In the Clippers’ final game of the preseason, they recovered from a 35-point deficit to beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 115-109, on Thursday at Staples Center.
Here are five takeaways from that victory.
1. Paul Pierce has still got it.
Pierce is 38 years old, but the 10-time All Star and future Hall of Famer can definitely still play ball. In Thursday’s game, he proved yet again that he’s virtually unstoppable when he gets into a zone. After the Clippers had cut their 35-point deficit to just three points, the Trail Blazers went on a run and quickly regained a 10-point advantage with around 8 minutes left. Pierce then took over, scoring three consecutive three-pointers to bring the Clippers within one point of the Trail Blazers. He finished with 19 points, including making five of his seven three-point shots.
Said Clippers Coach Doc Rivers: “He was getting shots on 24-year-olds today. He just knows how to score; he’s a professional scorer.”
2. The game meant much more than you might think.
Preseason games are often completely meaningless. Case in point -- when the Clippers played Golden State on Tuesday, despite there being a strong rivalry between the teams, the Warriors opted to rest superstar Stephen Curry. Thursday’'s game, however, could have the potential to affect the Clippers throughout the season. After all, recovering from a 35-point hole can give a team a certain confidence.
Said Pierce: “Whenever we get down throughout the year, I’m going to go back and refer to this game. The game is never over. Guys have to realize that.”
3. The second unit is coming together.
In the Clippers’ first four exhibition games, the team’s second unit looked scattered and lost. But in the team’s last two games, it appears as though the reserves have really started coming into their own. In Thursday’s win, it was the reserves -- playing against three of the Trail Blazers’ starters -- who won the game for the team in the fourth quarter. Austin Rivers was making big shots. Wesley Johnson didn’t miss a shot. Josh Smith was solid on both ends of the floor. And, yeah, there was that Pierce guy. Jamal Crawford, the Clippers’ leading scorer off the bench, didn’t even play Thursday, yet the Clippers’ reserves outscored the Trail Blazers’ bench, 52-29.
Said Johnson: “We’re starting to get a glimpse of how good we are.”
4. Jamal Crawford is injured.
The two-time sixth man of the year missed Thursday’s game because of a right triceps bruise that he sustained in practice Wednesday. Crawford is listed as day-to-day.
Said Rivers: “I don’t think it’s serious.”
5. Countdown to the regular season
The regular season is less than a week away. The Clippers open the season Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings. Their home opener is Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. In their 45-year history, they’ve never advanced beyond the second round. Last season, it appeared as though they were going to make the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever when they took a 3-1 series lead over Houston in the second round, but then the Clippers lost three games in a row to become just the ninth team in NBA history to blow that type of advantage. Will this year be different?
Said Chris Paul: “I think we’re one of the few teams that control our own destiny. I say that because talent-wise, we have it. Now we just have to put it all together and make sure everybody buys in. Like I told Blake [Griffin] and DJ [DeAndre Jordan], I think the biggest key for our team this year is going to be unselfishness.”