LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers rested their big three – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook – for their final preseason exhibition against the defending champion Denver Nuggets.
The three stars rocked sportswear on the sidelines after Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said he had seen enough from them to merit a day off.
Los Angeles was led by an explosive performance from third-year guard Bones Hyland, a former Nugget. Hyland scored 25 points, paired with seven rebounds and six assists. Unfortunately, he went down in the third quarter with a rolled ankle and was unable to return for the remainder of the game.
Turning point: The Clippers managed to keep the game tied after the first 10 minutes. The second quarter defense from Nikola Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets squad shone through, but was snuffed by a 15-4 run from Los Angeles.
Despite the few chances for the Clippers to maintain a lead in the third, it was Denver that jumped ahead. Some faulty shooting from Los Angeles in the fourth quarter ultimately cost them the game, 103-90.
What it means: The Clippers (2-2) wrap up their preseason after facing the Nuggets and Utah Jazz, and will head into their regular season opener with the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
According to Law Murray from The Athletic, Lue told reporters he knows who will start against Portland next week, but declined to put a name to one position everyone has been curious about – the power forward. Terrance Mann, Nicolas Batum, and Robert Covington have all stepped into the role during preseason.
Hits: Terrance Mann and Normal Powell both started and combined for 20 points. Robert Covington scored seven for the team while Ivica Zubac, the only regular starter, finished with five points and 10 rebounds.
Misses: Hyland exited the court after 24 minutes of playtime and was assisted to the Clippers’ locker room. The team later confirmed the injury as a left ankle sprain, but it may not be as serious as missing Wednesday’s opener and will be reevaluated tomorrow, according to Andrew Greif of the LA Times.
Outside of Hyland, Brandon Boston Jr. sat out on his third consecutive preseason exhibition with a leg contusion while Marcus Morris Sr. missed his fourth straight.
Stat of the game: Prior to leaving the game early, Hyland made 16 of the Clippers’ first 24 field goal attempts. Twenty of his points came in just the first half.
Up next: The Clippers will move on to their 2023-24 regular season opener with Portland on Wednesday at Crypto.com Arena. The Trail Blazers are coming out of an otherwise rough preseason as they went 0-3 against the likes of the Jazz and Phoenix Suns.