Game #1 | October 29, 2013
STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES – Opening night seemingly always has a bizarre combination of jitters and unbridled energy. There are turnovers and missteps and an almost cathartic release of a month-long training camp and preseason.
It was like that for much of the Clippers’ season opener Tuesday against the Lakers. Despite leading for most of the first three quarters, the Clippers surrendered a prolonged Lakers run in the middle of the fourth and lost, 116-103.
It was the first opening night loss for the Clippers (0-1) in the Chris Paul era and a disappointing beginning for new head coach Doc Rivers.
“I’ve been in a lot of losses and a lot of wins,” Rivers said, “so, at the end of the day, did I think this was going to be a tough game? I thought this was going to be a brutally tough game. I’ve been saying it all week. That team (the Lakers) heard for four or five months, how good we are. I told our guys tonight, we’re fighting human nature.”
Part of that was playing a Lakers team without superstar Kobe Bryant, who remains out as he rehabilitates from April Achilles tendon surgery. Another part was the lofty expectations that have been bestowed on the Clippers by prognosticators. It came to a head in Tuesday’s opener with the Lakers bench scoring 76 points, including a career-high 22 from Xavier Henry, and leading a come-from-behind victory.
Paul finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals. DeAndre Jordan added 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots and Blake Griffin had 19 points and seven rebounds. But the Clippers were out-rebounded by a dozen and allowed the Lakers to go 14-for-29 (48.3 percent) from 3-point range.
“Everything with us starts on defense,” said Jamal Crawford, who had 15 points in 25:54 off the bench. “It leads to our offense. It gives us more energy. We’re more tuned in. We’re more locked in. We definitely had some defensive breakdowns.”
Early on, there was rarely a feeling that the Clippers were not in control of the game. They answered any Laker run with one more convincing. When former Clippers swingman Nick Young rattled off seven points that sandwiched a Steve Nash 3-pointer, Paul responded with a layup and a jumper and Blake Griffin knocked down a turnaround jumper over Pau Gasol, who finished with 13 of his 15 points in the first half. Still, the Clippers only led, 57-55 at the intermission.
“I was really concerned at halftime,” Rivers said. “We were shooting 57 percent and they were shooting 41 percent and we were up two points. I told our guys those are awful signs for your basketball team because you’re shooting 57 percent, you should be up 20 and we were not. The law of averages meant we weren’t going to shoot that well in the second half and they were going to shoot better.”
The percentages evened out, in part, after the Lakers outscored the Clippers, 41-24, in the fourth quarter, including a 30-10 run.
“It seemed like it happened so fast,” Paul said. “We’ve go back to the drawing board. I think we relaxed a little bit.”
Prior to the game, Rivers talked about the process of becoming a top-flight contender “taking time.” And while that was evident, there were early glimpses of the Clippers perhaps pacing ahead of the curve.
They played with pace. Griffin contributed to nine points on four possessions (two baskets and two assists) in the second quarter. Jordan looked like the player Rivers raved about in the preseason, maintaining a defensive presence, which included swatting former teammate Chris Kaman’s turnaround baseline jumper into the second row for one of his three blocked shots.
“I thought D.J. was sensational tonight,” Rivers said.
But it was not a night for moral victories.
“I hate to lose, so I never say it’s a good loss for us,” Paul said. “But we’ve got to learn from it. Our defense has to get better. We’re 0-1 in an 82-game season, so we’ll see what happens.”
It was Jordan’s 40th career double-double. He had 12 last season… The Lakers bench outscored the Clippers, 76-34. It was the third most bench points in Lakers history… Rookie Reggie Bullock made his NBA debut in the closing minutes and made his only shot… Jordan became the seventh player since 1985-86 to accumulate at least 17 points, 11 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals on opening night… Paul joined Terry Dehere as the only Clippers player to tally five or more steals on opening night… The Lakers had 18 offensive rebounds… J.J. Redick scored 12 of his 13 points in the first quarter. He Clippers newcomer made four of his first five shots. He took just five shots after the opening period…
Clippers forward Blake Griffin on rebounding:
“I did a poor job of boxing out and going to get rebounds and even pursuing offensive rebounds, not just defensively. We’ve got to want it more than them. That’s half of the battle in rebounding.”
