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NBA Pre-Season: Clippers Fall to Raptors in Hawaii, 121-113

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These two teams put on a show for the Hawaiian fans.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers fell to the Toronto Raptors in a high-scoring pre-season opener, 121-113.

The Clippers limited the minutes of their starters, as is custom is exhibition games, but the early minutes showed some really promising offensive fluidity with the first unit. Austin Rivers seemed a little out of place at times, but the four main stars—Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan—meshed really well. When Milos Teodosic subbed on early in the first quarter for Rivers, he immediately showed off his passing prowess. While Milos struggled shooting tonight (0-5 from the field, 0-3 from deep), he had 8 assists in 20 very promising minutes.

Beverley added 14 points, DeAndre Jordan had 6 points and 9 rebounds, and Blake Griffin led the way with 18 points in just 20 minutes, including two made three-pointers.

One stat of note was the number of free throws drawn by the Clippers—Griffin and Jordan have always made it to the line at a high rate, and newcomers Gallinari and Lou Williams also draw fouls at prolific rates. Two pedestrian nights from the field (3-9 for Gallinari and 4-9 for Williams) were saved by a couple stellar nights from the line (10-12 for Gallo, 9-12 for Lou) and each ended up with a strong 17-point outing.

Down the bench, Doc Rivers gave a lot of guys chances to prove themselves, and we’re sure to see different combinations of guys in the four remaining exhibition games. I don’t think at this point it’s especially worth reading into rotations as a sign of Doc’s opening night rotation—but it can be useful to evaluate the performances that guys turned in.

Wesley Johnson was stellar in his 18 minutes, adding 10 points, 4 rebounds, and a steal on 4-5 shooting. If he can hit threes at a solid rate and utilize his athleticism on the break, he could certainly be an asset for the Clippers this season, but at least two of his made shots—an and-1 three and a pull-up jumper off the pick-and-roll—aren’t the type of play we can expect to see him make consistently. Still, Wesley is in a precarious spot with the Clippers’ forward depth, and any push for rotation minutes will only make that competition more fierce.

Jamil Wilson also looked solid as the Clippers’ two-way guy, though he struggled defensively (4 fouls in just 12 minutes). We’ll look for him to grow into the NBA game over the course of his first season at this level.

The three players who seem slotted to make up the Clippers’ backup frontcourt (Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, and Willie Reed) all turned in lackluster performances, only appearing for a few second-half minutes each. I expect that all of them will get more run going forward in the pre-season.

Brice Johnson and Sindarius Thornwell also showed well, especially Thornwell who made a open three from the wing and converted a nice and-1 on a drive from the corner in his 4 minutes of play late. Neither seems likely to be a regular rotation piece (though Brice has a better shot in the frontcourt than Sindarius does in the backcourt), but with the Clippers only carrying 11 veterans this season, these young players will be relied upon for injury depth over the course of the season.

The only player on the Clippers’ real 14-man roster who didn’t feature tonight is Jawun Evans, who will likely get some minutes going forward as Doc Rivers rotates the squad. None of the Clippers’ four camp invitees played tonight.