This was a largely unremarkable game, just a regular preseason contest without any stakes and not much excitement. The Clippers’ starters looked quite good on offense, led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Marcin Gortat. Shai made some terrific passes (which unfortunately weren’t converted), and Gortat scored repeatedly around the rim. Even with Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley off, the Clippers stayed ahead of the Lakers, mostly due to the Lakers’ inability to make open shots. The entire 1st quarter was mostly good offense from both teams (at least in execution) as well as sloppy defense.
The 2nd quarter went much the same, but this time the Clippers’ standout was Ty Wallace, who got to the rim several times and made some nice plays defensively. His efforts were able to keep the Clippers’ bench afloat despite a surprisingly weak stint from Montrezl Harrell, who went up soft a couple times and didn’t play great on defense. Shai sustained his strong play when he checked back in, this time joined by Harris, who began to score even though his outside shots continued to rim out.
The third quarter started slowly, with neither side able to get much going offensively. The Clippers remained just slightly more effective, and their defense notably tightened up, forcing the Lakers into some tough shots and turnovers. The game turned when Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell re-entered the game. From the late 3rd quarter to the early 4th those two won the Clippers a double-digit advantage. Lou drained a couple threes and repeatedly got to the line (he had a game-high 19 points on 11 shots), while Harrell took advantage of the slower Zubac in the post after his less aggressive stretch in the first half. With the Clippers up by 12 points in the mid-4th quarter, Doc put Jerome Robinson back in along with Boban Marjanovic. Boban carried the Clippers to victory on his broad shoulders, scoring 11 points in 7 minutes, and pulling in 6 rebounds as well. He was simply unstoppable, with Lakers’ players practically hanging off him in an attempt to stop him from scoring. Doc emptied his bench, and the Clippers cruised to victory against the Lakers’ third unit.
- Tobias is off shooting, still plays well: This game showed some of Tobias Harris’ development. He had an off night shooting, going 6-17 from the field and 1-6 from three. He looked uncomfortable at times, settling for jumpers rather than going to the basket. But he was still able to contribute by adding eight rebounds and dishing out a couple assists. His efficiency wasn’t even that bad, as he got to the line six times, making five. For Tobias to make a leap this season, he needs to become more than a shooter. Tonight we saw a glimpse of that.
- Shai continues to impress: Shai once again looked like one of the best Clippers on the court, and while it is preseason, there don’t seem to be any glaring reasons that his play can’t continue when the games start to matter. He gets to the hoop easily, can finish in a variety of ways once he gets there, and is a very, very good passer with nice instincts on defense. His two weaknesses are his outside shot (he’s hesitant still, though he did drain a couple pullup jumpers today) and his lack of strength in finishing inside. Once he adds some muscle to his finesse, and gets some confidence in his jumper… look out. Even without those things, Doc Rivers simply has to give him real minutes out of the gate, and there’s a solid chance he starts before the season is over. He just looks great.
- Avery and Sindarius fall flat: The Clippers started Sindarius Thornwell and Avery Bradley at the wing positions tonight, and neither played well. The two players combined for 2-10 shooting from the field and 1-5 from three with no free throw attempts. They generally looked out of sorts on offense all night, mixing in wild takes to the rim (Thornwell) with horrible pullup jumpers out of the pick and roll (Bradley). Bradley did contribute four assists, though he had five turnovers to make up for it. They played well defensively, Bradley in particular, but the Clippers need better offense from those guys. At the very least, they need to make their open 3s. It’s been a disappointing preseason for both of them, especially for Thornwell, who needs to impress if he’s to get rotation minutes this season.
- Ty and Gortat are mostly positive: Ty Wallace continues to stand out as the most impressive non-Shai youngster on the Clippers. He’s aggressive getting to the hoop, plays good defense, and is a nice secondary ballhandler. His problems are that he can’t shoot and that his court vision is a bit lacking. He twice missed open wide open three-point shooters due to lack of awareness, and while he won’t play much (if any) point guard this season, his lack of shooting means that’s probably his best position longterm. If he’s to make a step forward, he needs to improve his court vision a bit. Gortat was also largely a plus, making most of his shots and snagging a bunch of rebounds. However, JaVale made him look very slow a couple times on defense, something that will happen fairly frequently this season. At 34, Gortat just doesn’t have the foot-speed to keep up with younger centers, much less perimeter players if he switches onto them. Still, he’s had a nice preseason, as has Wallace, who’s definitely secured his roster spot.
- Jerome Robinson is quiet: Jerome Robinson was once again pretty quiet, scoring three points on 1-5 shooting in 16 minutes. His one shot was a great move (he sidestepped a flyby defender and then drained the three), but he looked like just another guy out on the court otherwise. He did show some nice flashes on defense, and he definitely doesn’t look bad – he just doesn’t appear to be ready for rotation minutes yet.
- Continued lack of clarity on roster spots: Jawun Evans remains the favorite to get cut or traded, as he didn’t make his appearance until garbage time in the 4th quarter. Once again, even though the stats don’t show it, he played well, running the team calmly and making a couple nice passes. The only reason he doesn’t appear to be a lock as one of the cuts is that some of the other potential “victims” aren’t standing out. Thornwell has disappointed, Wes Johnson largely did nothing but foul and grab a few boards in his minutes, and Milos can’t even get on the court due to an injury. It remains unclear who will be staying and who will be going.
Well, that’s it for this one. The Clippers are now 3-0 in preseason play, though preseason records mean absolutely nothing. The good news is that their most important players – Tobias, Shai, Lou, and Montrezl – continue to play well. The bad news is that some of their other potential rotation players – Avery Bradley, Mike Scott, Sindarius Thornwell, and Wes Johnson – have not been sharp at all. Hopefully they straighten out going into the regular season, while the Clippers’ top guys retain their strong play.