LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Clippers played their first two games of the preseason at Staples Center. The team has a couple more non-counting contests before they open the regular season on the road against Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 21.
The Clippers’ first home game of the regular season will be Oct. 23 against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies. So, in getting up to speed how the Clippers are doing so far without Kawhi Leonard in the lineup that would be a question mark.
The Clippers played well enough to edge out the Denver Nuggets (103-102) in their first game. In the next game at Staples Center, the Sacramento Kings, led by De’Aaron Fox, outscored the Clippers in the third quarter by 21 points (38-17) on the way to posting a 113-98 win.
“Physically I feel good,” Fox said about getting more bulkier in the offseason. “I feel ready. I still feel fast. I feel stronger. Being able to get to my spot. I’m still trying to play the same way. Shoot the ball better. Still get guys the ball. Nothing in that aspect is really changing. Really just tuning up and getting ready for the season. That’s how I take the preseason; just building blocks to getting ready for the first game.”
The Clippers-Kings game was the first time that fans got to see Paul George on the court since last season’s playoff run. Guard Eric Bledsoe also made his debut. George played just over 14 minutes and scored nine points. Bledsoe tallied three points in nearly 17 minutes of action.
Having his team stay healthy for the upcoming regular season is what concerns Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue the most.
“Just trying to continue to build our habits, make sure we get out of preseason healthy,” Lue said. “That’s the biggest thing, number one thing. Just trying to get our starters and our rotation guys more and more minutes throughout these games. First game for PG and Nico, you know I thought Bledsoe was pretty good to start the game, just trying to keep those guys acclimated and trying to get in better shape heading into the season.”
Newcomer Brandon Boston Jr. followed up a solid first game with an even more impressive outing in his second game, scoring 20 points and totaling 7 rebounds in 24 minutes.
“Just really going out there and trusting my work,” Boston said. “I felt like the first game I wasn’t as aggressive so the second game I came out with a mindset to just be aggressive and do everything I could to go out there and do my best honestly.”
The Clippers escaped with a close win over the Nuggets Monday night. The Clippers sat out George, Marcus Morris, and Nicolas Batum, leaving an opportunity to look at different lineups and the team’s young players. Here are some key takeaways from the first game.
Boston, a Sierra Canyon product, received an early opportunity to start.
“I woke up super excited, and I still am. This is the game you work your whole life for,” remarked Boston.
In his first starting opportunity, Boston did not look nervous or intimidated by the moment. Early on, he displayed the ability to knock down jumpers, proving his reputation as a scorer. Boston did experience his share of struggles, getting into foul trouble.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Boston had already accumulated five personal fouls. But he was able to settle down in the final period to play good defense.
“At the end of the game, he got a key stop for us. Guarding the point guard, he was able to sit down and get a good contest without fouling,” said Lue.
Boston finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 20 minutes. Not too bad of a start for a player picked up in the second round of the NBA Draft with the 51st selection.
Another item of note from the preseason is Leonard is expected to miss a good portion of the season. With his absence, the question of who gets the nod as the starter is open. Bledsoe, the biggest of the names from all the Clippers offseason additions, started in the backcourt with Reggie Jackson.
George and Morris are locked in for starting positions. Now that Patrick Beverley is out of the picture, Jackson has control over the point guard position. With Bledsoe being in the starting lineup, this leaves the Clippers’ backcourt undersized against other potential teams.
However, Bledsoe flashed sequences where his ability to push the pace and bringing tenacious defense will be a welcomed component to the Clippers’ arsenal.
Bledsoe’s skillset adds a different dimension to Clippers as a more polished offensive player compared to Beverly. However, starting alongside Jackson would create some matchup problems for bigger backcourt teams.
The Clippers have a ton of depth on their roster. With crowd favorite Beverly gone, the backup point guard position is up for grabs. If the Clippers move forward starting Bledsoe and Jackson together, the role will have to essentially be filled by either Terance Mann or new acquisition, Justise Winslow.
This could be interesting. Winslow has struggled mightily over the past few seasons with injury problems, and Mann does not appear to be a natural fit at point guard. Lue gave Mann a chance to show what he could do against the Nuggets.
In the fourth quarter of the game, Mann, being the only veteran Clipper player left on the floor, did alright.
“Just to see if he can make plays for himself and teammates,” Lue said. “We were running basic stuff, but I thought he did a good job.”
Dennis J. Freeman contributed to this story
Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Clippers guard Brandon Boston Jr in action against the Los Angeles Clippers. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline