The Clippers outlasted the Pacers in another high-scoring affair by a score of 126-115. Let’s take a look at how the guys performed in their first game away from Staples Center since March 25th.
CLIPPERS STARTER GRADES
Reggie Jackson: C+. I wasn’t a fan of this Reggie performance. The mediocre stats don’t mean as much to me, I just had a hard time enjoying what he brought to the table this game. He was constantly dribbling without a plan, which resulted in more than a couple of possessions in which he hoisted up a contested jumper at the end of the clock while no one else touched the ball for the whole possession. Equally as frustrating was his on-ball defense. He allowed straight-line drives to the basket while glancing around other parts of the court in an attempt to pick up on plays. For what it’s worth, Reggie only committed a single turnover (an ugly one) and was a plus-13 — one of only two starters that were positive. So, maybe I need to rewatch the game?
Luke Kennard: B-. Lots of up-and-down play from Luke in this one, but let’s start with the good. Luke was pursuing his shot once again — 4/8 from the field and 2/3 from three and turned in four assists after being held without one last game. He was quite bad on the other end of the court, however. Luke surrendered six points at the end of the first half on back-to-back possessions — an unnecessary help off of a corner three-point shooter, and leaving a man under the basket in transition for an easy and-1 layup; fortunately, those miscues didn’t cost the team in the long run. But as I said in the last player grades: Luke is on the court to make shots, and he did just that. Anything else he provides is a treat.
Paul George: A. How do you follow up three straight 30 point games? Go out and get a fourth, and do it on the court that you became a household name on. It was almost an exact duplicate of the Pistons game, so I’m going to copy and paste my assessment of PG’s game with some slight edits. “From the jump, George was aggressive in bullying his way downhill and finding baskets at the rim and the midrange. It was also nice to see George be a playmaker out of the pick-and-roll.” He had some beautiful passes to open shooters spotted up along the perimeter, and some nice finds to Zubac on the roll. PG’s passing continues to climb, and it’s taking his game to another level. 36/7/8 on 52% shooting with 4 threes is worthy of the game ball for the Clippers’ superstar guard in his revenge performance against the Pacers.
Marcus Morris Sr.: A-. Mook continues to fill the Kawhi scoring void as he nurses a sore foot. He got to all of Kawhi’s favorite spots in the mid-post and isolated his way into a ton of made contested fadeaways and turnaround jumpers. Morris Sr. again was a deadeye from distance going 3/3 from beyond the arc and continues to be a great compliment to the team’s two stars. I didn’t notice him much on the defensive end, but something led to his team-worst minus-10 rating and the defense may have been it. Nevertheless, we’ll gladly take a 22/7/3 performance on 75% shooting from the field. Morris Sr. has been great in his return to the starting lineup and we should expect more of the same.
Ivica Zubac: A-. Zu is a totally different guy finishing at the rim in comparison to when he was acquired in 2019 — you can credit his fully healed hands to his turnaround. He finished everything at the rim and is borderline becoming automatic when he gets into the paint. What’s nice to see is that Zu has been punishing mismatches, too. He sealed low and early and turned straight over his left shoulder to that right-hand hook — these are little things that can help punish teams that are going to be switch-heavy come playoff time. Zu wasn’t as dominant on defense. Sabonis was a tough assignment for him as his combination of skill and slight awkwardness (or craftiness) left Zu unable to impact many of Sabonis’ makes. However, I thought he was stellar as a help defender and did his usual great job around the rim. Add this game to the “keep Zu as the starter” campaign.
CLIPPERS BENCH PLAYER GRADES
Terance Mann: B+. Terance got his numbers this time around but those don’t begin to tell the story of his impact. Mann’s pure ability to fly in transition and be athletic has created so much of a punch for the Clippers. Even when he’s getting blocked at the rim he’s usually forced a help defender to leave an offensive rebounder. Speaking of rebounding, he always snags those important ones that fend off those teams who are hanging around. A loud 12/4/3 with two steals and two threes just has me happy for the kid and how he’s blossomed into a legit NBA rotational player.
Rajon Rondo. B: A slight knock on Rondo’s performance because he couldn’t figure out how to to put the ball in the basket, but I thought he did a fantastic job of managing this game. Especially in the first half, he found ways to settle the team down and keep the game close when it had the potential to get a little bit uncomfortable. His stats won’t wow any of us on this night, but his presence was as impactful as it’s been on most of his early games as a Clipper. Rondo ended the night with 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists while finishing with a plus-14.
Nicolas Batum: A. Mark down Nic as the fourth of all four bench players that were a net-positive (plus-22) for the Clippers against the Pacers, as he put together another performance that was of player-of-the-game caliber. He led the bench in scoring (14) and did his best Dikembe Mutombo impression with five(!) blocked shots. It’s not crazy to say now that he is a top two or three Clipper defender on the team on a nightly basis, and that he was one of the best free-agent signings this offseason. Again, “Nic has quietly looked more like his beginning-of-the-season self in recent weeks, which is an important development for the Clippers as the playoffs inch closer.”
Patrick Patterson: B+. Low-key, this was probably PatPat’s best game of the season. At least, it’s a candidate. First and foremost, he was one hell of a passer against the Pacers and his assist totals (4) reflect it. Patterson was phenomenal in making the extra read, which he did time and time again throughout the game feeding opening Clippers shooters for threes against a soft Pacers defense. Also, he’s been pretty good defensively — defending the post to the best of his abilities, and not getting blown by off the dribble. It would’ve been nice for one of those two 3PA’s to drop, but hey, PatPat is competing. Of course, we’d like to see what Boogie could provide, but I’m not mad at the decision-making from coach Lue.
Amir Coffey, Daniel Oturu, and Malik Fitts received 58 seconds of garbage time, so no grades for them. Finally for the Clippers, DeMarcus Cousins received a healthy DNP against the Pacers, while Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley, and Serge Ibaka were out with injuries.