The Clippers started off the game with a purpose, continually pushing the pace and running the ball hard up the court. While the Clippers got a number of open looks in transition, they were less able to convert, with Pat Beverley and Landry Shamet being particularly cold from three. Terance Mann handled the point guard position well, making several beautiful passes and generally looking in control of the offense. However, it was Patrick Beverley and Ivica Zubac who kept the Clippers ahead with their rebounding, defense, and energy, with their physicality really coming to the fore. The Clippers slowly worked in their backups, with Derrick Walton Jr. serving as Mann’s replacement at point guard with Lou Williams sitting the game out. The Clippers continued to struggle from deep, so despite solid ball movement and energy, they led by only a few points entering the 2nd quarter.
That all shifted on a dime in the second period. The Clippers reserves pressed the Sharks defensively, getting right into them and refusing to let them enter sets. On the other end, they moved the ball around, and repeatedly drove and kick to get open dunks and threes. A trickle became a flood, and all of a sudden, the Clippers were up 30 points. The last few minutes of the half were exceedingly ugly, as the refs took over with a million fouls, but the Clippers held onto their sizable lead, and the game was effectively over. The second half was effectively garbage time, complete with sloppy defense, highlight dunks, and lots of open shots. The Clippers young guys all played pretty well, though it’s tough to take too much away from garbage time in preseason against a far inferior opponent. Honestly, while the up-and-down play was entertaining, it was boring as hell from a competitive aspect, and it was a sigh of relief when the game finally ended.
Moe Harkless shines: Moe has been far from the most-discussed Clippers’ summer acquisition, but he looked phenomenal tonight, scoring 16 points on 7-7 shooting with 3 rebounds and 2 blocks in just 12 minutes. He made smart cuts offensively, and didn’t try to overthink things. Defensively, he was a menace, with his long arms disrupting the Sharks’ offense time and time again. Harkless will be a crucial player this year due to his defensive versatility, but tonight he brought out the full package and it was pretty spectacular. The Clippers’ second-quarter run was fueled in large part by his efforts on both ends, and he looks fully ready for the season to start.
Young guys shine: Preseason, especially this early on, is all about the young guys, and they did well tonight. Terance Mann continued to impress with his vision and passing instincts (though his handles certainly need to be tightened up a bit), Jerome Robinson had some great rebounds and dished out some beautiful passes, and Mfiondu Kabengele showed off his activity and athleticism in garbage time. Again, not much to take away here, but Mann’s composure at point guard is astounding considering it’s a new position for him, and he will certainly challenge for a rotation spot at this rate. Landry Shamet was off again from three tonight (1-8) but that means nothing after the sample size we got from him last year.
Derrick Walton Jr. leading training camp crew: Walton has seen by far the most minutes of the Clippers’ training camp roster players thus far. He played 20 minutes tonight, and was the point guard during the Clippers crucial stretch in the second quarter where they put the Sharks away. Despite only shooting 2-7 from the field, Walton always looked competent, consistently getting the Clippers into their sets and making easy reads. On defense, he competed hard, slithering around screens and forcing several turnovers. The rest of the Clippers’ camp guys are wings, which makes it highly unlikely for them to earn a roster spot, but if Walton keeps playing this well, he could win that 15th NBA spot for himself due to the Clippers’ thinness at point guard.
Pat Beverley is the best: Pat took two charges tonight in preseason against a non-NBA opponent, with one coming up 28 and against a massive man in Donatas Motiejunas. His effort, energy, and will to fight in every minute of every game he plays in is truly remarkable.
Well, that’s it for tonight. The Clippers’ next preseason game comes Thursday against the Nuggets, and it seems quite possible that Kawhi Leonard will suit up for that one as the Clippers slowly get into true regular season form. The Clippers will be back home at Staples after their sojourn in Hawaii, and the arena will assuredly be rocking. Hopefully that game will be more competitive, and will be a closer representation of what the Clippers will look like in action this season.