Tuesday’s game against the Orlando Magic was the fifth in seven nights for the Clippers, and it showed–the result is some poor player grades. The energy-depleted, and roster-depleted, Clippers fell to the Magic 103-96 for their only second game of a back-to-back loss all season. Let’s take a look at how the players performed.
Clippers Starter Grades
Reggie Jackson: C. Reggie provided a bit of the full Reggie Jackson experience. I thought he was mostly good, as providing much-needed scoring punches throughout three quarters. However, there was a lot of over-dribbling and some not-so-great shots taken given that sunk possessions. It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort but as the game wore on he just couldn’t find the basket. 6/18 from the floor and 3/11 from distance, including a good look at the end to tie the game, is never good, but it’s hard to be too upset given the circumstances. Reggie ended the game a team-worst minus-13.
Luke Kennard: B-. This was a hard game to judge. As with Reggie, Luke shot pretty poorly from the field at just 6/16, including 3/8 from three, and failed to create much offense for anyone else. But he did have 17 points and probably would’ve closed this game if he didn’t foul out. Defensively, he wasn’t exposed by any means, but he wasn’t sharp — which is indicated in his foul totals. He got lost on off-ball screens and gave up and-1’s that were untimely. This game won’t go down as one of his better recent performances but it won’t be remembered as a bad one either. Just a “meh” game.
Kawhi Leonard: C+. One of the last times I graded the players was when the Clippers played their second road game against the Grizzlies. I recapped Kawhi’s performance by stating that from the opening tip he put the team on his back and energized the guys while doing everything he needed to do to get the Clippers a victory. Last night wasn’t that. After an efficient but nonchalant first half, Kawhi tried to rev it up as the Magic hung around midway through the second half, but there wasn’t much gas left in the tank in his fifth game in seven nights. It was quite easy to see how his night was going to unfold once he pulled up for a fourth-quarter middy and left it about two feet short of the rim. With not many other scoring threats available to close the game, the double-teams came and forced Kawhi into some ugly live-ball turnovers down the stretch.
Nic Batum: C. Nic started this game off amazingly and was well on his way to an A-performance, but then the wheels came off in the second half. Uncharacteristically, Nic gave away a lot of possessions. He had four pretty sloppy turnovers with two of them coming directly after timeouts. He also made just one shot in this game despite playing 34 minutes. Speaking of those 34 minutes, I do credit him for being able to be on the court for that long while essentially being the only available 4-man and having to be the backup 5 as well. For what it’s worth, the 10 rebounds and 5 assists were fantastic, but the late turnover and missed three hurt.
Ivica Zubac: B+. The Clippers’ best player tonight was Ivica Zubac. He battled on both ends of the floor to the best of his abilities. Zu went into halftime with 10 points on 4/4 shooting from the field — all dunks, while completely dominating the offensive glass. He did his usual stellar job on the defensive end and protected the paint although some foul concerns zapped him of a few important minutes. The second half wasn’t quite as productive — the offense was a mess, guys couldn’t create any looks, and the Magic fought a little harder to keep Zu away from the offensive glass. Still, Zu had more impact than any other Clipper, which has become a regularity. 14 points and 13 rebounds is alright with me.
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Terance Mann: B. It was certainly a step backward last night in terms of Terance’s scoring. The long-armed Orlando Magic bigs met him time and time again at the rim to erase all of the easy looks that he’d grown accustomed to converting. So when you take his strongest asset away from him you’ll find shooting stats like this one: 3/12 for 9 points. The great thing about Terance, though, is that he’s learned how to impact the game in many ways. The scoring dipped, but the rebounds (7) and assists (6) were big, and he continued to be one of the few Clippers players who can get downhill and create looks for others. So yes, while the numbers were mediocre Terance probably was the second or third best Clipper last night.
Patrick Patterson. C+: Like most of the guys last night, PatPat had his best moments during the first half. He was surprisingly pretty good on defense, which is always going to be more important than his offense when he’s on the court — he contained dribble drives, made all of the correct reads and rotations, and even came over from the weakside to block a shot at the rim. Just by the way that the second half played out for the Clippers, it was hard to notice PatPat in his minutes. It seemed like he was just out there, which I guess is fine on a night like this? Anyways, 2/5 from three and not a whole else is what we call a typical Patrick Patterson night.
Amir Coffey: B. The box score won’t show it, but Amir has made many strides in his second season in L.A. You can see the growing confidence he has in his jump shot as he isn’t afraid to shoot open threes or to even create middies off the dribble. Amir’s defense has always been ahead of the other parts of his game, but it was still nice to see him locked in and fighting to keep Terrence Ross uncomfortable. He only managed 5 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes of play, but the fact that he is playable is a huge victory for a two-way player. I’m at the point where I’m fairly confident he will at minimum be a net-neutral whenever he’s out there.
Daniel Oturu received a healthy DNP. Rajon Rondo, Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris Sr., Serge Ibaka, and Paul George all were in street clothes for this game as they recover from injuries. To help handle their lack of healthy bodies, the Clippers are reportedly considering a 10-day tryout for veteran center DeMarcus Cousins.
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