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Clippers defeat New Orleans, 91-88, in final exhibition

Al Thornton leads the team with 20 points against the Hornets, who were without Chris Paul. Clippers go 6-2 in preseason.

October 24, 2009|Lisa Dillman

Whether it was stretch limos hovering around Staples Center or more designer clothes than you would see except for Fashion Week, the hoopla on the streets did seem a little excessive, a little misplaced.

Wasn't this too much for Chris Paul vs. Blake Griffin?

Or did people mix up their dates and show up in the Staples Center/Nokia Theatre area a few days early, thinking the Lakers were opening their title defense?


Instead, it was partly a celebration of the cosmetics company Nu Skin, highlighting its 25th anniversary.

You might say new skin could apply to the Clippers, a team desperately trying to shed its old skin. And Friday was their last true dress rehearsal before the legitimate stuff gets going, starting Tuesday against the Lakers with their NBA season opener.

Just what did the Clippers learn before, during and after their 91-88 victory over the Paul-less New Orleans Hornets?

Outside of the fact that rookie Griffin is capable of throwing down a building-rattling dunk, at will? He had his highlight reel moment, again, with a one-handed dunk near the end of the third quarter.

Leading the Clippers were Al Thornton with 20 points and DeAndre Jordan, starting at center and scoring 16 points; Griffin had eight points and six rebounds. The Clippers were 6-2 in preseason, losing only to Golden State in the opener and the Lakers.

For the Hornets, among others, Paul did not play, suffering from flu symptoms, nor did Emeka Okafor (sprained toe on right foot).

But, for the Clippers, one thing was decided, more or less, by an injury, settling the question of who will start at power forward, the ageless Marcus Camby or the kid, Griffin.

Camby remains out because of a sprained left ankle -- suffered when Craig Smith landed on it a week ago -- and has barely started shooting on the court, let alone doing anything more active.

"I'm assuming he [Griffin] is going to start based alone on Marcus being out," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "And we'll go from there."

The pressing, and open question, remains at small forward. Will it be incumbent Thornton or veteran (but Clippers newcomer) Rasual Butler?

Thornton-or-Butler has not been decided. "I've got four days, five days to figure it out," Dunleavy said.

Thornton started at small forward against New Orleans and Butler, playing against his former team, started at the shooting guard position as the Clippers limited the court time of usual starter Eric Gordon, keeping him under 10 minutes.

Butler was four for 11 for 10 points in just over 29 minutes, and Thornton was eight for 11 in 30-plus minutes of action.

"It was good to get through the exhibition season relatively healthy," Dunleavy said. "I thought our guys played hard throughout the game. They weren't exactly in sync as far as shooting the ball as well as we had the rest of the preseason. But down the stretch, defensively, we had a lot of deflection and good defensive plays."

Dunleavy praised Thornton's performance.

"Al was terrific for us," he said. "We went with him in the low post with the matchup and he delivered. He did a nice job of scoring in the paint. Very efficient with his game and did a nice job of passing out of double teams, created shots for other guys. I thought it was a terrific game for him."


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