As the NBA Las Vegas Summer League comes to a close, the Clippers have their final regularly scheduled game against the Sixers. If you’ve got Friday afternoon off of work, you’ll get to watch the Clippers face off against the Sixers at 2:00pm Pacific on ESPN2, or in the Thomas & Mack Center for folks making the trip for this weekend’s games (or, god forbid, still there after going for last weekend). The Sixers are 1-2 in Vegas after also going 1-2 in the Salt Lake City Summer League last week (yes, all 4 of the Clippers’ SL opponents so far played in extra games last week before coming to Vegas)
The Clippers have started third-year point guard Jason Preston, veteran fringe guard Xavier Moon, rookie wing Jordan Miller and rookie forward Kobe Brown in each of their three games so far. Moon has clearly been the MVP and leader of this team, averaging 14 fourth quarter points per game so far. Each of the other Clipper prospects has had moments without quite breaking through, which is especially notable for third year guard Jason Preston, whose status with the organization is up in the air. Sophomore big man Moussa Diabate started the first two games before missing the third with a rib contusion; it’s unclear if he’ll return to the lineup for this game. Bryson Williams moved into the starting lineup as a replacement big man in Diabate’s absence, but the Clippers spent the bulk of the second half playing around Brown at center with backup wing Brodric Thomas on the floor as they matched up with a Grizzlies squad that lacks height.
In addition to Thomas, G-League wing Jordan Bowden has appeared off the bench in each game for the Clippers, adding shooting in each of their wins. Speedy guard Matt Morgan was held out of their last game, and it’s unclear if this was due to injury, contract developments (sometimes free agents pull out to avoid injury if they are receiving interest or offers), or preplanned rotation to get different guys opportunities. The Clippers’ last game saw the first minutes this summer for guards Xavier Castaneda and Keaton Wallace, as well as big man Nate Renfro. Fred Sims Jr is the sole Summer Clipper who has yet to appear. If the Clippers are sticking to a rotation plan, I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the core guys who have played all three game so far take Friday off–it’s standard procedure as part of agreements with agents that guys who come to Summer League as backups will still get an opportunity to play so they have tape for scouts.
As far as Summer League goes, this game isn’t without stakes for the Clippers, as they actually still have a chance to make the Summer League playoffs. All 30 teams play 4 scheduled games, with the top 4 going into semifinal games and the remaining 26 getting a consolation game. The results of Friday’s contests will determine if the Clippers head for a consolation game this weekend or a semifinal Sunday. They will need to not only win to finish 3-1 and have a shot, but win by as much as possible to beat out other 3-1 teams on the point differential tiebreaker. A win by fewer than 13 points eliminates them, while 28 is the number that more realistically gives them a good shot at passing current 4th-place Brooklyn, who are 3-1 with a +10.0 point differential. It’s worth noting that the largest margin of victory in Vegas this summer has been 23, so it would take a herculean effort for the Clippers to pull off. Fortunately for them, they’re playing a Sixers team without much NBA talent. Jaden Springer has been held out for most of Summer League with an injury, leaving undrafted rookie Terquavion Smith and G-League vet Javonte Smart (who has some minimal NBA experience on two-way contracts with Milwaukee and Miami) leading the way.
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