The Clippers finished out their 2023-2024 preseason with a loss to the Nuggets at home, 101-90.

Game Recap

The Clippers’ likely second unit (with Zu in place of Plumlee) more or less played the Nuggets even for most of the first quarter, which sounds better in actuality than it looked on the screen. Bones continued to play well, making some beautiful layups as well as some nice passes, but nobody else on offense could create anything, with Norm Powell in particular struggling with turnovers and missed open looks. Additionally, despite some solid defenses in the halfcourt, the Clippers kept getting cross-matched in transition, letting the Nuggets get several easy looks. The bench trickled in, with Nico, KJ Martin, and Plumlee coming in first, with Bones and Norm remaining as guards for another couple minutes. Finally, the bench unit was completed by Xavier Moon and Kobe Brown.

That second unit, predictably, struggled heavily on offense, with just one real ballhandler in Moon. Still, they weren’t awful, and played some solid-ish defense. The starters began to trickle back, with Mann coming for Brown first, then Zu and Bones, then Norm, and finally RoCo. This “starting” group played nearly the entire rest of the half, except for the last minute where Mason came in for Zu due to foul trouble. And, quite honestly, the unit played well. Bones continued to be the standout, absolutely cooking every Nuggets defender in front of him in endless drives to the rim and mixing in some great assists. Norm remained fairly quiet and had some other bad decisions, but the rest of the unit chipped in enough to overcome it. The defense wasn’t great, but considering it was against the Nuggets’ starters, it was fine.

Both team’s starters remained out there in the third quarter. The Nuggets slowly pulled away, as the Clippers’ offense could not get going and missed some free throws. Bones remained the only true creator, and single-handedly kept the Clippers in it. However, he took a turned foot in the mid-3rd quarter, and hobbled off. The rest of the Clippers’ starters outside of Norm, who stayed in for another few minutes, were pulled very shortly thereafter, and garbage time commenced.

Notes

No Dress Rehearsal: Instead of the Clippers treating this like a true preparation for the regular season, they went the other way, resting Kawhi, Paul George, and Westbrook (with Marcus Morris also still out). I get it. The Clippers want to be cautious with injuries, and know who all those guys are. However, for all the talk of taking the season seriously, it would have been nice for me to see these guys together, playing real minutes, and trying hard before the games really matter. Oh well.

Possible Units Revealed: While Ty Lue still refuses to disclose who the starting power forward is, you can definitely read into the lineup choices. Marcus Morris is still not playing, and while Law Murray pointed out on Twitter that he didn’t play in two previous preseasons as well and was then the Clippers’ starer, this feels different. Additionally, while Robert Covington got the start tonight, him being moved alongside what will be the bench guard rotation – Bones Hyland and Norm Powell – makes me lean a little more towards him coming off the bench with those guys as well as Terance Mann. Backing that up is the fact that the starting lineup tonight played huge minutes in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarters, suggesting the coaching staff wanted a real look at that group. If Mann and RoCo are off the bench, that would point to Nic Batum as the fifth starter, but again, this is all just speculation.

Bones Gets Bizzy: Bones took a scary ankle turn in the 3rd quarter, but early reporting is that it’s just a sprain, which is a huge relief. Bones was awesome in this one, scoring 25 points on 10-15 shooting with 7 rebounds and 6 assists – and just one turnover. His outside shot is still missing, but the speed, finishing, and playmaking were on full display. Even more impressively, Bones looked to be in full and total control of the offense, running things at a great pace and choosing smartly when to attack and when to playmake. Bones has been by far the most encouraging player in the Clippers’ preseason, and hopefully his injury is minor. He looks ready for a big third season.

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