The Clippers led almost wire-to-wire against a Timberwolves team that struggled defensively all night and couldn’t manufacture much offense after the 1st quarter. The Clips got off to a sizzling start thanks to Danilo Gallinari, who poured in 14 points in the opening period on a variety of shots, including a couple deep threes. Every Clippers’ starter scored in the 1st, looking very competent on offense and at least appearing solid defensively. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander notably hit a couple catch-and-shoot threes off nice passes from Gallinari and Harris, and appeared to fit in great with the rest of the Clippers’ starters. The bench wasn’t as good, struggling to get stops and turning the ball over a couple times in a row. Jerome Robinson got early minutes in this one, and played mostly off-ball. The one time he tried to create, he was forced to take a rushed midrange jumper which missed.
The second quarter started off slow, with neither bench able to do much offensively. As soon as the starters returned, however, the Clippers pulled away, clamping down on defense and scoring with ease offensively. Tobias Harris got in on the action now too, showing off his offensive arsenal. More importantly, he demonstrated other aspects of his game, going hard for rebounds and making plays for others. If there was an issue with the starters, it was probably Marcin Gortat’s offense: he went up too soft around the rim several times, missing little hooks and flips rather than going strong or passing out. He has some finesse, but it was not working for him tonight.
Montrezl Harrell started the 3rd quarter for Gortat, who took the rest of the evening off. And it was Harrell, along with more razzle-dazzle from Gallo and Harris, who really cracked the game open. Soon the Clippers were up 20, and the Wolves seemingly gave up, setting in for trading buckets rather than trying to make a run (to be fair, it is preseason). The icing on top of the cake was a gorgeous behind the back pass from Gallinari, who was simply magnificent all night. Soon after the starters began exiting the game, replaced by largely the same second unit (Ty Wallace-Jerome Robinson-Sindarius Thornwell-Mike Scott) as before, but this time joined by Boban Marjanovic. Big Bobi got the loudest applause from the crowd all night, and did not disappoint, pouring in 15 points in 11 minutes. The 4th quarter was complete garbage time, with the Clippers’ second unit slowly checking out for the deep bench guys. Jawun Evans came in first, followed by Johnathan Motley, and then Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez. Evans, Motley, and Delgado all had some nice plays, and the Clippers even widened their lead to nearly 30 points before the final buzzer. It was a classic team victory, as the Clippers put up an amazing 36 assists, though they had 19 turnovers as well.
- Gallinari and Harris dominant: The best news from preseason is that the Tobias Harris-Danilo Gallinari combination looks every bit as good as they did in that brief stretch last season when Gallo was actually healthy alongside Tobi. Gallo scored 22 points on 8-11 shooting, while Harris had 23 on 7-10. They each piled up 6 rebounds and 4 assists as well, contributing in areas outside of scoring. Gallo looks healthy and confident, while Tobias appears to have expanded his game a bit. If they can remain healthy, they should be a deadly duo.
- Shai looks good once more: Shai impressed yet again, scoring 12 points on 5-8 shooting and adding 5 assists with no turnovers. He had a few gaffes with the shot clock and being unable to get separation in isolation, but mostly looked excellent. Despite playing alongside four quality veterans, Shai did not look out of place, moving about the court calmly and getting to his spots. His three-point shots looked swift, smooth, and confident, and if he’s a reasonably good outside shooter his rookie season, it will be very tough to keep him off the court.
- Scott errant on shot: Mike Scott was 0-4 tonight including 0-3 from deep, and has just not found the range yet in preseason. Still, he’s getting open looks, many of them from the valuable corner spots, and appears to be a good fit in the offense. He’s a proven shooter, so he should come around sooner than later.
- Beverley energetic: Nobody takes preseason quite as seriously as Pat Beverley. He took three charges, drew another offensive foul, and was generally making his presence felt all over the court. Pat’s positive impact can rarely be seen in the box score, and tonight was no exception. The Clippers are a different team when he’s out there: better defensively, sure, but also just more lively and tough. Fingers crossed that he can stay healthy this season.
- Jerome and Sindarius struggle: Doc promised that the Clippers’ two young wings would get more playing time in this game after barely appearing (or not playing at all in Thornwell’s case) in the Clippers’ preseason opener. They did see a lot more of the court, with 24 minutes for Jerome and 20 for Sindarius, but neither played all that well, as they seemingly forced things on the offensive end. This was not surprising from Jerome, who was playing his first real NBA minutes after not even getting much time in Summer League. However, it would have been nice if he stood out more when playing with and against mostly G-League players in the 4th quarter. Thornwell’s defense and energy were a plus as always, but he needs to get his outside shot down and make better decisions on offense if he’s to get a spot in the Clippers’ rotation.
- Jawun out of the rotation: It’s no secret that the Clippers have to cut two players from their roster, and since August Jawun has looked like one of the odd men out. Tonight seemingly confirmed that, as he didn’t make an appearance until true garbage time in the 4th quarter. Once he was in he played well, however, making several nice passes and generally running the team calmly. It probably wasn’t a good enough performance to completely save his job, but it was a strong showing, and hopefully we see a couple more from him during the rest of preseason.
- Resting the vets: Lou Williams, Avery Bradley, and Luc Mbah a Moute sat out tonight, which Doc did for rest purposes and to give the young guys a chance to play. As mentioned above, Gortat only played the first half before joining them on the bench, while Wes Johnson appeared for a brief five minutes before taking a seat as well. Johnson truly might be out of the rotation behind Scott and Mbah a Moute, perhaps even Thornwell, but I’d guess he gets more playing time in a couple of the Clippers upcoming preseason games.
That’s all for this one! The Clippers’ next game is Saturday against the Lakers, which should be quite interesting. In the meantime, check for more player previews to come out in the days to come.