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Clippers vs. Blazers Summer League preview: A quest for two good halves

The Clippers will look to continue their improvement from the second half of Monday’s game.

2021 Las Vegas Summer League - LA Clippers v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

When Jeremy Castleberry came to his first media availability as the head coach of the Summer League Clippers, he was wearing a shirt that said, “Drive, Kick, Swing”.

It’s a similar mantra that Ty Lue had during the regular season: the goal for the Clippers was to get into the paint, then spray it out. That way, the team’s best scorers could draw help in the paint and then get defenses in rotation once they kicked the ball out. It was a good way of turning scorers into playmakers without fundamentally changing their games.

After one game of Summer League, it’s clear that Castleberry is getting a jump start on that style of play with the team’s young players. When asked about each of Jay Scrubb, Keon Johnson, and Brandon Boston Jr., Castleberry made a point to pivot the question into how those three players were capable of getting downhill and making plays for their teammates.

Yes, Scrubb can score the ball, but he can also facilitate. Yes, Johnson can get into passing lanes, but he’s also driving and kicking. And Boston can shoot, sure, but his handle allows him to get into the paint and create.

Game Information

When: Tuesday, August 10, 8 p.m. PT

Where: Thomas & Mack Arena, Las Vegas, NV

How to watch/listen: ESPNU

Opposing perspective: Blazer’s Edge

That was the key difference between the first and second halves, and it’s something the Clippers hope to address in their second game tonight against Portland. There wasn’t much ball movement in the opening quarters against Milwaukee, resulting in five assists on 12 made field goals. Those totals spiked to 13 assists on 19 field goals in the second half, as the Clippers committed to their philosophy and became harder to guard.

“We came out and said, we got to move the ball,” Castleberry said when asked about the coaching staff’s message at halftime. “In the first half we didn’t really move the ball, we had a lot of zero or one pass shots. And we have people tracking that, and my staff let them know and I let them know that we got to move the ball. And once we started trusting the pass, moving the ball, making plays for each other and competing on the other end of the floor, we’re a really good team.”

It’s also easier to move the ball when the Clippers get better point guard play. Castleberry said he didn’t put Jason Preston in the best situations; he needed to get the rookie guard the ball in his hands and have him make simple reads like dumping the ball off to Daniel Oturu. Once Preston gets more comfortable with the ball in his hands, he’ll be able to — you guessed it — get downhill and make plays.

Preston and the Clippers will get that opportunity again tonight against the Blazers. Even if Castleberry isn’t wearing the shirt, the motto remains the same.