The Clippers and Nets turned in another thriller, but the good guys fell by four points yet again. Let’s see how all the Clippers players fared this time around against the Nets, with full grades below.
Clippers STARTER GRADES
Patrick Beverley: B. Pat Bev’s defense was sorely missed in that first game and with his return he’d surely slow Kyrie Irving and James Harden, right? Well, Brooklyn is the best offensive team in the NBA for a reason; they were never going to cater to Pat’s strength and just let him play one-on-one defense. Instead, they hunted the matchups they desired, making Pat’s defensive presence less impactful once Harden and Irving opted to attack the pick-and-rolls. Offensively, Beverley’s four assists were wiped away by a season-high four turnovers, which featured a couple of notable one-handed passes through traffic. You don’t really come away from games evaluating Pat’s performance based on his offensive play, but between the poor decision-making with the ball and only one three-point make, he didn’t have much of a visible impact on this game.
Paul George: A-. PG looked more like his usual self against the Nets. For three quarters he was pretty good — picking his spots and operating well on both ends, but he really came alive later in the game. He had 12 points and 2 assists in the fourth quarter alone during a five-minute stretch that cut the lead from 12 to 4. There’s little doubt in my mind that PG would’ve continued to make plays down the stretch, but a minutes restriction ended his night prematurely. You can attribute his six turnovers to rust, or recognize that the high turnovers are just a part of his game. There’s likely a balance but either way, it was too many, and they were especially costly in a game that was only lost by four points. But, perspective again, it was only PG’s second game back after missing a couple of weeks, so you’ll take the efficient 34/6/7 on a minutes restriction.
Kawhi Leonard: B. A late offensive foul (questionable) plagued what was otherwise a good, not great, game from Kawhi. His first quarter was exceptional, as he was basically one of only two sources of offense for the Clippers in that frame, but was somewhat discreet throughout the rest of the game. More of an offensive contribution in the fourth quarter would have been appreciated, however, there weren’t too many opportunities to do so with PG dominating the majority of that quarter the way he did. Still, he was great all night on the boards and was solid defensively. What lacked, though, was the playmaking; Kawhi generated onlythree assists in the game. 29 and 13 should be enough to get the job done on most nights, though, so it’s hard to be too critical.
Nic Batum: B-. Nic was decent last night. I liked that he was versatile enough to switch onto the Nets’ two healthy superstars and be smart enough to make it tough from them despite his lackluster footspeed. Those two guys got the better of him mostly, but that can be said of anyone who lined up in front of them. Batum’s shot-making was absent again in this one, as he has slowly begun regressing on that end of the court — not anything drastic or troubling, but the quiet nights are becoming more of a regularity. He made just a single three-pointer on three attempts, was 0-3 on his two-point attempts, and was 0-2 at the line. I’m sure rust may have something to do with his poor touch around the rim or even the dropped pass that slid from his hands and bounced to the sideline, but still, Nic didn’t play poorly at all, he just wasn’t great.
Serge Ibaka: C. Oh, Serge. I convinced myself that he was due for a breakout game against Jeff Green and Deandre Jordan after having a rough two-game stretch against Rudy Gobert, arguably the NBA’s best defender. Sadly, this game was no different. The box score (8 points, 8 rebounds in 21 minutes) really doesn’t tell the whole story, as many of Serge’s season-long faults remained true against the Nets; he failed to provide floor-spacing, was poorly positioned time and time again in his pick-and-roll coverages, and repeatedly tried (and failed) to score out of the low-post. He couldn’t even hide on 6’4 Bruce Brown, as Brown played the roller and finished over Ibaka in the paint. There were a few possessions in the third-quarter that he had some luck offensively, but that was about it. Serge teased us in late January and early February with a surge in play but has been on a downward trend in recent weeks.
BENCH PLAYER GRADES
Lou Williams: C. This was a very Luke Kennard kind of outing for Lou — 5 points and 2 assists without much impact on the game. Lou never got it going today as either a scorer or a facilitator, and it hurt the Clippers’ chances at winning. He looked fine physically, it’s just one of those nights where shots weren’t falling. He did make an important three late in the game, so I guess that’s a positive. Maybe worth noting is that this is the second time this season in which he was pretty non-existent against the Nets, which could be a problem if the two teams met in the finals – but that’s also getting very far ahead of ourselves. Other than that, I really don’t have too much else to say about this performance.
Marcus Morris Sr.: C. The Brooklyn Nets found their guy, and by their guy I mean a pick-and-roll defender to pick on. When they weren’t terrorizing the drop coverage, Harden and Irving took turns orchestrating switches to get Morris Sr. on an island. He gave a nice effort, but ultimately he couldn’t deter either of the two from finding points. Like Lou, Morris Sr. also couldn’t buy a basket, and was ineffective as a small-bell five this time around. Speaking of small-ball five, he was partially responsible for the DeAndre Jordan game-winning putback, as DJ’s outstretched arms rose high above Morris Sr.’s backside — although there’s not much you can do about that. The bottom line is that if Mook doesn’t have it going on offense he’s got to impact the game in other areas. He didn’t do that last night.
Ivica Zubac: B-. DeAndre Jordan outplayed Ivica Zubac for the second time this season, although one could argue that’s more a result of DeAndre playing really well than Zu playing poorly. Zu certainly had his moments, especially later in the game when the Clippers’ guards fed him for some easy ones under the rim, but it would have been nice to see a consistent effort from him throughout the game. Yet, I think that a lot of that is on coaching — limiting Zu to just 20 minutes of action and not using him to punish some of the Jeff Green at center lineups. In the end, this was an acceptable outing for Zu, and more of him over Serge could’ve changed the outcome of the game.
Terance Mann: B+. It was a bounceback performance from Terance after an off night against Utah. There’s a list of things that I really liked, which included two (!) three-pointers (one coming off of his own OREB), a drive and lob to Zu, and a highlight play that consisted of him fighting around a ball-screen and sprinting downhill to the roller to erase a lob attempt to DeAndre. The final stat line won’t wow anyone (6/2/2 in 18 minutes) but he had lots of positive contributions to this game. T-Mann was damn good last night.
Reggie Jackson didn’t receive a grade due to only seeing the court for four minutes during the third quarter. Patrick Patterson and Mfiondu Kabengele were unused, as was Luke Kennard, who earned his second consecutive healthy DNP. Amir Coffey was inactive, and Jay Scrubb and Daniel Oturu continue to recover from injury.