Here are five takeaways from the Clippers’ 99-89 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday at Staples Center. It was the Clippers’ final preseason game. Their regular-season opener is Thursday at home against Oklahoma City at 7:30 p.m.
The Clippers need to improve their rebounding
The Clippers were outrebounded in all eight of their preseason games, most recently by a margin of 49-39. DeAndre Jordan led the league in rebounds last season, but the Clippers’ center can’t control the boards by himself. It’s a problem the Clippers must solve if they want to go far in the deep Western Conference.
Rivers said rebounding was going to be his top focus during practices next week. When asked if he would show the team film of great rebounders, Rivers laughed. “Bill Russell isn’t going to walk through the door.”
Jared Cunningham can give the Clippers a nice boost
Cunningham averaged only three points a game last season for the Sacramento Kings. On Friday he had 12 points on four for nine shooting in nearly 25 minutes of play. That’s not the only game he’s excelled. When Rivers decided to rest Chris Paul against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 21, and Jordan Farmar was sidelined because of a back injury, Cunningham scored a game-high 23 points. That night, however, he also had six turnovers. Overall, Rivers seems happy with his contribution so far. “He played great,” Rivers said of Cunningham. “He didn’t play perfect tonight, but he’s going to be a decent player.”
Chris Paul and Doc Rivers praise Steve Nash
The Lakers announced Thursday that their 40-year-old two-time MVP point guard will sit out this season. On Friday, both Rivers and Paul praised Nash. Said Rivers: “I think he did a lot of things for the game. I think the great ones, they make the game different. I think Nash did that with his movement, being an aggressive scorer, but also a facilitator, finishing under the rim.”
Added Paul: “When I came into the NBA, he was the guy I was coming after. He was the guy -- I remember the night before I played him the first time, I couldn’t sleep because I wanted to play against him so bad. It’s unfortunate [Nash was injured] and I wish him the best.”
Matt Barnes’ shooting woes continues
Barnes entered Friday’s game shooting three for 36 this preseason. Against the Trail Blazers, he didn’t fare much better. He finished Friday’s game with six points on three for eight shooting, including missing both of his two three-point attempts.
When asked how he would deal with Barnes, Rivers said, “Some guys come in your office and you have a talk with them, and some guys it’s like a pitcher that’s having a no-hitter. You stay away from them. With Matt, it’s probably somewhere in the middle of those two.”
The Clippers are going to have their hands full in the Western Conference
Rivers didn’t mince words on his team’s place in the conference. He said San Antonio is the best team in the West. “Period,” he added. Blake Griffin agreed that the Clippers must play exceptionally well this year to be top competitors. “I’ve had this conversation with several people,” Griffin said. “You can’t name a single team that made the playoffs [in the Western Conference] that got worse.”