Recap: Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers handled the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night at Staples Center to grab their first win of the 2016-2017 preseason 104-98. After trailing by as much as 20 in the second half, Toronto scored 19 in a row in the 4th quarter to go up 91-90 with 3:49 left in the game. The Clippers, at that point playing with a lineup of all reserves except for Felton, locked in on defense, forced turnovers, and inched towards their first victory over Toronto (preseason or not) in over two years. JJ Redick and Mbah a Moute were notably absent from the game for the Clippers, and Raptors prime mover Kyle Lowry rested for the game. No injuries were reported for either team.
Felton and Rivers in Starting Lineup
The Clippers started a curiously effective lineup of Paul, Felton, Rivers, Griffin, and Jordan. The Clippers immediately appeared worlds closer to their typical regular season style of excellence. Deandre Jordan dunked 3 lob passes in the first 5 minutes and 5 total in the first half, and appeared to be playing with a level of control and rhythm that comes from a summer spent fine tuning his game on the international scene.
So Glad Griffin is Back
Blake Griffin looked comfortable and measured while scoring 14 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and handing out 3 assists in the first half, all while shooting about 145% from the field. A great look for the Clippers was a lineup using Griffin at the 5 and Marreese Speights at the 4. This lineup allowed Griffin to run a faux second unit, pushing the ball up court in transition, and cleverly distributing from the post.
We Like Felton
The most encouraging sign for the Clippers? Raymond Felton looks like he may be one of the most underrated free agent acquisitions in the league this last off season. His recent work in Dallas was forgettable, but he absolutely came to camp this summer in amazing shape, and looks ready to contribute either as a primary ball handler for the second unit, or as a super tough and muscular 2 guard with a starting unit. Felton looks like he fits in immediately and adds another dose of toughness that the Clippers seem to be searching for every off season. It will be great if we can come up with some sort of R2D2 moniker for Felton to go with CP3. You read it here first.
These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For
Pay no attention to that late game blown lead. The Clippers were comfortably up by double digits for most of the game. Lapses occurred as both coaches experimented with players deep into their rotation, but Los Angeles generally looked composed and in control, and to be clear, there’s no regression in Chris Paul’s game. Recording at least 15 assists in barely two quarters, Paul looks to be aging beautifully in a John Stockton-esque sort of way. Paul looks every bit as good as when he first arrived in Los Angeles in 2011, and it’s a no brainer decision for the Clippers to offer Paul the maximum this summer.
DeRozan Lives in the Midrange Game
DeRozan spent most of his time operating in the midrange, and at 6’8” with fluid maneuvering around the baseline, he appears to have modeled his game after jedi master Kobe Bryant. DeRozan is just a two-time all-star, so it’s not a terrible shock that he’s never been all-NBA since the 2-guard position is fairly stacked at the moment. But in any case, that is likely a next-step personal goal for the 27-year old who just signed a 5-year deal with Toronto.