Clippers get ready to tip off against Golden State Warriors

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard looking to score during the Dallas Mavs. (Courtesy photo Nick White)

The Los Angeles Clippers will be challenged right away as they enter the 2021-22 season with a game against the Golden State Warriors on the road.

Although the Warriors lack size, that didn’t stop them from going 5-0 in preseason or from taking a 121-114 win against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Tuesday. 

Their pace and constant movement did not go unnoticed by Clippers forward Paul George. 

“They move the ball. It’s scary,” George said after Wednesday’s practice. “We just have to be ready for their ball movement. I thought the Lakers played them well, put bodies on them, forced them to make plays at the rim. That’s how we are going to have to try to approach it.”

Steph Curry shot at 23.8% from the field and 25.0% from beyond the arc. The Golden State guard also turned the ball over four times. In his own words, he “played like trash.” Curry’s percentages on the stat sheet left a lot to be desired, but he still led his team’s offense with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. This was Curry’s first triple-double since 2016. 

He won’t be the only player the Clippers need to worry about. Jordan Poole showed he can be a difference-maker and helped the Warriors with 20 points, 16 of those in the second half. Four other Warriors also scored in double digits. 

Los Angeles head coach Tyronn Lue pointed out another very obvious strength for the Warriors: their three-point shooting. 

The Warriors averaged 38.7 three-point attempts last season. Their preseason’s average was higher, shooting 53.2 three-pointers per game.

“We know they are going to attack, we know they are going to shoot threes, but we just have to eliminate the easy baskets,” Lue said. 

Golden State missed out on the playoffs last season. Meanwhile, the Clippers made it to the Western Conference Finals series. Unfortunately for them, that momentum hasn’t been easy to keep going. 

Los Angeles went 1-3 during preseason and is still looking for consistency. As Lue mentioned after his team’s 128-100 preseason loss to Minnesota, transition defense and better ball movement are two areas that could use improvement.

Finding the right rhythm is difficult, especially with some key players missing. On Tuesday, Lue confirmed that Serge Ibaka will be out for the season opener (back injury from last season). 

There is also still not a definite date for when Kawhi Leonard will be back. The spotlight is on George who, although has struggled with inconsistency in his own game, feels confident he can be a leader while his co-star returns. 

Along with Leonard, Nicolas Batum will be missing for this first game due to personal reasons. Serge Ibaka, Keon Johnson and Jason Preston will not be available for the opener.

George didn’t play at the beginning of his first season with the Clippers, which meant Leonard had to take over. Now, George said, the roles are flipped.

“I’m starting without him this year so I gained a little bit off of what I saw,” George said. “He led the team when I was out, kept us competitive, kept us in it. Now it’s essentially my turn to lead the team and keep us afloat, keep us going.”

The Clippers/Warriors game is scheduled for 7pm PT on Thursday and will be available on TNT.