The LA Clippers will finish their pre-season 1-3 after falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves 128-100 on Monday night. The Clippers concluded their pre-season play at the Toyota Arena in Ontario where their G-League affiliate plays, but they were unable to deliver a win in front of their Inland Empire fans. While many there were likely anticipating the Patrick Beverley reunion, the former Clipper sat out tonight for rest.
After not being listed on the injury report prior to the game, Paul George, Marcus Morris, and Reggie Jackson were scratched late for rest purposes. Before the game, Ty Lue told the media that Marcus Morris is doing good, but the team wants him to get some more practice reps before throwing him into game action. There is no indication that Morris is nursing an injury, so the Clippers are just being extremely cautious with their veteran forward.
For Paul George, the strategy is more of the same. After logging 776 playoff minutes just a few months ago, George was given a relatively light workload during the pre-season. Playing in just two of the team's four games, Paul George only logged 34 minutes during the pre-season; however, most importantly, he will come out of it fully healthy.
As it pertains to the Clippers' final pre-season matchup, the Timberwolves' plethora of experienced youth gave them a distinct advantage over the Clippers. Between Anthony Edwards, Karl Anthony-Towns, and D'Angelo Russell, Minnesota's three best players are all 25-years-old or younger. This trio looked absolutely dominant for Minnesota during their time on the floor in this matchup.
In just 23 minutes of play, D'Angelo Russell had a game-high 19 points on 7/11 shooting. Both Karl Anthony-Towns and Anthony Edwards added 17 points each, with both players logging less than 28 minutes played.
While it was not enough to keep up with Minnesota's trio, the Clippers also got some quality production from their youth. Both Luke Kennard and Terance Mann got the start tonight in the absence of of three regular starters, and the dynamic duo showed why so many are excited for what they can bring this season.
Both Kennard and Mann played 27 minutes each, with Kennard scoring 18 points on 4/9 from deep, and Mann adding 15 points of his own. This duo was one of several bright spots for the Clippers during the pre-season, with their increased assertiveness looking promising in the absence of Kawhi Leonard.
When asked postgame about his upcoming role, Terance Mann told the media that he is searching for the balance between being one of the team's best defenders while also providing the offensive input that they will need from him. When asked specifically if he will look for his own offense more in the absence of Kawhi Leonard, Mann said, "If that is what the team needs from me, that is what I'll do."
After struggling in the team's first few pre-season contests, Clippers' first-round pick Keon Johnson put together a nice performance in the team's final exhibition matchup. Getting the opportunity to play extended minutes in the fourth quarter, Johnson finished with 7 points on 3/5 shooting.
When asked postgame about the performance of his young players, head coach Ty Lue continued to reiterate that it is difficult for them to play extended minutes without a point guard on the floor. Coach Lue emphasized that the team's youth clearly needs to get better, but he was pleased with the way they competed throughout the entirety of the pre-season.
Another positive takeaway for the Clippers continues to be the play of Eric Bledsoe. The team acquired him in hopes that he would add a dynamic playmaking element to their offense, and that is exactly what he has provided so far. In just 68 minutes during the pre-season, Bledsoe dished out 15 assists.
With just two three-point attempts during the pre-season, it still remains to be seen whether Bledsoe's lack of a scoring threat will hinder the Clippers' offense once opposing defenses really start loading up on Paul George. While his playmaking has been everything the Clippers hoped it would be, the team has likely yet to see a defensive scheme that attempts to exploit Bledsoe's lack of an outside shot. Until an opposing defense deploys such a scheme, it is hard to know exactly how Bledsoe's game will translate to the regular season; however, for now, he has been everything the Clippers hoped he would be.
After missing the previous pre-season contest with a right shoulder strain, Ivica Zubac returned to the starting lineup Monday night and nearly tallied a double-double in just 26 minutes of play. Zubac told the media postgame that his shoulder is fine and feels good after playing. The Clippers big man put together a nice line against the Timberwolves, putting up 10 PTS, 9 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, and 1 BLK. Regardless of whether Hartenstein or Giles gets the team's final roster spot, the Clippers look to have a solid big man rotation while they await the return of Serge Ibaka.
The Clippers conclude their pre-season 1-3, and will have a 10-day break before opening their regular season against the Golden State Warriors on October 21st.