Monday night’s contest against the Timberwolves could have been the first chance for Patrick Beverley to face off versus his former team, albeit in preseason. Instead, Chris Finch decided to prioritize Beverley’s rest with the regular season starting next week; judging by the energy Beverley showed on the bench in an exhibition, that was probably the right call.
Unfortunately, the Clippers also matched the Wolves by resting some of their must-see players as Paul George and Reggie Jackson both got the night off, and Marcus Morris Sr. also got the night off for the fourth straight game. Much of the projected Agua Caliente players got a sneak peak at their new digs at the Toyota Center in Ontario. That left L.A. a bit short on rotation players, and on the wrong end of a 128-100 loss.
The starters did put a nice bow on the team’s preseason, however, starting with Eric Bledsoe. The point guard was fairly disinterested during his last season in New Orleans but has been rejuvenated in his second stint in Los Angeles. Even in exhibition games, Bledsoe has set the tone with his energy to start games, and that continued against Minnesota. He got into the paint repeatedly in the first quarter, collapsing the defense to create for his teammates. Bledsoe directly accounted for 13 of the Clippers’ first 16 points and helped create the remaining Luke Kennard three through a drive, kick, and swing. Bledsoe finished with nine points and five assists in 23 minutes.
Kennard was similarly effective offensively, displaying a more aggressive attack mentality than he has so far as a Clipper. Ty Lue and the coaching staff are confident that if they get more shots from Kennard, those looks will be good. Kennard finished with 18 points to lead the team on 5-of-12 shooting and also earned a game-high four free-throw attempts.
A pleasant surprise at the end of the first half came in the form of Keon Johnson. The rookie got to play in Bledsoe’s place in the first unit and looked more comfortable next to the veterans. He sank a pretty pull-up jumper on a pass that Nicolas Batum felt compelled to apologize for and then capped off the period with a hammer dunk in transition.
The defense left a lot to be desired up and down the roster, in particular, the effort in transition. Lue has been bemoaning the team’s transition defense throughout the preseason, and that facet of the game once again reared its ugly head. The Wolves scored 30 fast-break points, including 12 in the second as they outscored the Clippers 40-27. An emblematic example of the Clippers’ inability to get back came right after Johnson’s highlight dunk, when Karl-Anthony Towns ran the length of the court in only 2.2 seconds to put down a slam of his own.
There were more highlights as the game wore on, but not a whole lot to take away other than the team’s inability to get stops. That will be priority number one once the scores start to count next week.