The Clippers rounded out their road trip nicely with a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers–check out how everyone did in this edition of player grades.
Clippers Starter Grades
Reggie Jackson: C. Reggie didn’t do much tonight, but it wouldn’t be fair to say he was bad either. Maybe just adequate, even invisible, for much of the game–and only 23 minutes, his fewest since entering the starting lineup when Patrick Beverley went down. He had 0 points on 0-3 shooting, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. It was a forgettable outing for Reggie, but not a terrible one by any means. For an injury replacement starter, that’s adequate, but it doesn’t warrant more than a C.
Paul George: A. The Clippers won this game when Paul George took over in the second half, putting up 25 of his 36 points and shooting 9-12 from the field and 7-8 from deep in the second half. He also had 4 rebounds and 6 assists with 0 turnovers. It was an efficient offensive masterpiece, and the A is warranted not just in the box score but also in the visible impact he made on the game during important possessions in the second half to keep Cleveland at arm’s length and ultimately slam the door in their faces.
Kawhi Leonard: B+. Kawhi was definitely good tonight, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. He had an efficient, but low volume night scoring the ball, putting up 24 points on 9-14 shooting, and added 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and 4 turnovers to complete his line. That A:TO isn’t great, the scoring was pretty average for him, and he didn’t need to do a lot of leg work defensively against this Cavs team as the Clippers let their drop coverage bait Cleveland’s guards into taking a bunch of low-percentage shots in the mid-range.
Nicolas Batum: B. A ho-hum outing for Nic, with 7 points, a rebound, and a pair of assists in his 23 minutes.
Serge Ibaka: B+. Serge rebounded nicely from a dreadful game in Brooklyn, scoring 14 points on 6-8 shooting and adding 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. It’s always a great sign when the Clippers get multiple assists from one of their centers, because that playmaking out of the short role (and sometimes off of offensive rebounds) creates golden shot attempts. He didn’t play a ton in the second half because Zubac was having a dominant performance, but he was good in the minutes he did play.
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Ivica Zubac: A-. Zu was the Clippers’ second-best player in the second half, dominating the paint on both ends of the floor and playing nearly 20 minutes straight through the third and fourth quarters. It was probably his best half of the season (maybe his best half as a Clipper?), but unfortunately we can’t pretend that his 8:44 of first-half court time didn’t happen, and he was bad in that shift. I can’t give him an A for that reason, but I’m willing to go higher than I thought I would for two reasons: first, he played over twice as long in the second half as he did in the first, so it’s weighted more heavily, and second, because his good second half play had a far greater positive impact than his poor first half play had a negative one. The line is impressive: 10 points, 16 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 3 blocks in 28 mintues. The second-half line is even more impressive: 10 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks in 19 minutes.
Lou Williams: B+. Legitimately good scoring games have been few and far between for Lou early on this season, but he had one tonight, with 15 points on 5-8 shooting. He also added 3 assists, though he turned the ball over four times to get there. But he was the offensive sidekick to George as LAC pulled away in the second half, putting up 11 points on 4-5 shooting and doing a nice job keeping the offense running around George’s individual dominance.
Marcus Morris: D. Morris was a total nonfactor tonight, finishing with 3 points on 1-3 shooting, 3 rebounds, and 2 turnovers in 23 minutes of action. Given his place in the team’s hierarchy, you really expect him to make more of an impact on the game off the bench–he, like everyone, will have off shooting nights, but only 3 shot attempts and 2 turnovers? No assists, blocks, or steals? Only 3 rebounds when he plays in lineups where Ivica Zubac needs rebounding support? Other teams crashing the glass to go 3-on-1 against Zu, or grab boards when Zu steps up in help, has become all to common and Morris is typically the player who should have had the responsibility of helping on the glass.
Luke Kennard: C+. I mean, at least he made shots tonight? Luke had 9 points on 3-6 shooting, 3-4 from deep. But he also played 22 minutes and only took those 6 shots and 4 threes, which isn’t quite enough, and while there were moments where he was clearly trying to be a bit more aggressive, he also pressed a bit at times and as a result got into uncomfortable spots. He did have one really quick, decisive drive-and-dump off that ended up Zubac getting stripped as he went up for a dunk, and it would be nice to see more of that type of play from him going forward. Overall, Luke wasn’t impactful but as long as he’s hitting more than 40% of his threes, he’s a rotation NBA player. Maximixing the value of his minutes will mean a quicker trigger on those looks, and then I guess we’ll see how the other facets of his game develop in the coming weeks (and years) as he gets further away from his knee injuries and more adjusted to the Clippers (and, eventually, adjusts to life after Lou Williams, who is 34 and in the last year of his contract).
Mfiondu Kabengele, Terance Mann, and Amir Coffey all played the last 4 minutes, maintaining the Clippers’ lead alongside Kennard and Zubac. Coffey didn’t really do much. Mann hit a nice three when the defense sagged in the pick-and-roll, but I’d rather not dilute his GPA with little garbage time assessments and instead focus on the nights where he gets real chances. And Fi… well, I’m pretty confident that he’s not long for the team (or league), and grading him at this point just feels a little mean. It’s not like he’s going to get high marks when his confidence and accuracy align like Carlton’s:
Patrick Patterson was the team’s sole unused sub. Daniel Oturu was again inactive as he presumably prepares to play with the Agua Caliente Clippers in the G-League’s bubble. Patrick Beverley and Jay Scrubb both remain sidelined by injuries–and it seems like Scrubb may be with ACCO for now as well.
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