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Jay Scrubb shines in Summer League opener

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The Clippers lost 81-78, but made things interesting with a spirited second-half rally.

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

The goal of Summer League is never to win or lose, but the Clippers played Monday — at least in the second half — as if that victory was important.

L.A. trailed by as many as 18, but a third-quarter rally got the Clippers back into the contact. They kept pushing in the fourth to take their first led of the second half at 76-75, and ultimately lost 81-78.

A couple of turnovers let the Bucks take a three-point lead, but the Clippers had the ball down three with 18.9 seconds to play. L.A.’s leading scorer on the night Jay Scrubb couldn’t find any space, so rookie Keon Johnson got the look for the tie, and it rimmed out.

For all their warts, there were specific things most of the Clippers did well, especially as the game wore on. Scrubb was the star of the show on offense, proving that his first name is more representative of his play than his last. Scrubb had 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting and singlehandedly kept the team afloat early, with 12 of the team’s 30 point and half of their field goals at intermission.

Scrubb did most of his work in isolation, dribbling to his spots and even sinking stepbacks. He converted even against heavy defensive pressure, though it may have been more prudent to create for his teammates. Nevertheless, his scoring was critical when the rest of the Clippers couldn’t get anything going to start.

Fellow second-year player Daniel Oturu flipped a switch at halftime. He was active on the offensive glass and provided solid rim protection on the other end. He even had soft finishes around the rim, including the bucket to give the Clippers their lone second-half lead. Second-year players should look more confident at Summer League, but there is an extra learning curve for Scrubb and Oturu, who didn’t have a Summer League as rookies and didn’t even play in the G League last year. It was good to see Oturu figure out his way defensively.

Keon Johnson had some nice flashes in the third and fourth as well. He showed off his vertical, both in transition and simply to elevate for pull-up jumpers. He also had an excellent drive-and-kick in transition to feed Brandon Boston Jr. for a corner three.

Boston’s main contribution came as a spot-up shooter from the corners, as he was a little too sleight to absorb contact in the paint. He was also pushed aside on defense, providing little resistance to the cup.

The fact that the Clippers were even in the game was a minor miracle. The Bucks were well in control of the game, mostly on the shoulders of Jordan Nwora, fresh off a trip to Tokyo to play for the Nigerian national team at the Olympics. Nwora scored 15 consecutive points for Milwaukee during the second as the Bucks built their 18-point advantage.

Meanwhile, the Clippers struggled to get past their initial defender into the paint and had to settle for a number of isolation jumpers. The ball movement picked up in the second half, even if the overall shooting efficiency didn’t. That and the defense allowed the Clippers to make it a tight contest, even if the overall result didn’t go their way.