Five takeaways: Clippers survive Nuggets’ rally in preseason opener

Everyone is fired up to be back on the court!

Richard Mackson/Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Denver Nuggets 103-96 in their 2015-16 preseason opener on Friday night.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

The focal point

DeAndre Jordan reportedly flirted with the Dallas Mavericks this summer because they promised to make him a focal point in their offense, which the Clippers have rarely done throughout his tenure in LA. If Friday is any indication, though, the Clips are going to try to get Jordan going more often because of his ability to collapse defenses when he rolls or cuts to the rim. He’ll never be anything more than a third option on a team that features Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, but he should get more touches and be happier with his role this season.

The answer is The Truth

Doc Rivers dropped hints at media day and training camp that Wesley Johnson would likely get the starting nod at small forward, yet wouldn’t commit to a starting lineup at the pre-game press conference, leaving everyone guessing. Paul Pierce was then introduced as the first starter, to a loud ovation from Clippers fans. Johnson subbed in for Pierce right before the eight-minute mark, signifying one possible solution for Rivers: Starting Pierce and taking him out quickly, so he can help run the second unit as a small-ball 4. The move worked nicely in the first half.

Battling for the backup spot

Austin Rivers is penciled in as the backup point guard, but third-string point guard Pablo Prigioni impressed with his ball movement and defense (e.g. pulling a "Prigioni," as Rivers called it after the game, and stealing an inbounds pass). Of course, the Clippers invested more money on Rivers this summer (two years, $6.4 million) and one can assume Doc Rivers will give his son — who is the younger player with more potential — an inherent advantage. But if Prigioni outplays Rivers, it’s going to be interesting to see if and how Doc responds, and whose minutes are ultimately affected in the backcourt.

Get it and go

The Clippers have been a dangerous transition team in the CP3 era, with Jordan and Griffin running the lane and J.J. Redick spotting up on the wing. The missing piece was secondary ball-handlers. They now have them in Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith, who each had their productive moments leading the break. The Clippers finished with 19 transition points (they averaged 14.2 last season). Doc Rivers said the team’s transition offense — and not its half-court sets, which the team only has one of so far — was the emphasis in training camp.

An underwhelming debut

The Clippers’ new additions made their debuts, and while it’s only preseason, the result was mixed at best. Stephenson (2 of 10), Smith (5 of 13) and Johnson (2 of 7) struggled with their shot selection, finding a rhythm and their overall spacing. It cost the Clippers down the stretch, though the Nuggets were not able to fully capitalize. Smith finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds and looked like perhaps the best third big of the CP3 era. All three players need to refrain from taking contested mid-range jumpers moving forward, though.