Despite being down 6 of their top 9 rotation guys, the LA Clippers rallied from down 18 to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night, 117-105. Any time you win this shorthanded, it means a lot of guys had to step up, so let’s relish in high marks in these Clippers and Grizzlies player grades. And once you’re done, make sure to check out Cole Huff’s newest piece on how the team’s process has improved from last season.
Clippers Starter Grades
Terance Mann: A. On paper, it might not look like Terance Mann was the player of the game tonight for the Clippers, but to these eyes, this is a 20-point loss without him. As crucial as Morris and Kennard’s shooting were, as unexpected as Ferrell’s fourth-quarter outburst was, Terance was the engine for both the offense and defense in the Clippers’ dominant 34-20 third quarter that not only pulled them back into the game but gave them the lead heading into the final frame.
Luke Kennard: A. But while Terance was my player of the game, you gotta give it up for Luke Kennard, who had a season-high 28 points in 38 minutes, shooting 10-16 from the field and an unconscious 6-7 from beyond the arc. Without Jackson, without George, without Leonard, the Clippers needed someone from the fringes to blow up in order to win this game and Luke did just that.
Amir Coffey: C+. This would probably be a lower grade if Amir wasn’t on a two-way contract forced into a starting role by absences ahead of him, but considering he literally doesn’t have an NBA contract I think we have to realize that yes, it absolutely could have been worse. He struggled to get much of anything going in this game, although he was at least able to get to the free throw line 7 times and convert on 6 of those attempts.
Marcus Morris: A. This wasn’t quite god-tier Marcus Morris, who has a pair of 30+ scoring nights this season where he shot 6-8 from three, but it was the next step down–still really good. He contributed 25 points on 9-19 shooting, including making some difficult shots inside the arc in the first half to keep the Clippers close when they were struggling before catching fire from deep in the second half.
Ivica Zubac: A. Zu isn’t necessarily the same kind of “step-up” player as Mann, Kennard, or Morris, in the sense that you aren’t going to just give him the ball more times and let him go to work with the stars out. But without the talent around him, the dirty work he does inside becomes even more essential. One big factor in this game: the Grizzlies are a younger, faster team that plays at a pace of 100.4, 8th in the NBA, compared to the Clippers’ 97.0, 27th. The pace of last night’s game was 96.1, in large part because Zubac’s work on the offensive glass (he grabbed 5 OREBs and on many more possessions his presence forced the Grizzlies to hold extra players back for rebounding support as the other 4 Clippers transitioned back to the defensive end).
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Nicolas Batum: B-. The Clippers got a bit of NiCardio in this one–not that he was bad, but as one of the team’s 3 playoff rotation guys available, you’d hope that he would find a way to bring a little more offensive punch than 2 points on 1-2 shooting. And it wasn’t just “things were clicking, they didn’t need him,” since he had 0 points on 0 FGA in the first half when things were decidedly not clicking for the team offensively. He still overall did his job and helped stabilize a second unit mostly composed of odds and ends, but I’m left a little underwhelmed.
Yogi Ferrell: A. What is there to say? In his Clipper debut, Yogi was a bit shaky… until he wasn’t. He poked away a rebound late in the third quarter and found Terance Mann for a lob that was the play of the game. That was his third assist. Then, in the fourth, he had all 8 of his points and 4 more assists, playing the entire frame and running the team’s offense to perfection.
DeMarcus Cousins: A-. This version of Boogie is… limited. I’m looking forward to Serge Ibaka returning. But, for a guy on a 10-day contract, he’s got a few skills and he is absolutely busting his ass every time down the floor. Finishing around the rim? Terrible. Mobility? Terrible. 5 Turnovers? Terrible. Taking three charges in 14 minutes in one game? Amazing. A third string center who both has the strength to bother opposing bigs down low (10 rebounds!) and space the floor and hit a three? Amazing. It’s extreme highs and lows for DeMarcus, even possession-to-possession, but there’s no denying he made a notable positive impact on this game, which is deserving of praise for a guy on a 10-day deal.
Patrick Patterson: B. Patterson didn’t do much in his short 13-minute stint in this game (this is an outing where a couple weeks ago, pre-Boogie, we would have seen way more PatPat), but he hit a really big three in the early fourth quarter with the game very much in question and the Clippers’ makeshift second unit trying to find enough points to hold things together.
Daniel Oturu saw a minute of garbage time with the game in hand, but didn’t register anything in the box score. Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, Rajon Rondo, Reggie Jackson (and of course, Jay Scrubb) were all out tonight for various injuries, ailments, or rest purposes.
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