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    Clippers rest stars, drop preseason finale to Nuggets
    • October 20, 2023

    LOS ANGELES — Apparently having seen enough from the starters in the Clippers’ first three preseason games, Coach Tyronn Lue gave his top three stars the night off Thursday.

    Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook sat on the sidelines while the second unit lost to the defending champion Denver Nuggets, 101-90, in a preseason finale at Arena.

    George and Leonard played exclusively in the first half of the three previous preseason games, and George had a breakout game on Tuesday with 23 points.

    “I’ve been very satisfied with them just understanding the process, understanding our mindset on both sides of the basketball and how we want to play,” Lue said of the regular starters. “And they’ve done a great job in camp so far.

    “So, after tonight we still got five or six days to fine-tune what we want to be and who we want to be and we’re off to a good start with that so far. So, I like it.”

    Lue instead used a lineup that featured Terance Mann, Robert Covington, Norman Powell, Bones Hyland and Ivica Zubac, the only regular starter in the group. If Lue wanted a test for those five, he got it.

    Unlike Tuesday’s game, the Nuggets played their regular starters, and they didn’t take it easy on the Clippers, who had little luck in stopping two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon, who combined for 21 of the team’s first 24 points. Jokic just missed a triple-double, finishing with 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in 28 minutes, while Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 13 points apiece.

    Hyland finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists to pace the Clippers, but he left the game in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle. Mann and Powell each had 10 points.

    Hyland has been looking to show off his ball-handling skills but admitted that his scoring at times gets in the way. No one was complaining as he continually beat his man down the court or slid inside the paint for a basket.

    “At the end of the day I am a point guard, but I feel like my point guard skills always get overlooked because of my scoring ability,” Hyland said. “I feel like it overshadows it, but I’m definitely a point guard. I feel like I’ve been showcasing that.”

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    Lue said before the game, he wanted to see a continued defensive effort from the second unit and fewer turnovers. The Clippers turned the ball over 16 times, leading to 22 points, in Tuesday’s 116-113 preseason victory against Denver.

    “Just continue to work on what we’ve been talking about – having a defensive mindset for 48 minutes. Our spacing on the floor offensively, making sure we’re not passing and standing. Make sure we’re cutting, understanding when we’re supposed to cut and sharing the basketball.”

    Somewhere in the mix, though, is the starting power forward. Lue said that while he has made up his mind between Nicolas Batum, Mann and Covington, he wanted to wait until next week, before Wednesday’s season opener, to announce who has earned the job.

    Each started a preseason game and Covington was tabbed for Thursday’s finale.

    More to come on this story.

    ​ Orange County Register