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Clippers can’t keep pace with Grizzlies in 104-95 defeat

The Clippers finish 1-4 in Summer League.

2021 Las Vegas Summer League - Memphis Grizzlies v LA Clippers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Clippers had a lot to build on heading into Monday’s Summer League finale against Memphis, having played five solid quarters in a row against the Lakers and the Jazz.

But that positive trend didn’t continue against the Grizzlies. A slow start left the Clippers in a big hole, and a spirited rally spanning the third and fourth quarters wasn’t enough to bring L.A. all the way back in a 104-95 loss.

Brandon Boston Jr. led the way with 20 for the Clippers, 13 of them coming in the second half. He got to the basket at will and had his jumper working too. The most reliable source of offense late in the game was getting the ball to Boston and letting him work. The rookie hasn’t yet figured out how to translate his scoring into opportunities for his teammates, but when he’s shooting efficiently and adding two blocks on the other end, the Clippers can afford to wait on the playmaking.

The problem with Boston’s outburst was that the majority of it came late in the game when the Grizzlies had already built a hefty lead. Memphis reeled off the first eight points of the game before Amir Coffey got the Clippers on the board with a three. They were up 26 late in the third quarter. L.A. attempted to make a game of it with 14 straight as part of a 21-4 run, but the Clippers couldn’t get closer than eight.

During the first half, the Clippers only made 30.4 percent of their shots compared to 56.1 percent for the Grizzlies. After four games of working to build chemistry, the change to the starting lineup — Isaiah Hicks in place of the now traded Daniel Oturu — appeared to throw the Clippers off. The pace of the game didn’t seem to be in the Clippers’ favor. Memphis was comfortable getting up and down the court and playing in transition but the Clippers looked a little sped up.

L.A.’s shooting percentage perked up to 53.8 percent in the second half, and the team assisted on 17 of its 21 field goals. That version of the Clippers looked more like what Jeremy Castleberry and the rest of the coaching staff had been preaching.

Despite the loss, there were a number of standout moments. Jason Preston continued to flash his passing gifts, specifically to start the second quarter. Preston got to the rack twice in a row for scores and then had a pretty behind-the-back flick to Hicks, though it didn’t result in any points.

Malik Fitts got his first action for the Clippers. He didn’t score, but he led the team in plus-minus as L.A. outscored Memphis by 10 in his 12 minutes. Keon Johnson also struggled from the field — a common theme among the Clippers — but he had a dynamite rejection in the second half when the game essentially turned into a block party.

Overall, the Clippers have to be pleased with the output of their rookies, even if that didn’t translate into wins. There’s a lot to be excited about heading into the 2021-22 season.