SEATTLE – The Clippers were back in Seattle and notched a win in their second game of preseason action. With the big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George all in the starting lineup for the first time in the new year, the Clippers came out with a win.
Here are my three takeaways:
The New Starting Lineup Looked Elite Defensively
Robert Covington was a new addition to the starting five alongside the big 3 and Ivica Zubac and he filled in absolutely perfectly. Although the Clippers shot pretty bad from the three point line in general and Paul George struggled from the field, it was to be expected that this group would need some time to gel on the offensive end.
On the defensive end, they looked fantastic, getting their hands in passing lanes, creating deflections and pushing the pace. Russell Westbrook is the head of the snake in terms of leadership and pushing the ball for this new unit and I expect there to be some growing pains because of that. Despite those issues on that end, I would love to see this five man unit see more time together and even start the season on opening night.
Kawhi and RoCo Show Their Prowess
Kawhi Leonard finished the game with 16 points on 5-12 shooting in this one, and although he only shot 4/10 from three, he got open shots for most of his attempts. The best part of it, is that he looked spry, healthy and determined to score. I’m sure the team and fans don’t mind him shooting more threes now, because I believe everyone knows that when games start to count, he will live in the mid range and post.
Robert Covington was frustratingly left out of the rotation for pretty much all of the 2022-2023 season after an excellent half season in the year prior. Covington mentioned many times that he focused on the offseason to make sure to have no excuses for the coaching staff to leave him out of the minutes distribution this year. Against the Jazz in Seattle, it was vintage Robert Covington, finishing with 11 points to go along with an insane defensive effort of 4 blocks and 2 steals. This is the reason so many Clipper fans wanted him to play last year and I cannot wait to see how he changes the trajectory of this defense with his active hands and ability to switch 1-5.
Bones Hyland Has Matured
Bones has always had the reputation with holding the ball too long and not getting his teammates involved while chucking from beyond the three point line. Last year, while he did have moments of showing these things, he was very solid in his role. This year, it looks like Bones has matured a bit and refined some of his game. There is no doubt that Hyland can put the ball in the basket with his crafty dribbling, shifty movement and great finishing around the rim. But what not a lot of people have seen is his ability to dish the ball and create opportunities for his teammates. Bones is a great passer and now that he essentially has the backup point guard role, he can now flourish.
In both preseason games thus far, he has shown his ability to run the floor and score, but do it in a way that isn’t reckless or untimely. He is still a very young player and there will be instances of him showing his youth, but this preseason it seems there is a different confidence and pace that he is playing with. It helps that Kawhi Leonard has advocated for him multiple times over training camp, but Bones is one of the most exciting players to watch on this invigorated Clippers squad.
The Clippers have a week off before playing back at home against the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets on October 17th. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM PST.