Coming off of a competitive Summer League opener against the Bucks, the Clippers had higher expectations in their second game of NBA-level basketball. Judging from the subpar shooting percentages and high turnover numbers, it’s clear that the players had freedom on the court to take chances and get more comfortable in their new league, even if the results aren’t there yet.
The Clippers started the game strong, as Jay Scrubb powered the early offense with visible confidence from his 24-point outburst the night before. Keon Johnson also seemed more comfortable on the floor, chipping in six first-half points with tough perimeter defense. His elite athleticism (he set the NBA vertical jump record, remember?) gives him the tools needed to shut down the opposing team’s best player, showing defensive flashes reminiscent of Kawhi Leonard’s suffocating presence. He even showed an eye for playmaking, seen in his fastbreak alley-oop to Kerwin Roach for the slam.
Despite this energy, the Blazers fought back and ended the half with a three-point lead, led by NBA veterans Michael Beasley, Kenneth Faried, and Emmanuel Mudiay, who combined for 23 points in the half.
As the second half started, the Blazers quickly took control and outscored the Clippers 25 to 15 in the third. It was the same story in the fourth, with the Blazers winning 86-66. Their second half defense was particularly disruptive, holding the Clippers to an abysmal 27.3% from the field and 18.9% from three.
Despite the loss, there were impressive performances across the board that aren’t necessarily shown in the box scores. Jay Scrubb finished with a double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. The biggest surprise of the night may have been Daniel Oturu’s relatively steady play throughout the game. He held his own on the defensive end, logging 5 blocks, and grabbing 10 out of his 13 rebounds on that side of the floor.
While any loss stings for the players who left it all on the court, there is a lot to be optimistic about. The Clippers will continue to focus on giving their young players plenty of minutes and freedom to more effectively adjust to the NBA level, but with that may also come some summertime wins as the team’s youth develops.