A fully healthy Clippers roster, you say? What a difference it makes! The Clippers got revenge against the Jazz who bested them just a game ago, earning a whole lot of positive player grades.
Clippers Starter Grades
Patrick Beverley: A+. Where do I begin? Well, Pat was the only Clipper to bother Donovan Mitchell at all, and I mean he REALLY bothered him. Pat hounded Mitchell from the jump and forced him to the bench after baiting him into two quick first-quarter fouls, and then continued to make life tough for Mitchell throughout the rest of the game. While Pat was great all game, he ended spectacularly. He delivered in the fourth quarter and made plays in all areas of the half-court offense; a drive-and-kick three to Marcus Morris Sr. midway through the fourth, back-to-back three-pointers down the stretch, and four crucial free-throws to help put the game on ice. For as great of a game Patrick Beverley had against the Jazz on Wednesday night, he was even better this time around. Overall, just a winning performance.
Paul George: B-. Paul George looked like a guy who’d just missed two weeks of basketball. He got off to a typical PG kind of start on the offensive end, but waned over the course of the game as he never really seemed to quite get his legs under him. There were a few rough patches in that second quarter in which he was just completely gassed — flat shots on one side of the court and dying on screens at the other side. But he was rested enough to restore a bit of order in the final frame as he subbed in for Reggie Jackson and put together a nice little 2-minute stretch that included two free-throws, assisted three-pointers to both Morris Sr. and Pat, and a middy of his own. On a normal night, this kind of game isn’t up to snub for the top-10 kind of player he’s been this season, but perspective is key here. We’ll see a better PG with time.
Kawhi Leonard: B-. 29/5/4 is a great line if you’re just looking at the stat sheet, but this honestly wasn’t a great Kawhi game. He did the bulk of his damage in the midrange per usual, but stagnated the offense in the process. He also was largely unimpactful in the other areas of the game when he wasn’t scoring, which in-part led to his team-worst +/- of minus-9. His ability to make a couple of contested pull-up jumpers and get to the line down the stretch of the third quarter ultimately regained the lead for the Clippers and they never relinquished it. And he did have two late fourth-quarter rebounds that soaked up enough time for them to escape the late Donovan Mitchell flurry. Like George, he’ll be better. But the fact that Kawhi can put up these numbers on one of his forgetful nights speaks to his greatness.
Nic Batum: C. The Utah Jazz allow the second-fewest 3PA and the fewest 3PM per game this season. They only surrendered 26 3PA to the Clippers on Wednesday and 30 on Friday, and with that information, it’s comprehensible how Nic Batum ended with zero points on only two shot attempts. Utah’s defense had the Clippers pretty controlled until the Clippers went small and broke the game open, but outside of that stretch, it was pretty tough for the team to generate any clean looks. There’s just really not a whole lot to say about Batum in this one other than the fact that he was a victim of Utah’s defense. He wasn’t good. He wasn’t bad. He was just Nicardio, and that’s perfectly okay.
Serge Ibaka: B-. Along the lines of what Lucas mentioned in last game’s player grades, Rudy Gobert is the best defensive big in the NBA and he’s compensated as such. Unsurprisingly, Serge struggled again to find a way to put the ball in the basket. Gobert’s length affected Serge’s efforts around the rim on his (way too many) post isolations. And when he was able to find freedom behind the arc, his choppy footwork and slight hesitations led him to only convert one of his five attempts. He otherwise was fine when he was on the court — securing nine rebounds and four assists in just 22 minutes before doing his usual spectating the fourth quarter. If this is a team the Clippers are going to see during the playoffs they’ll likely need Serge to be the floor-spacer he’s grown into at this stage of his career.
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Lou Williams: B+. The A-level performances are saved for Lou’s truly spectacular performances like the ones we’ve seen over the years — hell, over the past couple of weeks. But there’s no downplaying Lou’s significant role in the win. Part of me wondered if Lou was going to revert back to his role as the “setup man” that he played for the first two months of the season before the team caught the injury bug, but his 19 points on 8-14 shooting proved otherwise. Lou did the bulk of his scoring in the first half and it was his mere presence in the third and fourth quarter that helped the Clippers flow more comfortably on offense. He continues to be good enough on the defensive end to the point where I’m not shocked when he makes a positive play. I would’ve liked to have seen Lou a bit more in the fourth, but all in all, this was a very, very good Lou performance.
Marcus Morris Sr.: B+. Similar to Lou, I’m saving the A’s for truly special ones. This was as close as it gets, though. Mook partnered with Pat Bev to bring this game home for the Clippers. He did his best Kawhi impression with some well-timed mid-range jumpers as the Jazz were knocking on the door, hit two huge threes, and grabbed an offensive board late before finding Pat for a dagger. Not to mention, the game was essentially won when Morris Sr. slid over to play some small-ball 5. Clarkson made a few ridiculous shots on him but I’m just nitpicking at this point. Anyways, this game exemplifies exactly what the Clippers need from Morris: complimentary offense, versatile defense, shooting, and the ability to play small-ball five.
Ivica Zubac: B. The first half was great. The big fella was running like a deer in transition, walling up at the rim, and grabbing offensive rebounds left and right. He also outplayed Derrick Favors and that goes a long way in helping determine the outcome of these games. There wasn’t much out there on the offensive end for Zu, as the Jazz made it hard for any Clippers to create for him. He was the subject of some extremely poor refereeing in that third quarter and he wasn’t impactful in the fourth. This could easily be a B-, but Zu earned the best plus-minus of any Clipper, which moves the needle for me.
Reggie Jackson: B. Good Reggie! He played basketball as a 10-year veteran should. The ball didn’t stick in his hands and he didn’t over-dribble, he made sure to play through the superstars in the half-court, and he even made a smart play in transition by attacking the rim and feeding a trailing Serge Ibaka for a dunk. 15 minutes seemed about right for Reggie in this one.
Terance Mann: C. A bit of regression from Terance this game after a streak of stellar performances, but this particular performance is more like what we should expect going forward when there are a plethora of available bodies. No need to over-analyze it; with a fully healthy roster his minutes were cut, stints were shorter, and opportunities were more sparse. He did have a couple of odd miscommunications with Ivica Zubac early in the game that led to turnovers and he never really recovered from it. It is worth noting that he saw the court over Luke Kennard, but he didn’t do enough with his minutes to force Ty Lue’s had and make this a recurring theme.
Amir Coffey closed the final 2.3 seconds of the third quarter, which was obviously not enough to earn a grade. Patrick Patterson and Mfiondu Kabengele earned their usual DNP-CD’s while Luke Kennard received his first. Jay Scrubb and Daniel Oturu continue to recover from their injuries.
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