The Los Angeles Clippers made some noise this preseason, getting into a nice groove offensively with 30-year-old rookie point guard Milos Teodosic leading the way. Even in Sunday’s 134-106 loss at home to the Portland Trail Blazers, Teodosic showed glimpses with his four-of-seven shooting from beyond the arc for a team-high 15 points.
“We know he can pass. He’s one of the best passers I may have ever seen,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “But I told him before the game I want him to shoot, just shoot the ball.”
Despite the successful transition of Teodosic, there are a few points of concern the Clippers need to focus on as the calendar turns to the regular season.
Defense Must Improve
For how smooth the offense has transitioned post-Chris Paul, the defense has been on the other end of that spectrum. The Clippers gave 121 points last week to the Toronto Raptors — in Hawaii — and now 134 to Portland.
They’re only preseason games, but that sort of a trend is a point of discussion regardless.
“Our set defense has got to be pretty solid,” Blake Griffin said. “We’ve got some things to clean up.”
One thing stood out Sunday, though. The Blazers’ guards were way-too-easily able to have their way with the defense. Whether it was pulling up for a mid-range jumper, or getting to the rim to collapse the defense, Damian Lillard did whatever he pleased.
Again, yes it’s the preseason, and Lillard is really, really good. But giving someone that good 13 free throws has a lot to do with schemes and discipline.
“We’ve got to have balance,” Rivers said. “Right now, the pace we’re creating is hard to play and I think it’s hurting our defense. We’ve got to get into better shape. They keep wanting to run that pace on offense, but they don’t want to do it on defense.”
Regular season tips off in about a week and the roster is already looking to its depth to hold down the ship. Guard Austin Rivers and forwards Danilo Gallinari, Sam Dekker all sat out Sunday’s home contest against Portland.
Gallinari — with a sprained left foot — is projected to be closest to return to the lineup. Austin Rivers (strained right glute) and Dekker (strained left oblique) still have fairly undetermined timetables.
“It’s not great, especially when you have a lot of new guys and you’re putting in new stuff,” Rivers said. “But you can’t do anything about it so I’m not going to sit and worry about it. We’ve just got to teach everybody else.”
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