jumpers for no reason.
The bench is an issue. Yes, they only got about four days of practice with each other prior to the preseason tipping off and, yes, it’s also been just two preseason games. However, at the same time, there is a lot to be afraid of right now. First, they dribble the ball way too much and provide zero spacing when doing so. A few times, three of them were caught on one side of the floor which allowed the defense to just swarm them. Secondly, Stephenson has got to stop being visibly offended if a player misses him or doesn’t take a shot directly after one of his passes. It’s already becoming an issue. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, the bad shots have got to stop. The shot selection is still godawful and they’re settling for a lot of contested long twos. That’s not the way to go.
Believe it or not, there was another team that played in this game. Give credit to the Toronto Raptors for stifling the Clippers’ offense by using their length and strength. The addition of DeMarre Carroll seems to already be paying off. It also doesn’t hurt that it seems like Kyle Lowry’s offseason weight loss has translated into him becoming a monster. He finished with 26 points on 7-for-10 shooting and 11-for-12 from the line. Lowry was able to bully his way wherever he wanted to on the court and Toronto did a good job getting him free and into his sweet spots.
Jonas Valanciunas seemed like a focal point early on in the game for them and he finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds on 4-for-10 shooting to go along with 2 blocks. He tried to fake Jordan out a few times, but it didn’t work as well as he had planned. Yet, despite that, he still displayed a good overall offensive game. Raptors look like they’ll be dangerous offensively again and Jonas is one of the reasons why. He had a solid outing. Carroll finished with 6 points on 2-for-4 shooting, Patrick Patterson had 4 points and 5 rebounds on 2-for-5 shooting, and DeMar DeRozan had 11 points on 3-for-9 shooting and 5-for-6 from the line. He also chipped in with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
From their bench, the guy who seemed to steal the show the most was Terrence Ross. While he only went 1-for-3 in the game and had 6 points, he was a defensive menace. He had 4 steals and a block. Perhaps this is the jump Raptors’ fans have been waiting to see from Ross. Also noteworthy was Luis Scola. The veteran big man had 13 points and 8 rebounds on 6-for-10 shooting. He’s just a constant. The guy plays basketball and is always in the right place at the right time. Bismack Biyombo had 2 points, 5 rebounds, and a block. Bruno Caboclo, their first round pick from last year, had 2 points and a block but went 0-for-3. Cory Joseph, who was a big offseason addition for them, had 4 points on 2-for-6 shooting, plus 2 steals. Norman Powell had 6 points on 2-for-5 shooting, first round pick Delon Wright went 0-for-3 with 2 turnovers, Ronald Roberts had 3 points, and Michale Kyser went 0-for-1.
The Raptors seem like they have a solid future that they’re building there and it’s not hard to see that they could create some problems in the Eastern Conference. They certainly have the length on the wings to give teams fits defensively, but they need to be consistent on that end. The offense never seems like an issue for them, but it could be if they ever get bogged down and don’t move the ball. At times that happened tonight. But, like during the regular season meetings, once Toronto moved the ball then everything opened up. This team could do things this year and their defense, should they choose to focus on it, could be why they go far.
Los Angeles will now head home for a little bit before departing for a long excursion to China to play two games against the Charlotte Hornets. If you didn’t hear, Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist got injured yesterday night and dislocated his right shoulder. He’ll be out for a few weeks. It’s a shame. On the Clippers front, they have a lot to work on. Specifically, their bench has to not play like they hate each other and want to each be the hero. That sort of thing cannot happen. It gets harped on a lot, but it’s for a very valid reason. The team only has six preseason games and needs to improve in each one of them. Instead, as of this second, the bench seemed like they regressed. It’s a tad baffling.
The starters will be fine. Well, at least the main four will be. Wesley Johnson played defense tonight and that is what could keep him playing alongside the team’s best players. If that happens, the bench needs to use Paul Pierce’s leadership and ability to their advantage rather than letting players do their own thing. That stuff might have worked on other teams, but for this team to be successful that kind of stuff has to stop. That means no more dribbling around for many seconds before taking a contested mid-range jumper, Lance. Speaking of Lance, he might be his own worst enemy. The player that was in Indiana seems like it’s long gone. Instead, it’s a guy trying to find any spark to his game. That spark, at this second, seems snuffed out.
Preseason results don’t matter; only the process does. Tonight, the team came up short in both the result and the process. They have a few days off before the China trip so they should get some more practice time in and work on the things they’re failing at executing right now. They’ll likely install more offensive sets and try to rein in the bench, but we’ll see how that goes. This was just a really ugly game to watch. And it was made uglier by a lack of continuity and awareness. Time could fix both. It’s up to the team and the players.