LOS ANGELES -- The only thing worse than a preseason game is a preseason game at the end of the preseason. It’s more of a glorified scrimmage, with only the uniforms on the floor bearing any resemblance to what you would see in the regular season.
But since they were keeping score Wednesday night, the Clippers -- playing without Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups -- beat the Lakers, who were playing without Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. The 97-91 loss kept the 0-7 Lakers winless in the preseason, but it was a night largely highlighted by several role players who could be playing a big part in the Clippers’ success this season.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Bledsoe’s time to shine
With Paul sitting out with soreness in his right thigh and the Clippers playing three games in four days -- and a back-to-back to finish the preseason -- Eric Bledsoe got the start at point guard and showed why Paul has called him the breakout player of training camp. He finished with 22 points, 11 assists and nine steals and showed off his blinding speed and uncanny vision on several fast breaks, where he found Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan for a couple of highlight-reel lob dunks.
“He continues to develop,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said before the game. “He’s so athletic and so fast. Now it’s a matter of him being a student of the game and learning the game, knowing the time and the score, when to be aggressive offensively and when someone gets hot, how to get them the ball. He has the ability to make impressive plays.”
2.Barnes in a groove
One of the biggest benefactors of all the Clippers' resting was Matt Barnes, who came off the bench and had 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and pair of steals, along with a big 3-pointer to give the Clippers a 83-75 lead in the fourth quarter. He scored 10 points in the second quarter alone and gave the Clippers some much-needed energy off the bench against his former team. Wednesday’s performance, on the heels of his 22-point, seven-rebound performance on Saturday against the Utah Jazz, has certainly moved him up in the Clippers’ rotation heading into the regular season.
“Matt has played well,” Del Negro said. “Matt knows how to play. He runs the court very well. He can guard a few positions. It’s going to be hard sometimes to keep Matt off the court depending on matchups. He can guard 2 through 4 and he can play the 2, 3 and 4. He’s done well.”
3. Hill’s extended absence
Hill has sat at the end of the Clippers’ bench with Odom and Billups since the team returned from China, and it looks like he will stay on the bench for the foreseeable future. Before the game, Hill said he would get his bruised right knee evaluated in two weeks and be out until that time. That means both Hill and Billups will miss at least the first week of the regular season, and Odom’s return depends on his condition improving after coming into camp overweight. Everyone talks about the Clippers’ depth, but that depth will certainly be tested at the beginning of the season without Hill, Billups and Odom.
“We’re not going to rush any of those guys back,” Del Negro said. “Hopefully we can manage, but there’s no question they make us a different team. You start adding Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom and Grant Hill when they’re healthy and it gives you a lot of depth and a lot of experience. It gives us a better chance for success, obviously.”