Typically, the preseason acts as a time for players to get used to competitive NBA-level basketball, which sometimes comes with underwhelming performances on the court. The Clippers, however, did not miss a beat, winning 103-102.
They started the game with a sense of energy which is rare for the preseason. Reggie Jackson’s confidence commanded the arena’s attention, hitting three triples in less than six minutes. Brandon Boston, who started at forward along with Amir Coffey, also displayed confidence, hitting a couple jumpshots to begin the game, though fouls limited his minutes. However, it was Isaiah Hartenstein who made the biggest impression off the bench in the first half, showing a Jokic-esque passing ability and an aggressiveness on the boards.
Eric Bledsoe was also able to display his veteran prowess, powering through smaller opponents and calmly dishing to perimeter shooters or dumping off to well-positioned bigs. Jay Scrubb showed flashes of his scoring ability in his 18 minutes of action as well. Though the Clippers were playing well, the Nuggets were able to keep up, especially on the defensive end. Bol Bol patrolled the basket, coming out of nowhere to deny shots that seemed easy and to scare others from driving to the hoop. At halftime, the Clippers held a slight lead, just 54-51.
A common theme throughout the game was the aggressiveness on the offensive glass, with the Clippers grabbing 15 offensive boards by the end of the game (compare that to their per game average of 9.4 last season). Five of those were from Terance Mann, who led the team with 14 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.
As Jackson sat during the third, the Clippers dug themselves into an eight-point hole, but the individual performances of the players showed promise. George King missed just one shot in his 12-point performance, while Harry Giles used his undersized frame to outmaneuver opposing bigs, flirting with a double-double by scoring eight points and grabbing 12 rebounds. The classic Clippers’ resilience also came to be realized, as the team clawed their way out of several double-digit deficits throughout the game and remained poised in clutch situations to secure the close victory. And of course, it was Mann who secured it, winning a critical jumpball with less than 20 seconds to go.
Regardless of the final score, this game showed one thing that’s clear for the Los Angeles Clippers: the “drive, kick, swing” mantra is central to their game plan. It was also evident that players were encouraged to shoot the open shot, especially for 3-point specialists like Kennard and Boston. Most importantly, this shows just how deep the Clippers are, depth which will be relied upon as they power through the upcoming season and to the playoffs.