The Clippers got closer to their projected starting lineup Wednesday, with Paul George making his 2021-22 debut. And for a half, the home team had a good thing going. But the Clippers rested their veterans in the second half, allowing the Sacramento Kings to run away with a 113-98 win.
The first look at an NBA-worthy Clippers lineup started with a number of bricked threes. Unfortunately the Kings, powered by De’Aaron Fox, were more accurate, and the first three and a half minutes saw the Clippers digging themselves into an early 12-2 deficit.
Getting to the simple actions, however — a lightly contested Reggie Jackson pull-up midrange shot, an Eric Bledsoe drive to dump off for the easy Ivica Zubac layup, and an insane off-balance baseline fadeaway from George — slightly slowed the bleeding.
After a quarter of action, the Clippers found themselves trailing 28-22. With some more aggressive defense and better passing, the Clippers quickly evened it up at 36 apiece four minutes into the second quarter. A free throw from Terance Mann gave the Clippers their first lead of the game with 7:05 left in the first half.
George’s shot-making was on display, making contested fadeaway after contested fadeaway. Mann also showed a distinct knack for drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line. The two wings showed an ability to slow the game down and get points on the board, seemingly on demand.
Bledsoe’s aggressiveness and ability to get downhill was also undoubtedly a part of the game plan in the first half and will evidently be a reliable cog in the Clippers offense this season. Bledsoe continued to push the pace throughout the game, conjuring up a number of pseudo-fast breaks with his speed.
With 43 seconds to go in the half, Brian Sieman made his first Amir Coffey pun. Good to see Sieman in mid-season form already.
A few minutes of game time and a bit more back and forth later, the game entered halftime tied 51-51.
Isaiah Hartenstein once again showed off his vision and passing ability. He recorded three assists in just nine minutes, including one particularly nifty dime to Luke Kennard early in the second quarter. Harry Giles also showcased his athleticism and handle on offense during his minutes in the second half, including one smooth offensive sequence with six minutes left in the third.
If the first half was a preview of the Clippers 2021-22 season, the second half was a vision of the future. The starting lineup (and the entire rotation) at the second half saw the usual Clippers rotation being replaced by a group of youngsters, such as Brandon Boston Jr., Kennard, Jay Scrubb, Coffey, and Giles.
The combination of Fox’s speed and 3-point shooting made stopping him a particular challenge for the Clippers the entire game. And after a couple of threes from Buddy Hield in the third quarter, the Kings gained a ten point, 74-64 lead. The Kings continued to impress, as the lead ballooned up to twenty-one by the end of the third.
Boston looked eager to stay aggressive, despite not seeing the court in the first half. An early three in the second half, as well as a couple of outrageous dunk attempts (albeit missed ones) is testament enough to that. After a couple more step-back jumpers off the dribble and a personal eight-point run at the very end of the game, Boston finished the game with 20 off 19 shots in 24 minutes.
Keon Johnson also played his first (hopefully, of many) minutes and scored his first point, with a free throw, on the official Clippers team.
The Clippers continued to respond to the Kings hot shooting with poor shooting of their own, and eventually called a timeout with nine minutes left in the game when they found themselves on the wrong end of a 101-74 blowout. The rest of the game went more or less the same, culminating in a final score of 113-98.