In what was the team’s best-played game of the Las Vegas Summer League, the Clippers bested the Washington Wizards 89-74 in yesterday afternoon’s opening-round playoff game. Each team went 1-2 in preliminary play and were the 16th and 17th-seeded teams, with the Wizards being ahead on tiebreaker.
The Clippers were once again led by standout rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was more selective with his shot attempts in this game but put more of his passing and vision on display, finishing with 17 points on 8-16 shooting, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block while going +23 in his 29 minutes. Thirteenth overall pick Jerome Robinson had his best offensive outing of the Summer League despite still looking a little shaky at times, contributing 15 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds. Robinson has been banged up throughout the off-season and may be best served waiting to prove himself in training camp.
L.A. was also lifted by a couple of stellar performances elsewhere on the roster: Reggie Upshaw, Jr. and Angel Delgado both provided the kind of role player performances seldom seen in Summer League, where everyone is looking to stand out rather than fit in. Upshaw has been the Clippers’ best non-roster player all tournament, playing as many minutes as Shai and Sindarius Thornwell while averaging 10.8 points and 8 rebounds per game. He’s been incredibly solid and put in work defensively and on the glass while playing within himself offensively, and Clippers coach Casey Hill is rewarding him with starts and minutes. He absolutely broke out against the Wizards, scoring 24 points on 9-15 shooting and 3-6 from deep, and adding 9 rebounds.
Delgado, who has struggled to adjust defensively to the level of play in Summer League, has fought fringe NBA players Grant Jerrett and Vince Hunter for minutes all week. Today, though, he had his best overall performance, showing how his relentless activity propelled him to success at Seton Hall and landed him a two-way contract with the Clippers this summer as an undrafted free agent. He finished with a tidy 14 points (7-9 shooting), 10 rebounds, 1 assist, and 5(!) steals in 23 minutes while matching up against Thomas Bryant, who played 15 games in the NBA last season. When Delgado went to the bench, he was replaced by Jaylen Johnson, who had his most notable performance of the week as well, picking up where Delgado left off and contributing 6 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes.
Fortunately, those contributions from outside the NBA roster made up for a lack of production from second-year players Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans. Thornwell performed well offensively earlier in the tournament, but has dropped off in the last couple of games. Sindarius, however, impacts the game in a variety of ways due to his defensive prowess and vocal leadership. Despite having a frustrating offensive outing, he made his presence known on the court, setting the tone defensively and diving for loose balls. He finished with 4 turnovers and only 2 points, but also added 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and a block. Evans, on the other hand, didn’t seem to do much to redeem his poor offensive output. He didn’t score on 0-2 shooting, had no assists, steals, or blocks, and had 3 fouls and 3 turnovers in just 10 minutes of play.
The Clippers’ win over the Wizards means that they will advance to the round of 16 against the Lakers tonight. The game is at 5:30 Pacific time, and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The loser of this game will play a single consolation game tomorrow at 7:30 PM, while the winner will advance through to the quarterfinals on Sunday.
On the Clippers’ side, I expect that Shai and Sindarius will play again tonight on the second night of a back-to-back. If the Clippers lose, I think the team will sit both on Friday in what would be their third game in three nights. Jerome, who has been banged up throughout summer league and exited the Clippers’ game against the Wizards early with an apparent minor ankle injury, could be more likely to sit tonight against the Lakers. He only played one game of the Clippers’ previous SL back-to-back. Additionally, Vince Hunter, who has impressed this summer as a modern, switchy, athletic undersized 4/5, left yesterday’s game with a bruised left knee following having his legs taken out from under him during a dirty play by Washington first-round pick Troy Brown, Jr. We don’t yet know if he’s good to go today against the Lakers.
Everyone else—including Jawun Evans—should be able to continue to play, regardless of tonight’s result.
UPDATE: The Clippers have ruled Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson, and Vince Hunter OUT tonight vs the Lakers. Jerome and Vince are dealing with minor injuries and being cautious due to simmer league, and SGA, while healthy, is resting out of an abundance of caution due to the number of minutes he’s played this week. It’s a good opportunity for Jawun Evans, David Michineau, and little-used depth guard Jordan Matthews to get some NBA run. Sindarius Thornwell also emerges as the best player on the roster, so keep an eye on the match-up between him and Josh Hart.
On the Lakers’ side, first-round pick Moritz Wagner will reportedly sit out tonight. He’s been the Lakers’ fourth-leading scorer and leading rebounder in Las Vegas, and will likely be replaced by former Gonzaga big man Johnathan Williams or NBA journeyman and former Clipper Jeff Ayres, who has 237 career NBA games across six seasons.
There is no word yet on the status of Josh Hart, who was a solid rotation contributor for the Lakers last season and is clearly too good for Summer League. He’s averaging 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists while thoroughly dominating the competition. A match-up against Hart would certainly be the fiercest challenge Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has faced this week. Speculation has been rampant all week that the Lakers should shut Hart down, but there’s no indication that they plan to do so.
The Lakers have also gotten solid contributions from Svi Mykhailiuk, a high-volume Ukranian sharpshooter who played four years at Kansas and has already signed an NBA deal after being taken by the Lakers in the second round of the 2018 Draft.