That was fun! The Clippers got some phenomenal performances from role players and an improbable shooting night from two-way player Amir Coffey, and found a way to beat the Miami Heat despite being without four starters due to injury. It’s safe to say that GPAs will be getting another boost after these Clippers vs Heat player grades.
Clippers “Starter” Grades
Reggie Jackson: B+. I have some conflicting feelings about Reggie in this game, but I went with B+ to err on the side of friendliness, even if it’s probably too generous. I thought he was mostly a non-factor offensively, thoughe stayed under control and ended up with 8 assists (mostly courtesy of great shot-making by teammates as opposed to him creating offense for others consistently) and didn’t have a turnover. He was also terrible defensively in this game… but he was basically asked to be LAC’s secondary guard defender because of absences, which isn’t something he should ever be expected to provide. And you have to give him credit for toughing out 24 minutes despite a pretty painful shoulder injury that was clearly limiting him. If LAC had bodies available, Reggie wouldn’t have come back tonight.
Lou Williams: A-. This wasn’t Lou’s 30-and-10 game from last night, but it’s immensely impressive for a 34-year-old backup to be pressed into starting duty and put up 30/10 and 18/10 on consecutive nights. While his individual efficiency didn’t have a banner night (18 points on 8-20 shooting and just 1-3 from the free throw line), he was the real mastermind between LAC’s offense for most of the night and forced the Heat into switching in the pick-and-roll, opening the door for Zubac to dominate the second half.
Terance Mann: B+. Mann was tasked with guarding Jimmy Butler for much of this game, and, well, Jimmy had a 30/10/10 triple-double. So while we can’t give Terance credit for “stopping” Jimmy, we can credit him for putting up a respectable fight, making the superstar wing work for his points, and contributing in his own right: 15 points on 5-8 shooting, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists, while using his size and athleticism to create looks in the paint and at the rim.
Marcus Morris: A. I’m tempted to go A- here, just because Marcus’ foul trouble in the second half feels like a significant enough drawback to dock him… but the reality is that he was just so, so good in this game that even one pretty glaring flaw isn’t enough to take him out of A territory. The Clippers led at halftime because Morris had 26 points on 9-11 shooting before the break, and while they had to do most of their second-half work with him on the bench, he managed to return late and hit a huge, difficult mid-range shot that pushed the advantage back to 8 with 1:34 remaining and essentially sealed the victory.
Serge Ibaka: C. I was really encouraged by Serge’s start to the game, with 7 first-quarter points and a pair of offensive rebound putbacks where he outhustled Bam Adebayo on the glass. But he just didn’t sustain any meaningful contribution as the game went on–not scoring in the second or third quarters and not even appearing in the fourth as Zubac clearly outperformed him. The big issue was that when Miami started switching pick-and-rolls to prevent Lou Williams from getting downhill, Serge was rentered entirely ineffective when the Clippers tried to hunt mismatches with guards defending Serge in the post. Zu’s ability to punish the Heat defense for those switches is what won the Clippers the game in the second half, making Serge’s inability to do so rather glaring.
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Amir Coffey: A. Listen, I think it’s fool’s gold to rely on Coffey, who shot 5-23 from deep in two games with the Agua Caliente Clippers last week before being recalled to the big leagues, coming into an NBA game and going 5-6 from behind the arc (with his only miss being blocked). But I also think you take wins however you can get them, especially when you’re down 4 starters and need a stroke of luck or two. Getting 50 points from Marcus Morris and Lou Williams was a great way for them to step up and replace Paul George and Kawhi Leonard’s production–but someone else has to step in and do what Marcus and Lou normally do. It’s kind of like Amir was Marcus tonight, and Marcus was Kawhi. Pretty cool. Bonus points–not that Amir needs them tonight–for letting Brian Sieman do what he was born to do.
Luke Kennard: B+. I thought Luke had a nice game on the whole tonight, making positive contributions offensively and defensively throughout the game. He had a few blunders on both ends, but that’s pretty much true of any player in any game (though it can certainly solicit more groans from the fans when a guy has been struggling for a while). Listen, Luke is a great three-point shooter. I don’t care when he misses, like his 0-3 start from deep tonight. He’s gonna make 40% or more over the course of the year, individual makes and misses aren’t meaningful. What I liked, though, was that he actually felt involved in the offense instead of just waiting for others to make plays for him, coming up with 4 assists. He was actually quite good defensively tonight as well, staying in good position and making several key interventions. His 8 points, including two big made threes, in the fourth quarter as the Clippers pulled ahead and away? That’s just a well-deserved reward from the Basketball Gods.
Ivica Zubac: A. I really didn’t like Zu’s first half, where I thought he made several mistakes and had poor body language that turned blame towards teammates or referees instead. But much like Morris was too good in the first half to not get an A, Zubac was simply too good in the second half to not get his. As I mentioned in the Ibaka note, the Heat began switching pick-and-rolls defensively, and Zu hammered them inside for 18 straight second-half minutes. He had 22 points on 9-11 shooting, 14 (7-7) of which came in the second half, and he even had a gorgeous dime to a cutting Terance Mann when Miami brought a double-team to one of his post-ups. The Heat more or less kept Lou Williams contained by switching Bam Adebayo onto him. Zubac was the Clippers’ counter, and he swung the second half back in their favor.
Patrick Patterson: D. I dunno, man. The Clippers are missing 4 starters. They only have 10 available players, including Amir Coffey on a two-way contract and soon-to-be-cut Mfiondu Kabengele. You’d think that Patrick Patterson, on an above-minimum contract, would have something to offer in a depth role on a night like tonight. But he played 7 ineffective first half minutes and didn’t make enough of an impression to get back on the floor in the second half, despite Reggie Jackson essentially playing with one arm and Marcus Morris getting just 9 second half minutes due to foul trouble. Amir Coffey played 17 second-half minutes at power forward while Patrick Patterson rode the pine. Not a great look for where PatPat is in the coaching staff’s eyes.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were both sidelined with injuries. So was Patrick Beverley. And Nicolas Batum. And Jay Scrubb, and Daniel Oturu, both of whom are recovering in LA instead of with the Agua Caliente Clippers in Orlando. Mfiondu Kabengele was the sole unused sub for the Clippers tonight.
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