Lakers center Pau Gasol on how the Lakers won:
“Our bench played excellent, good energy. The second half was outstanding. We really worked to get back in the game. To get back in the game, we made a run in the beginning of the third quarter and we overall played a solid game.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers on how he expects teams to play the Clippers moving forward:
“Everyone’s going to play us that way. When you’re anointed, people are going to attack you and we’re going to have to get used to that kind of energy every night. People are going to play you like you’ve won something, even though you haven’t.”
|Clippers guard Jamal Crawford on the fourth quarter:
“We just couldn’t get over the hump. When they turned the tide, we couldn’t get over the hump. We were almost chasing them. We almost had to play perfect basketball and we didn’t do that.”
Postgame: Clippers at Lakers 10/29/13Clippers fall to Lakers in first game of the season.
Clippers Highlights vs LakersThe top Clippers plays vs the Lakers on October 29th 2013.
Griffin Alley-Oop ThrowdownJamal Crawford lobs it to Blake Griffin in transition for the huge throwdown.
Clippers vs. Lakers: First halfDeAndre Jordan has 10 points and six rebounds s the Clippers take a 57-55 edge over the Lakers into the locker room.
DeAndre Blocks KamanDeAndre Jordan blocks the shot attempt by Chris Kaman in the second quarter.
Shootaround Report: Game 1The Clippers prepare for the first game of the season, Darren Collison becomes a father.
LACtv Preseason Wrap-upMadelyn Burke and Eric Patten wrap up the preseason and preview the season ahead.
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• RECENT PRESEASON RECORD: In the last 11 seasons the Clippers have played 78 preseason games, compiling a record of 42-36 (.538). They have opened the last four preseasons on the road. The 2013-14 preseason marks the third time in that span the Clippers have played at least their first three games to open the exhibition schedule on the road. Last season, the team played a “home” game in Las Vegas before traveling to China to face the Miami Heat in Beijing and Shanghai as part of the NBA’s Global Games. Overall, the Clippers have opened the preseason in six of the last nine years with at least three-straight road games.
• PRESEASON ALL-TIME: The Clippers are 11-5 in their last 16 preseason games, but the franchise owns a 112-136 (.452) record since their preseason debut on Sept. 29, 1978 against the Milwaukee Bucks in San Diego.
• BACK HOME: After opening the preseason with four-straight road games, the Clippers returned to STAPLES Center for their preseason home opener, losing 94-84 to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Oct. 18 game was the latest October home game for the Clippers in the preseason since they played the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 20, 2006.
• DAVIES WAIVED: The Clippers waived rookie forward Brandon Davies on Oct. 21. In five preseason games, he averaged 3.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in 11.2 minutes.
• CLIPPERS BACK IN BLUE: The Clippers unveiled a new “Back in Blue” short-sleeve alternate uniform on Media Day that will be worn for Sunday home games throughout the 2013-14 season. The alternate uniforms will debut on-court on Oct. 19 during a preseason game against the Denver Nuggets in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Designed by adidas, the uniforms are inspired by heritage of the Clippers organization and the Nautical culture of the southern California area. The “Back in Blue” uniform features light blue color for the first time since the team was based in San Diego. Light blue has a rich history with the organization and has been a part of the team’s identity since they were the Buffalo Braves in the 1970’s. The lightweight woven shorts feature three iconic nautical flags to represent each of the team’s letters – L-A-C- to stand for Los Angeles Clippers.
• TWO WAIVED: On Oct. 8, the Clippers waived training camp invites JaMychal Green and Mustapha Farrakhan, leaving the roster with 16 players remaining.
• TRAINING IN SAN DIEGO: The Clippers held training camp for the 2013-14 season on the campus of University of California, San Diego. The team traveled to UCSD on Sept. 30, following Media Day at the Clippers Training Center, and conducted practices at RIMAC Arena from Oct.1-4, before returning to Los Angeles. They held morning and evening practices on Oct. 1 and 2 before practicing in the morning only the following two days.
