Milos Teodosic is a jewel.
On the night the Clippers learned they would be without Danilo Gallinari’s broken butt for longer than expected, the magical man used his wondrous one-handed touch to turn a listless scrimmage into a game to watch, helping the Clippers stifle the Suns, 108-95.
Milos’ showmanship is almost wholly the product of his passing. (It’s a little bit his beard. And his lumpy physique. And that I imagine he’d prefer to play while smoking.) His passing is spectacular in the truest sense of the word.
There must be passers who are more effective, but so help me I can’t think of one who makes it look so fun so frequently. He never makes simple passes. He never passes with two hands. He never looks where he passes. He just slings and scoops and sails the ball in every possible arc and angle and I’m not sure there’s a spot on the floor he doesn’t think he can reach.
But Milos’ passing isn’t all for show. It unlocks doors. It creates and conjures. On a night during which the Suns worked early to take away the paint, it was Milos’ vision that exploited the cracks and turned them into chasms.
Milos was also the stopper. Not on defense — goodness, no. But he was the streak stopper. By the third quarter, Phoenix looked left for dead, and Interim Head Coach Jay Triano used a quick hook on the few Suns who looked less than fully engaged — COUGH TYSON CHANDLER COUGH COUGH. Triano eventually found five players who would, you know, play, as the Clippers relaxed and coasted themselves back down into a real contest.
Phoenix used an 18-3 run to chisel a 25-point deficit to a 10-point one, all in the late third quarter. Doc Rivers reinserted Milos, who found a streaking Lou Williams on a full-court football pass to end the frame. Milos stayed aboard with his steady hand until Willie Reed tipped a pass to himself for a windmill slam that snuffed out the Suns again.
With minutes-restricted Milos on the bench for the remainder of the fourth, the Suns made another push, but decent-enough team play from the Clippers closed out a scoreline that was closer than the game looked.
I’ll admit this Milos love is all a bit overboard, and it overshadows some notable contributions from the other Clippers. DeAndre Jordan looked lively, catching lobs from anyone willing to throw one. Jawun Evans even did, off the rim, I think. He bested Phoenix and all their wasted big-man draft capital for 20 rebounds and 12 points.
Austin Rivers scored 19 of his team-high 21 points in the first and third quarters, dropping threes and shimmying his way to the basket. He added six assists.
Lou Williams couldn’t find his range, missing four of his five from deep and 12 of 18 overall, but still worked his way to 18 points.
Montrezl Harrell continued his scoring run, chipping in 11 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. His smart and enthusiastic movement continues to be a boon to the reserve unit. His coast-to-coast drive was an eye opener.
In all, six Clippers scored in double figures, including two-way rookie starters C.J. Williams and Jamil Wilson, plus Sam Dekker from the bench.
The Suns provided few highlights, even with a roster that boasts a number of lottery picks. TJ Warren led all scorers with 22 points, although it took him and his midrange-heavy game 24 shots to get there. Fourth-overall pick Josh Jackson scored 17, although Doc Rivers felt comfortable guarding the rookie wing with the diminutive Lou Williams for stretches. Alex Len managed 13 rebounds in just 18 minutes, five offensively. He could — should? — be starting.
In total, the Suns converted on just 36% of their shots, which looks less terrible when measured against their 26% rate in the first quarter. They needed more than four minutes to record their first field goal and it’s a wonder they made this game as close as they did. Twice.
Fortunately for Doc and the Clippers, Milos was there on multiple occasions to make sure it never got closer than close. A Friday-night matchup with the Rockets might have been something, but we’ll have to wait and see whether Chris Paul will be available after straining his leg against the Lakers tonight. At least it’s nice knowing there will still be one magical point guard going.
- I’m sure Tyson Chandler is unhappy being stranded in the literal and metaphorical basketball desert. But the veteran center scored one point and earned a team-worst minus-25 rating in 22 apathetic minutes. He didn’t block a shot. He didn’t attempt a field goal.
- With their 23-point opening quarter, the Clippers snapped a five-game streak in which they’d failed to score at least 20 in the first. That tied a franchise record. This is not a franchise for which historical lows should be taken lightly.
- The bench loves them some Willie Reed. The biggest reactions of the night came on the aforementioned steal and slam, and an earlier play in which Reed used Alex Len to flush an offensive rebound.