The LA Clippers wrapped up their preseason slate ahead of the 2020-21 NBA season with a 125-105 loss against the Utah Jazz Thursday at Staples Center.
The game was close until shortly before halftime, when the Jazz ultimately pulled ahead. Given it was a scrimmage, the Clippers did not push to post the victory, instead focusing on giving players time on the court and keeping everyone healthy. The loss does mean LA finish the preseason with three straight losses.
The Clippers started Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley, Nicolas Batum and Ivica Zubac. Marcus Morris Sr. was in the arena but remained out with “knee soreness,” while Serge Ibaka was also held out but did participate in shootaround, and Patrick Patterson was also a pregame scratch.
The teams traded leads in the 1st quarter, with Beverley pacing both teams early with eight points. George hit two free throws to put the Clippers ahead 29-28 at the end of the opening stanza.
The Clippers experimented with different approaches in the game, switching between zone and man-to-man defense.
Mfiondu Kabangele had a bumpy first half, but he produced a highlight-worthy block to help fire an early rally for LA in the second half.
The Clippers led until the final minutes of the 2nd quarter, when Utah ran out to their biggest lead of the night to head into the break. The teams went into halftime with Utah leading 58-48. Leonard had seven points, but struggled mightily overall in the opening half, shooting just 37.5 percent.
The Jazz extended their edge after the game restarted, pulling out to a 69-56 lead with just over 8:00 to go in the 3rd quarter. The good news was George and Leonard began building a rhythm on offense. Still, the game was rather chaotic, as it turned into a track meet with both teams racking up turnovers and quick possessions.
With Utah maintaining a double-digit lead after the 3rd quarter, Tyronn Lue opted to play the bench in the 4th quarter, with Amir Coffey providing a boost in perhaps his best minutes of the preseason.
Overall, George led the way for LA with 16 points and five assists in 25 minutes of work, Batum had eight rebounds, and Leonard and Luke Kennard each had 13 points. Coffey finished with nine points in 12 minutes.
The Clippers are done with preseason scrimmages, with the season set to tip off Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers. The LA teams have already played each other twice in recent days, but the intensity should ratchet up with this one being the first game of the new season that counts. We’ll see if the Clippers will step up or need some more time to get used to life playing for Lue.