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NBA Pre-Season: Clippers Conquer the Kings 104-87

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The shorthanded Clippers showed their depth Thursday evening, beating the Sacramento Kings 104-87 and bringing their preseason record to 2-2.

NBA: Preseason-Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Clippers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

No one was anticipating Thursday night’s preseason game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings to be very exciting. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a pretty fun watch.

The Clippers were down six players, including presumed starters Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari, and Austin Rivers , but still found a way to secure the win. The contest was evenly played through 24 minutes; the teams ended the half tied at 44-44. The Clippers broke the game open at the beginning of the third with a balanced scoring attack, and the Kings never recovered.

The Clippers had five players in double figures: Blake Griffin (18 points), Wesley Johnson (16 points),Tyrone Wallace (16 points), Lou Williams (14 points), and DeAndre Jordan (13 points).

Zach Randoph led the Kings with 14 points.

The depth of the Clippers’ bench was on full display throughout this match-up; the young squad moved the ball and pushed the pace effectively. The veterans looked just as good, firing on all cylinders. Although the defense was inconsistent and there was an ungodly number of turnovers, those are issues that will resolve themselves over time as team chemistry improves. All in all, there is good reason to be very optimistic about the 2017-2018 squad.

Here are my takeaways from Thursday’s game.

Johnson on an Uptick

Wesley Johnson is heading into his 3rd year with the Clippers. To date, he has failed to live up to expectations. The 2016-2017 season was the worst of his career. He averaged a dismal 2.7 points per game on 36.5 percent shooting from the field and 24.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Despite this unimpressive history, things are looking bright for Johnson. If the preseason is any indication, he is poised to have his best year yet with Los Angeles.

Johnson has looked like an entirely different player than seasons past: confident, comfortable and decisive. Thursday night against the Kings Johnson scored 16 points on 75 percent shooting from the field and 100 percent (4 for 4) from three-point land. He also contributed five boards, one assist and two steals.

This quality performance does not appear to be a one-game fluke. In the three previous preseason games played, Johnson averaged 8.7 points in 16.5 minutes, shooting 74.1 percent from the field and 80 percent from beyond the arc. Hopefully, Johnson can maintain this high level of play. The Clippers could use his scoring abilities during the regular season and beyond.

Blake doing Blake Things

Blake Griffin looks fantastic. He is conditioned, happy and, most importantly, healthy. Griffin was extremely confident shooting against the Kings, particularly the three-ball.

Griffin scored a game high 18 points in 26 minutes of play, shooting nearly 54 percent from the field. He also debuted a spectacular step-back jumper that really adds to his arsenal of offensive weapons.

Griffin’s lack of hesitation and improved accuracy will change the way defenses play the Clippers during the regular season. By pulling defending power forwards away from the paint, Griffin opens up a variety of scoring opportunities for his teammates, as well as for himself.

Teodosić Continues Stellar Play

After scoring 15 points against the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday, Miloš Teodosić returned to his “pass-first” playbook, taking only one shot attempt in the first half of play against the Kings. His instincts and superior court vision did get him 5 assists and 2 steals, however.

In the second half, Teodosić did look to shoot the ball more; presumably he was reminded to do so by coaching staff. In the third quarter he drained two three-pointers and hit a runner, in addition to picking up another assist. He finished the game with 8 points and 6 assists.

Teodosić’s conditioning has improved since Hawaii, and his comfort level with his new teammates, especially Griffin and Jordan, is growing exponentially each game. Once he finds a balance with his shooting and passing, he should be unstoppable. There is no question that Teodosić is the best rookie point guard in Los Angeles, despite what our cross-town rivals in the purple and gold may think.

DeAndre’s Double-Double

Those who worried DeAndre Jordan would have difficulty finding ways to score without Chris Paul, you can kindly sit down. DeAndre is getting fed by many of his new teammates, and appears to be doing just fine. Against the Kings he racked up 13 points and 14 rebounds in 26 minutes of play.

Meet Tyrone Wallace

Tyrone Wallace is a rookie from Cal who is vying for a spot on the Clippers’ regular season roster. Wallace was given significant minutes on Thursday to show the Clippers he could run with the big boys, and he did not disappoint. In 25 minutes Wallace scored 16 points on 66.7 percent shooting from the field, had 2 assists, and grabbed 5 boards and 2 steals. I really like this kid. Can we keep him?

Transition Play is Strong

The Clippers have been very open about their intention to run, run and run some more this season. Their athleticism, particularly the athleticism of their big men, is an advantage over most of the teams in the league. The Clippers had a lot of opportunities in transition against the Kings, although not all of them resulted in points. As the players chemistry grows – and it will – expect much more of this:

The Clippers last preseason game is a home game at Staples Center on Friday, October 13 at 7:30 PM PT against the Los Angeles Lakers.