Down three starters, LA came up short in Atlanta in the first game of their road trip. Was it an admirable fight? Check out our Clippers vs Hawks player grades to see.
Clippers Starter Grades
Reggie Jackson: A. Yes, I know, it wasn’t a perfect game for Reggie: he had a couple perplexing floaters and committed a pair of ugly turnovers at the end of the first half when the Clippers were starting to build a buffer. Now that that’s out of the way: the good. He more than earned his A tonight, going from third string duties to the starting lineup and being the Clippers’ best player. Reggie had 20 points on 8-16 shooting, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, a block, and 2 turnovers in 39 minutes. He probably won’t quite keep this level of play up, but if he keeps bringing strong performances with Patrick Beverley out the Clippers will have a shot to win some games on this trip while shorthanded.
Luke Kennard: B-. Luke didn’t quite step up tonight in the way that you’d hope with Paul and Kawhi out, but he still had a perfectly solid performance in extended minutes, with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals. Again, you really would like to see a bit more of both volume and efficiency–he was 5-13 from the field–with the Clippers so shorthanded, but this also isn’t really a far cry from his averages in Detroit last year: 13 points, 2 assists in 28 minutes tonight compared to 15.8 points and 4.1 assists in 32.9 minutes per game last season. Bonus points for digging in defensively and coming up with a career-high 4 steals.
Terance Mann: A. Terance had maybe his most impressive NBA game so far, with 10 points on 4-8 shooting, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 4 steals in 34 minutes of playing time. The Clippers used him as their primary defender on Trae Young, and while he didn’t lock Trae up he was really solid within the team’s scheme and did a far better job than any other available Clipper could have. The 9 rebounds were a really nice contribution, as the Clippers struggled against Clint Capela but otherwise controlled the defensive glass, and his transition defense was excellent as LA tried to minimize Atlanta’s scoring bursts.
Nicolas Batum: C. On most nights, Nic thrives in the margins, doing the little stuff on both ends of the floor. When Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are taking care of the big stuff, that makes him a brilliant support player. When the Clippers are trying to handle the big stuff by committee to compensate for their stars being out, Nic doing the little stuff feels a lot more like empty calories than crucial contributions. He didn’t shoot well tonight, but that will always come and go–the 3 turnovers and poor defensive containment against Young’s quickness were more glaring. As long as the Clippers are shorthanded, I’d probably reduce Nic’s minutes in favor of Marcus Morris in hopes of Marcus creating some offense.
Serge Ibaka: C. Serge was the focal point for the Clippers’ first-quarter offense, putting up 8 points on 4-6 shooting. It was important enough to make up for the fact that he wasn’t very good defensively or on the glass. When he shot just 2-9 the rest of the way and continued to be poor in those other areas, it was a problem for the Clippers. You can live with 15 points on 6-15 shooting and 3 assists from Serge offensively, but he’s gotta be better on a play-by-play basis on the other end.
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Marcus Morris: D. Morris made a positive first-half impact, albeit a small one, as he added 8 points on 3-6 shooting. It really would have been nice if he had had a quicker trigger from deep instead of taking so many mid-range jumpers off the dribble–on some of his attempts, he actually got into dangerous positions, but he took a few shots from 18-20 feet that really should have been threes on the first catch. In the second half, though, Marcus brought nothing–no points, 0-3 from the field in just over 13 minutes on the court. Part of Marcus’ value is that hiding behind the gritty 3-and-D combo forward role he plays for the Clippers, he’s a guy who put up an efficient 20 points per game for the Knicks last year. It’s one thing for his offense to be hit-or-miss in a low-usage role, but the team needs to be able to look to him on nights like this and get a little more.
Lou Williams: D. This is the average of an F first half, where Lou was a terrible 0-6 from the field for 0 points, and a B second half, where he was 4-8 from the field for 11 points. If he’d had two halves like that and put up 22 points on 50% shooting tonight, we’d probably be calling this a Clippers win. The Clippers don’t necessarily need 30-point games from Marcus and Lou to win games while shorthanded (though it wouldn’t hurt), but they really can’t afford to get stinkers from the two most prolific scorers available to them in games like these.
Ivica Zubac: A. Zu was once again great on both ends of the floor, finishing with a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double in just 18 minutes of play. His time on the court was partially limited by his 4 fouls through 3 quarters (at least 2 of which were horrible calls against him), but I also thought he should have closed the game tonight over Serge. The good news, though, is that after some not-super-meaningful outings against a quite bad Oklahoma City Thunder frontcourt, Zu was dominant again tonight. He’s back.
Amir Coffey: B. As Robert Flom said on The Lob, The Jam, The Podcast tonight, Amir was pretty invisible during his 12 minutes on the floor–which can be seen as both a good thing and a bad thing. Yeah, he didn’t bring a lot to the Clippers’ efforts: one made layup, a missed three, a turnover, and a couple of fouls. But for a guy on a two-way contract pressed into duty because of three injuries to starters, he also managed to not be a noticeable liability… though some better defense on Kevin Huerter to start the fourth quarter wouldn’t have hurt.
Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Jay Scrubb were all unavailable tonight. Patrick Patterson, Mfiondu Kabengele, and Daniel Oturu were unused subsitutes, despite the Clippers’ extreme depth issues.
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