• L.A. RIVERS: On June 24, Glenn “Doc” Rivers was named the Clippers’ Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach. The Clippers signed Rivers after the Boston Celtics agreed to release him from his contract in exchange for a first round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft as compensation. Rivers spent nine seasons with the Celtics, compiling a 416-305 (.576) record and guiding the Celtics to the 2007-08 NBA Championship with an NBA-best 66-16 regular season record. Rivers led the Celtics to six Atlantic Division titles, the 2009-10 Eastern Conference Championship and a 59-47 (.556) Playoff record during his tenure. A former Clippers point guard (1991-92), Rivers returns to Los Angeles to be the 16th head coach in Los Angeles Clippers history (1984-Present) and is the fourth Clippers coach to have previously earned the NBA Coach of the Year Award (1999-2000), joining Gene Shue, Bill Fitch and Mike Dunleavy. He is the first coach in Clippers history to have previously played for the team.
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LOS ANGELES – Call it a rivalry. Call it an important Pacific Division game. Call it the first of 82.
No matter what you think of Tuesday’s season opening “road” game against the Lakers at Staples Center, it could be the start of something big.
“It’s big for the city,” point guard Chris Paul said. “It’s a division game for us. We’re in each other’s back yard. We need the win really bad and I’m sure they want it, too.”
Paul, who re-signed with the Clippers this summer, has been a part of Clippers vs. Lakers for two years already. He’s heard it all. The thing that matters most, though, is that he’s been on the winning end of five of those seven meetings, including a season sweep last season.
As the longest tenured Clipper, DeAndre Jordan has been a part of far more of those games (and far more losses). But he’s not buying into the idea that it’s a rivalry… yet.
“People are going to hype this game up to be more than what it is,” Jordan said prior to practice Monday. “It’s just our game one and a Western Conference team we have to beat.”
The latter part of Jordan’s statement is accurate. It is the first game on a journey that the Clippers, with new head coach Doc Rivers leading them, hope winds up lasting into June. On Tuesday, the combination of the so-called “Battle for L.A.” will only be magnified by the emotional draw of a season opener.
“I love the opener,” Rivers said. “It’s just nice also for [the players] because it’s real live basketball and you have a different opponent. And now everything counts, so it’s just a different vibe.”
Paul echoed Rivers.
“The first preseason game we were excited to get on the court, but then by the seventh or eighth we were like, man, we’re ready to play,” he said. “[We’re] excited that the season is finally here and the games actually mean something.”
DeAndre Jordan vs. Pau Gaosl
In the previous three seasons as a full-time starter, Jordan was matched up with Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howard when the Clippers faced the Lakers. Obviously, Howard has departed and with the absence of Kobe Bryant (Achilles rehab), this iteration of the Lakers will look and feel vastly different.
“They’re going to come out ready to play,” Paul said. “Coach [Mike] D’Antoni has those guys running, playing fast. Everything is probably going to be centered around Pau [Gasol] as it should be right now.”
Gasol is expected to start at center, flanked by Shawne Williams at power forward. Gasol’s presence as both a scorer and facilitator in D’Antoni’s offense will arguably be one of Jordan’s tougher challenges. Last season, with Jordan on the floor with Gasol (considering he was likely guarding Howard), the Lakers big man took just 1.7 shots per game outside of the restricted area. However, he has range to the 3-point line and can effectively pull Jordan, who had 24 blocked shots in the preseason, away from the rim. It will be an interesting test to see if the dominant force Jordan was in seven exhibition games carries over into opening night.
“I think D.J. at that five position, there are a lot of challenges,” Rivers said. “Talk about guarding Gasol one night, who can go to the three and to the post and then David Lee and [DeMarcus] Cousins the next night. That’s a hard position right now because it’s no longer the prototypical five where he just posts up. These guys can do so many things now. They’re so much more athletic now, so it’s a hard position.”
