Preseason Game #4 | October 15, 2013
US Airways Center | Phoenix, AZ
PHOENIX – With Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan back in the starting lineup, the Clippers raced out to a 63-point first half Tuesday night at U.S. Airways Center.
It was the final true road game of their exhibition slate, and for most of their 102-96 win over the previously unbeaten Phoenix Suns, the Clippers offense looked sharper than at any point in their four preseason games.
Their 63-47 outburst in the opening half was the primary exhibit.
And it came with Blake Griffin sidelined with a sore right ankle that he suffered in Utah Saturday as well as Matt Barnes (calf), J.J. Redick (quad) and Antawn Jamison (rest) also remaining on the bench.
“I just thought we did a good job of getting out and moving the basketball,” Associate Head Coach Alvin Gentry said of the first half. “Then we got a little stagnant. We’ve just got to continue to have movement and when we do that we’ll be in good shape.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers did not return to the sideline after halftime. He said he was not feeling well and asked Gentry, who was making his first trip back to Phoenix since mutually parting ways with the Suns in January 2013, to coach the remainder of the game
Offensively, Paul was dynamic as both a scorer and distributor. He had 15 of his team-high 24 points in the first half, doled out nine assists and played a preseason-high 31 minutes. The first four possessions of the game all resulted in baskets, two on assists from Paul and another five points he scored on his own.
Paul said he had fresh legs after he and Jordan were given the night off in Sacramento Monday.
It showed late. After the Clippers gave up most of a 16-point lead in the third quarter, Paul helped take it back to double figures, closing the quarter with a step-back jumper from the right corner over Suns forward Channing Frye.
“When we needed to guys stepped up and came through for us,” Gentry said. “Obviously, [Chris] played great and he was very aggressive offensively which is what we need from him.
Paul added: “Willie [Green] and those guys just [keep] telling me to be aggressive. Most of the time I just try to facilitate, but I’m going to focus on that a little more this year, trying to find my shot and be aggressive early.”
For the third time in the preseason, Jordan controlled both ends of the floor. He finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots in 31 minutes. He has 15 rejections in his three outings, playing fewer than 26 minutes per game.
“I thought D.J. was great defensively in the first half and did a great job for us,” Gentry said.
All five starters, including Byron Mullens who started in place of Griffin, scored in double figures for the Clippers (3-1). The Suns (3-1), who entered the night as the league’s highest scoring team at 113.0 points per game, were led by Goran Dragic’s 20 points. Former Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe scored eight points with seven assists.
Late in the fourth quarter the Suns closed to within one. But a beautifully orchestrated pick-and-roll out of a timeout got a two-handed dunk by Lou Amundson on a feed from Darren Collison. Ryan Hollins blocked a jump hook by Miles Plumlee on the other end, which led to a pair of free throws on a run out by Green to effectively end the game.
The Clippers are 10-4 in their 14 preseason games since the 2011-12 season… The Clippers out-rebounded the Suns, 42-34 (11-10 on the offensive glass)… Jamal Crawford scored 13 points with five rebounds off the bench. He grabbed four rebounds on three occasions in the regular season last year… Prior to the game, Rivers said Griffin is likely to sit out a little longer, but did not seem concerned over any long-term issue with his three-time All-Star’s ankle… Maalik Wayns missed the game with a torn left meniscus. He is expected to have surgery at a later date… Jared Dudley had his best game of the preseason, scoring a dozen points, including making three 3-pointers in the Clippers’ 30-point second quarter…
Clippers associate head coach Alvin Gentry on the game:
“We are a work in progress and we’ll continue to try to improve. And what we try to do is take something from every preseason game. I thought there were some good things. We’ve still got some guys over there that aren’t playing right now. Most of the stuff is fairly new to everybody out there. I think you’ll continue to see us get better. Offensively, I think you’ll see us get better as we get all of the guys out there.”
Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek on point guard Eric Bledsoe:
“Eric’s done great. One thing when he came over for me was, he’s strong, he can score, but what kind of point guard is he? Can he lead things? Can he be a guy who can direct traffic, make the right extra pass? He came here a week prior to training camp and it was obvious. He does see the court very well and has made some great passes. He’s had some turnovers early, but mostly because guys aren’t ready for the passes.”
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford on mentality of preseason basketball:
“We’ve been beating up our own team for two or three weeks. It’s always good when you play a new team and burn some energy off.”
Suns forward Channing Frye on his recovery from dilated cardiomyopathy that forced him to miss all of the 2012-13 season:
“I’m still working a lot of the kinks out, but Jeff [Hornacek’s] been a great coach in just letting me feel my way around. I said I wasn’t going to play until December and now I’m playing every game. Things are progressing faster than even I expected.”
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan on his approach defensively:
“It seems like every coach here is a defensive-first coach and that’s what I want to be, a defensive player. I’m just trying to get better every game.”
