The LA Clippers had an encouraging conclusion to their preseason with a 92-89 win against the Sacramento Kings.
It’s preseason, so we can’t take anything too seriously at this point of the basketball calendar. We saw the LA Clippers get obliterated by the Golden State Warriors 120-75 in their first game, and we’ve seen them look far better against some of their following opponents. Blake Griffin has been aggressive in his return, and there have been several positives to take away. After concluding the preseason with a 92-89 win against the Sacramento Kings, the Clippers ended on a high note before their eight-day break ahead of the regular season opener.
The first positive of the Clippers’ win was that J.J. Redick managed to get into a shooting rhythm after being off throughout the preseason so far. He largely struggled until Tuesday night, but shot 7-of-11 from the floor against the Kings and made three of his six three-point attempts to rack up 18 points in 22 minutes. Before settling into a week off, Redick snapping out of a cold spell is the only way he’d have wanted this game to go.
The Clippers had some strong performances off the bench, too, as Austin Rivers showed some better shot selection with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and Marreese Speights chimed in with 10 points of his own (4-of-5 shooting) and a pair of three-pointers.
As expected, the King to give the Clippers some trouble was DeMarcus Cousins, finishing with 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting. DeAndre Jordan didn’t always contest Cousins’ outside shot closely enough, leading to a few easy jumpers for the improved range of Boogie.
In all, though, the Clippers’ defensive effort was strong until the final quarter. The Kings shot just 5-of-22 from three-point range and were forced into far too many mid-range jumpers for most of the night. They finished with a 42 field goal percentage for the game and 22 turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Clippers’ offense moved effectively until the end, with assists coming on an excellent 27 of their 35 baskets.
The Clippers were up 88-67 with just 5:30 to go in the fourth quarter. To see them win by a measly three points isn’t too impressive after having such a lead. But a 20-2 run from the Kings helped close the gap against the Clippers’ super small bench lineup featuring Brandon Bass at center and Wesley Johnson at power forward.
The Clips struggled to score, defend the paint, and the Kings caught fire from three.
While Bass is a sound defender and Johnson has his moments guarding the perimeter, such lineups are a concern if Doc wrongly opts to go super small too often this season. With Speights in particular as the backup center (a major liability) and Bass not being the rim protector Cole Aldrich was last season either, the second unit’s interior defense and rebounding is the most glaring issue the Clippers have right now.
Well, we’ll have to see how Doc’s rotations pan out as the season goes on, but super small groups being used to finish fourth quarters in close games isn’t something we’ll be seeing. In the preseason, experimentation is far more important than a meaningless win.
In all, the LA Clippers’ preseason finale was a strong performance. The offense looked great over the first few quarters, the defense locked in for most of the contest (allowing just 25 points in the second and third quarters combined), Griffin’s return has been what all fans hoped for, Redick found his shot, we saw Doc start to stagger Griffin and Chris Paul more, and the bench had their moments moving the ball fluidly, too.