Editor’s note: It’s the preseason and we’re not going whole-hog Last Call because, let’s be honest, the Nuggets are not going to be world-beaters this season. Also, did I mention it’s still the preseason? Still, we have some takeaways from the game, packed in a nice little doggy bag for you to nosh on the way home from tonight’s surprisingly watchable overtime melee between the Clippers and the Nuggets. Where better to break Lawler’s Law than Sin City!
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
Tweet of the Night
The preseason overtime was invented by someone who never said “Life’s short”
— Ethan Sherwood Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) October 19, 2013
Cliffs Notes to the Sports Book
So much to talk about, so little time — and even less significance. Rather than try to make sense of why Chris Paul played 42 minutes in a meaningless game on what I’m guessing was zero sleep (it’s Vegas, after all), I’ve compiled this cheater’s guide to what we saw from the Clippers in this long, strange trip of a preseason night.
Line of the Night — Chris Paul
40 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds on 13–21 shooting in 42 minutes. What’s baffling isn’t just that Doc Rivers let CP3 stay in the game so long — though, as Matt Moore of CBS Sports points out, considering Paul’s semi-annual winter vacations, that kind of burn DOES baffle — it’s that those numbers came from a game that started off so poorly. Three of Paul’s 5 turnovers came during his awful first quarter, when he looked very much the part of a young millionaire who’d just spent a night in Vegas. Which brings me to my next point:
A Tale of Two Halves
The Clippers opened the second quarter by going 1–11, but that figure doesn’t do justice to just how feckless the offense looked. With 4 minutes to play in the half, the team had just 27 points. Except then something happened. When Paul returned to the floor before the half, he was a new man, precise, driven, draining shots and inspiring teammates. Somehow, a basketball game broke out.
The Clippers Still Can’t Rebound
Built into Doc Rivers’ defensive system is a tendency to take it easy on the offensive glass in favor of getting back on transition. The result is that his teams sometimes have fewer second-chance points and total rebounds, but perform better in transition and defense overall. That said, the Clippers have been abysmal in these early games; tonight they got out-rebounded 45–37. Blake Griffin often seemed out of position, reaching and jumping rather than really seeking out the ball (though it’s tough to complain with a line like 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Still, you’d like to see Griffin pull down more than 8 in 39 minutes, especially considering how unreliable the back-up big men are in that department.
The Bench Remains a Work in Progress
Which is fine, seeing as it’s the preseason. As our own Andrew Han has noted, the amount of variance on Mullens’s outside shots is shockingly high — that’s a problem when knock-down shooting is your basis of your value. And the collective bench still struggles to both score and defend. We have to take our hats off to Darren Collison, who, for the second consecutive outing, played like it was his last night on earth. (It is bittersweet seeing him get those stretches alongside Chris Paul, imagining what that two-point-guard approach might have looked like last year.) And although the Nuggets were able to exploit Collison on the defensive end, I really am impressed with his scoring.
All That Said…
This game was fantastic! Sort of! Granted, we’re not talking Game 6, Heat–Spurs. But the late-night battles between Darren Collison and Andre Miller (and J.J. Hickson and Antawn Jamison) were kind of spectacular in precisely the way Vegas is spectacular: it leaves you breathless, confused, and wondering how many years one evening can take off your life.
— Patrick James