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In the last 11 seasons the Clippers have played 74 preseason games, compiling a record of 40-34 (.541). 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.
The Clippers are 9-3 in their last 12 preseason games, but the franchise owns a 110-134 (.451) record since their preseason debut on Sept. 29, 1978 against the Milwaukee Bucks in San Diego.
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 the1970’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.
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.
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.
The Clippers introduced six players in an all-encompassing press conference on July 10, including announcing the re-signings of superstar point guard Chris Paul, forward Matt Barnes and center Ryan Hollins as well as the acquisitions of guards Darren Collison and J.J. Redick and forward Jared Dudley. Collison joined the Clippers as an unrestricted free agent after a season with the Dallas Mavericks. Redick and Dudley were acquired via a three-team trade with the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns. In exchange for Redick and Dudley, the Clippers sent point guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler to the Suns as well as a future second round pick to the Bucks. The Suns also shipped a future second round pick to Milwaukee.
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Ben Haber | Follow @HaberBen
PHOENIX – The Clippers' final stop on their three-game preseason road trip is in the Valley of the Sun.
Tuesday night’s game against the Suns marks the first back-to-back contests for the Clippers during the 2013 exhibition schedule.
Meanwhile, the Suns are 3-0 in the preseason, mainly due to their impressive 113.0 points per game average as a team. The Clippers (2-1) lost to the Kings 99-88 Monday night, their first loss of the preseason.
Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan were healthy scratches in the game. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said he is unsure exactly who will play in Phoenix.
“We’ll play more guys,” he said in Sacramento. “I don’t know if I’ll play them all tomorrow. I know I’m not going to play Antawn [Jamison] tomorrow. He played 23 minutes. I don’t need him playing a back-to-back. I think I know he can play so we’ll figure it out tomorrow.”
THINGS TO WATCH
1. Battle for the final roster spots. Brandon Davies, Maalik Wayns and Lou Amundson are hoping to earn roster spots on the Clippers. Their practice performances will be factored in, but game action could be the deciding verdict.
“[You see them] in practice, but the game minutes are different,” Rivers said. “So it’s good to see how they can play under that pressure."
All three garnered more minutes than usual against the Kings, with Paul, Griffin and Jordan on the bench. Wayns sustained a hyper-extended knee in the second quarter, though. He will be reevaluated in Phoenix Tuesday and is not expected to play against the Suns.
2. Jordan facing stretch centers. Controlling the paint area has become customary for Jordan, who has 10 blocked shots in two preseason games. One of the biggest challenges for Jordan on defense comes against stretch centers.
"The toughest position to guard at times, defensively when you're doing all the things we're doing with our bigs, is the shooting 5," Rivers said. "You're always ready to guard the shooting 4. But a shooting 5, there's not a lot of them. We have one on our team (Byron Mullens) that drives D.J. crazy. And we try to put D.J. in pretty tough situations.”
Jordan will be tested against Suns big man Marcin Gortat, who can leak out to mid-range and knock down jumpers comfortably. Gortat shot 39.4 percent from 10-15 feet last year, and has a career high of 57.1 percent from that distance.
Overall, the key area of emphasis for the Clippers continues to be on the defensive side of the floor. Installing the intricacies of Rivers’ system is expected to take some time, but surrendering only 84.7 points games throughout the preseason so far provides reason for encouragement.
3. Familiar faces in new places. Alvin Gentry served as head coach of the Suns for nearly five seaons. In addition, he was one of the team’s assistants under former head coach Mike D’Antoni. During Gentry’s time patrolling the sidelines, the Suns went 140-137 and reached the Western Conference Finals in 2010.
Eric Bledsoe and Jared Dudley were integral parts of a three-team offseason trade between the Suns, Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks. Bledsoe relocated to Phoenix after spending his first three seasons in the NBA with the Clippers. Dudley returns home to Southern California after spending the majority of his first seven seasons in Phoenix.
The Clippers last played a preseason game in Phoenix on Oct. 17, 2006… Matt Barnes (sore left calf) is not expected to play. J.J. Redick (left quad contusion) and Reggie Bullock (sore right knee) will join Barnes as spectators… Darren Collison logged a double-double in Sacramento with 20 points, 10 assists and four steals. It was his second consecutive game logging 10 or more assists… In the 2012-13 campaign, the Clippers went 1-1 at U.S. Airways Center, and won the season series 3-1… The Suns used 16 different players during their last preseason game, as new Head Coach Jeff Hornacek attempts to learn the strengths and weaknesses of his team… The Suns enter Tuesday night’s game at full strength… The Clippers are 5-5 in their last 10 preseason games against the Suns…
THEY SAID IT
Jamal Crawford on Monday night’s game against the Kings: “Toughness and things like that shouldn’t matter who is playing. We should be able to do that. I think we have to get better at that. It’s a process. It’s a journey. That was our first time really getting punched and responding, but not responding the way we want to. But we’ll get better.”
LAST TIME OUT