THINGS TO WATCH
1. The bigs. It is widely considered the Jordan and Griffin are the most athletic big men in the league. They have combined for 1,087 dunks since Griffin’s rookie year, many of which have come by simply outrunning their opponent down the floor. That is a tremendous advantage for Griffin and Jordan on most nights, but it could be even more exploitable on Tuesday. Gasol and former Clippers center Chris Kaman do a lot offensively.
“They’re skilled bigs,” Rivers said. “There’s one thing to be a big and it’s another thing to be skilled and big. They both can shoot the ball and they both can pass the ball and they both can post the ball.”
However, they do not make up a great defensive tandem, which is likely why D’Antoni may start Williams or Jordan Hill instead of his best two bigs. Either way, all eyes should be on how the frontcourt rotations play out on both ends. Who will be the first big off the bench for the Clippers? Byron Mullens (47 3-point attempts in preseason), Antawn Jamison (a former Laker) or incumbent reserve center Ryan Hollins. How will the Lakers defend Griffin and Jordan? Can they? Etc.
2. Small ball. Injuries prevented the Clippers from using their small-ball lineup in the preseason, which is expected to consist of Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley at forward with Jamal Crawford or J.J. Redick next to Paul and Griffin or Jordan at center. They are all healthy now.
“The fact that we have a chance, if everything goes right, we’ll have our full team,” Rivers said, indicating that Darren Collison (bruised left kneecap) is also expected to play.
The lineup could be devastating in pushing the pace, even against a Lakers team that will want to get the ball up the floor in a hurry as well. The idea is capitalize on floor spacing provided by having four shooters around a rim-running big man. Griffin talked about the offense in general on Sunday, describing what the Clippers are looking for under Associate Head Coach Alvin Gentry’s system.
“Our whole idea is to keep the motion, keep everything moving and never be stagnant,” Griffin said. “A lot of times last year, if the play didn’t work in the first option, we kind of broke down and that put a lot of pressure on C.P. to get in the lane, make plays and carry the team in a sense. This year, we want to make it so that motion is constant and if something breaks down we’ve got option No. 1, option No. 2, option No. 3 and so on.”
3. Opening night jitters? The Clippers are 20-23 as a franchise on opening night and 0-4 all-time versus the Lakers in game one. The Clippers last played the Lakers on opening night in 2009. A year prior to Griffin’s first game and two years shy of Paul’s arrival.
“Are we ready?” Rivers asked. “I hope that thought never goes away, at least from a coaching standpoint.”
Jordan added: “There’s always going to be those first-game jitters, especially playing against a team that’s not even five miles down the road from where we are. But it’s just going to be another game and we’re going to treat it like another game.
“We definitely want to hit the ground running.”
The Clippers swept the season series with the Lakers in 2012-13, winning by an average of 13.25 points per game. They are 5-2 against the Lakers in two seasons since Paul arrived… There are plenty of connections between the two teams, including Steve Nash, Alvin Gentry and Jared Dudley, who were key parts of the 2010 Phoenix Suns team that went to the Western Conference Finals… Jamison and Barnes are former Lakers, while Kaman and Nick Young are former Clippers… It is the 68th time in Bryant’s career that the Clippers and Lakers have played, but only the fourth time he’s missed the game…Kaman (gastroenteritis) is questionable… Maalik Wayns (meniscus) is out… The Clippers play their first four games in California before embarking on a three-game road trip..
THEY SAID IT
Blake Griffin: “The beginning of every season is always exciting. It seems like each year I get less and less excited about the preseason and more and more about the regular season. But the preseason is important and I think we accomplished some things that we needed to.”
COMING AND GOING
COMING: Jordan Farmar (Anadolu Efes--Turkey); Elias Harris (Gonzaga); Xavier Henry (New Orleans); Wesley Johnson (Suns); Chris Kaman (Mavericks); Ryan Kelly (Duke); Shawne Williams (Guangzhou--China); Nick Young (76ers)
GOING: Chris Duhon (Free Agent); Devin Ebanks (Free Agent); Andrew Goudelock (Free Agent); Dwight Howard (Rockets); Darius Morris (76ers); Metta World Peace (Knicks)
LAST TIME OUT