The Clippers slid to the fourth seed in the Western Conference after losing the season series to the undermanned Denver Nuggets. Let’s see how each of the players graded out.
CLIPPERS STARTER GRADES
Reggie Jackson: C+. Reggie played about how we’ve come to expect Reggie to play after he’s seemingly fallen back down to earth. He made some catch-and-shoot three’s — cool. He also put together a solid start to the third quarter to help the Clippers take their final lead, but he just doesn’t impact the game in many other ways — although he did manage three steals. 15 points on 5/12 shooting and 3/7 from three are fine for Reggie, but he only had one assist in 30 minutes. I can’t help but miss Pat Bev more and more each passing game.
Paul George: D. This game was reminiscent of one of the bad playoff games from the bubble, and it’s no coincident that Denver was the reason for some of those. Outside of a few early jumpers during the first quarter, PG looked very flustered throughout the game. He got roughed up in the paint (though he wasn’t elevating much) and was impacted by the physicality and the peskiness of the Nuggets defenders — so much so that he gave a frustration-induced flagrant foul on Facundo Campazzo during the third quarter. That flagrant surrendered the Clippers’ one-point lead and they would never recover it. George shot 5-21 from the field and missed four free throws. The only thing positive to take away from the outing was that he made 3/8 from three, but that’ll be drowned out in the grand scheme of things. The Clips probably won’t see Denver again this year, but if they do, PG will have some demons to exorcise.
Kawhi Leonard: B-. All signs early on pointed towards Kawhi having a dominant performance, but that never materialized. Clearly unwilling to overexert himself in his first game back from injury, Kawhi coasted throughout the game until later in the fourth quarter. He settled from a lot of jumpers — which he made — but didn’t make much of an effort to get downhill. When he did put his head down he found shooters along the perimeter or muscled his way to some tough finishes. But those were too infrequent, especially as his “213” counterpart struggled greatly. We’ll probably see Kawhi ramp it up a few notches as he gets more minutes under his belt, and it’ll be needed. I thought both his health and game looked fine though.
Marcus Morris Sr.: D. A performance like this one can only be compared to those early season Luke Kennard games; the ones where he was out there for long periods of time but you kinda didn’t notice. Morris Sr.’s fallback to being a complementary piece was quite drastic as he played 29 minutes and made just 2 of 6 shots upon Kawhi’s return to the lineup. This off-beat showing also featured some frustrating fouls (and-1’s and fouled jump shooters) while being the least-important Clipper outside of Patrick Patterson. He did have three assists which were third-best on the team but didn’t offer much else. And when you see Paul Milsap and J-Myke produce on the other end it just makes it feel a little bit worse.
Ivica Zubac: C. Clippers Twitter had a slightly different view of Zu’s performance than I did for this particular game. To his credit, I thought he defended Jokic as well as you can in single coverage, but also was Joker’s primary defender as he caught some fire in the third quarter and helped create some separation for Denver. He certainly could’ve re-entered in the fourth for defensive purposes, but I was fine with the team riding with Boogie, who had provided both a spark and some much-needed offensive production. That being said, there was nothing about this game that makes me think that there is an option at center that is better for this team than Zu. Him only playing 24 minutes is bad process.
CLIPPERS BENCH PLAYER GRADES
Rajon Rondo: A-. Outside of a couple of three-point attempts that felt like settled shots, there isn’t much to dislike about Rondo’s 18/5/5 line. He was easily the Clippers’ best player all night long and he might have displayed the most energy of any Clipper. What shouldn’t be surprising after nearly a month of Rondo is how explosive he’s been in getting downhill. We figured he’d be good in transition — which he was, but he really gave Denver fits in the half-court setting by bursting to the rim and finishing layup after layup. I’m excited about Pat Bev’s eventual return because it honestly feels like Rondo is having to shoulder too much of the load far too often, which could wear on his body — something we don’t need as the playoffs are around the corner.
DeMarcus Cousins. B+: I can’t give DeMarcus an A-grade because his defense was unspectacular, but I’d be hard-pressed not to acknowledge all the good out on the floor. Boogie probably was on pace to catch a DNP-CD, but Patrick Patterson’s disastrous second-quarter stretch left Ty Lue no choice in the second half. After the game seemed to have gotten out of hand for the uninspired Clippers, Boogie’s effort and energy became contagious as the Clips chipped away before a late Campazzo three all but ended the rally. He has his weaknesses, which are magnified the longer his stints are, but I really appreciate a guy battling his tail off every moment of every game.
Nicolas Batum: D+. Nicardio was in full effect on Saturday night as Nic blended into the background like many of his teammates did. It’s rare that Nic doesn’t have any impact on a game, but the Nuggets’ style of play kept the game slowly-paced and attacked mismatches via post-ups. He played some fine on-ball defense when he had his chances, but it ultimately didn’t provide much of a difference. Nic couldn’t find any rhythm on offense either and was a casualty of the Clipper’s poor ball movement after the first quarter. Let’s hope there aren’t too many more nights like these.
Patrick Patterson: F. The Clippers came completely undone in the seven minutes that PatPat took the floor as his minus-11 probably won Denver the game. From the moment he checked in he was targeted and attacked relentlessly on the defensive end by a variety of Nuggets players. And to make matters worse, each bucket he surrendered he gave away on the offensive end as he missed some open threes to stop the bleeding. At that point, he became unplayable and found himself a seat on the bench for the rest of the night.
Terance Mann: C. Like Nic, the pace of the game really limited Terance’s on-court production — he couldn’t get out in transition, and he couldn’t find his spots on offense due to the lack of flow. There weren’t many opportunities to get himself going on defense, and he was limited to some spot-up threes on offense — which he made. Overall, he did what he could and I don’t think he caused any damage, but he just didn’t provide much.
Luke Kennard played just five fourth-quarter minutes and did nothing of note, while Daniel Oturu and Yogi Ferrell received healthy DNP-CD’s. Amir Coffey was out due to the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols, and both Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka remained out with injuries.