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NBA Pre-Season: Clippers defeat Raptors 98-84

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Clippers starting unit looks insane with Milos in it.

NBA: Preseason-Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Clippers Hugh Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers starting unit formed a burly combination of length and pure style that the Toronto Raptors couldn’t hang with, and Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 17 points as they defeated the Raptors 98-84 in an exhibition game played in Hawaii. The Clippers got out to a fairly early double digit lead, and while they don’t put Toronto away completely by half time, the game was never really in question by the second quarter. The Clippers outscored the Raptors in each of the first three quarters, eventually extending out to a 28 point lead (the largest lead any team has held this preseason) before Toronto closed the gap a bit in the fourth quarter with both rosters playing the bottom of their rotations, finally closing at 98-84.

Austin Rivers was resting with a minor injury, so Milos Teodosic started along with Patrick Beverly, Blake Griffin, Danilo Gallinari, and DeAndre Jordan. This unit has some serious game and looked like a very natural pairing in only the second exhibition of the season, and the first time ever as a starting unit. There was a lot of ball movement, and not the lame perimeter movement of the Chris Paul / JJ era, actual downhill, inside/outside, and cross court, actual spontaneous ball movement.

Patrick Beverly played super aggressive defense, next level defense really, at the point guard spot. The “they should start Milos” thing is just crazy enough to work. Milos Teodosic looks better than advertised on defense, and he’s absolutely what everyone hoped he would be on offense. It’s not clear why blog trolls insisted on cautious pessimism regarding his over examined transition into the NBA - he’s got all the passes Chris Paul had, and he’s got a bag of tricks Chris never had, like that underhand full court thing. The worst defender in the NBA thing seems lame now as well. He’s 6’5”, has tons of experience, will get caught in some screens (and we’ve never had thin Clippers guards who get caught in screens like Jamal or JJ, so we’re all super concerned about that suddenly), but generally knows how to handle himself. It looks like with better conditioning his defensive game could become comparable to Kyrie, Steph, D’Angelo, et al.

Doc Rivers is still in experimentation mode, but one substitution pattern that’s occurred in both games this preseason is that he’s subbed out Blake Griffin and Patrick Beverly at almost the same times, and has subbed them both back in together. Other than that, coach Rivers is having a harder look at new players like Willie Reed who shot 4-4 from the field and had 12 points in 12 minutes off the bench. The Sam Dekker thing looks like it’s going to work out as well. Are we sure we didn’t fleece Houston? I don’t know, after the Paul George out of Indiana thing, and the Melo out of New York thing, and the Cousins out of Sacramento thing, I think we fleeced Houston.

Overall, the game is not a major revelation. The known assets look like known assets, with new foundation pieces like Gallo, Beverly, and Milos looking better than advertised, and they ran through the Raptors who themselves are having a look at tons of different players. The Clippers indeed look younger, faster, unpredictable, a bit grittier, and a lot more interesting than their teams of yesteryear. But we know the teams of yesteryear could run for 82 games and collect a top 4 seed. At a glance, the 3 point shot for the Clippers could be an area that needs work - they shot 6-21 from deep. Gallo, Blake, and Jordan were 15-18 from the free throw line, and if that can become a regular thing the Clippers offense will be able to squeeze out points efficiently, consistently, and in important moments.

Serge Ibaka looks like he’s got a lot of game left, doing things he’s always done like hitting threes, throwing down dunks in the lane, and blocking shots. Oh yeah, and he did that thing where he gets all aggressive, locks arms, and then acts all confused like he doesn’t know why everyone is looking at him. Classic Ibaka.

The Clippers next preseason game is at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday October 8 against the Portland Trailblazers.