The Summer Clippers got their third win in a row Friday afternoon against the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite being down by 15 at halftime, the Clipper surged back to win the second half 61 to 35 and the game by 11 points. However, it wasn’t the margin that they needed to secure advancement to the Summer League playoffs, as a massive 28-point victory would have been required to pass the Brooklyn Nets on point differential to secure the lone spot available for a 1-loss team.
Still, while it would have been fun to see this crew play a game with stakes on Sunday–and a potential sixth game had they won and advanced to the final–there are more important things than the Summer League Standings. Here’s one that will thrill the Clippers more than a chance to compete for the Summer League Championship: rookie Kobe Brown putting up a monster 35 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks while shooting 6-9 from two-point range and 7-10 from downtown. We often make a lot of the fact that the play in Summer League is significantly below the quality level of the NBA, and that we’re looking for players to really pop and “graduate” form Summer League. After three games where he showed interesting signs and promising moments but didn’t put it all together, Brown was truly dominant in Friday’s game, clearly the best player on both ends of the floor from the tip to the final horn. A couple of scouting notes on Kobe’s game beyond just “he was great”: he’s looked better at center than PF alongside another big so far; where he lands as a three-point shooter is yet to be seen (somewhere between the 23.5% he was shooting this week entering Friday’s game and the 70% he shot on Friday) but the volume in which he’s attempting them is a great sign; and, while his defensive activity has shown up in the steals column all week, it’s at least worth noting that he had 7(!) fouls today to bring his total up to 19 committed through 4 games.
Some other notes on important Clipper performers in this game:
- Xavier Moon, who has been the team’s leader all week, had a tricky shooting night and couldn’t quite take over down the stretch like he had in the first three games. I think we all knew he wasn’t going to go 5 games without missing in the fourth.
- Keaton Wallace, who didn’t play in the first 2 games and barely got on the court on Wednesday, had a really stellar offensive outing. He finished with 14 points on 5-9 shooting, 4 assists, and 0 turnovers in 20 minutes off the bench, playing almost the entire second half as the team went away from Jason Preston.
- Speaking of Preston, the third year guard isn’t having the week he would have hoped for. Despite having the highlight of the game, a truly breathtaking cross-court bounce pass in traffic to find Brown for a dunk, he had a mostly anonymous performance and his lack of speed continued to hurt the team’s offense. He was pulled after just 3 minutes in the third quarter and didn’t return, playing just under 15 minutes on the day.
- Second round rookie Jordan Miller also continued his anonymous Summer League, though perhaps his size and defensive contributions (combined with some extra patience for a new draft pick) have helped the coaches keep him on the floor. He had 4 points on 1-6 shooting, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists, and didn’t really have an impact offensively aside from a nice eurostep for his only field goal. Career shooting splits aren’t defined by a one-week sample in Summer League, but the early returns aren’t good. He’s just 2-9 from deep in over 100 minutes so far, and while I can overlook percentages on a small sample, his lack of comfort in getting more of these looks up is definitely an early concern.
The Clippers finished the initial 4-game phase of the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League in 6th place out of 30 teams, which should certainly be considered a success considering the relative lack of Draft pedigree on LAC’s roster compared to opponents from across the league. However, since only 4 teams advance to the playoff phase, the Clippers will be left with a single consolation game on Sunday evening against the Los Angeles Lakers. The roommate rival franchises will play at 7pm Pacific on Sunday on ESPN2 in the Thomas & Mack Center. The Lakers finished initial play 2-2, losing to the Memphis Grizzlies (who the Clippers beat by 9) by an astonishing 31 points Friday evening.
The Clippers’ approach, which involved bringing in an older-than-usual roster featuring players who have succeeded in professional leagues around the world instead of undrafted free agents, raised this team’s floor, especially on the defensive end. Whether they successfully found a diamond in the rough remains to be seen–Matt Morgan, Jordan Bowden, Brodric Thomas, and Bryson Williams have all had their moments, but none have popped as can’t-miss NBA-caliber players. Still, it’s entirely possible that one of them has impressed enough in these games (and the highly important practices with Clipper coaches, which we aren’t privy to) to earn a two-way contract next season.