I normally only evaluate LAC, but should I give Nickeil Alexander-Walker an A for his 37-point night? Despite the backup guard’s heroics, LA stayed in control and held on for a 6-point victory. Let’s take a look at how each Clipper did individually by checking out player grades for Clippers vs Pelicans.
Clippers Starter Grades
Patrick Beverley: A-. I thought Pat had a really nice individual game tonight, contributing 10 points and 2 assists on 3-7 shooting from deep offensively and stuffing the box score with 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. He also stayed available for a season-high 37 minutes with Lou Williams unable to go in the second half due to injury. And while Alexander-Walker torched the Clippers, Pelicans star forward Brandon Ingram did not–and LA used Beverley on Ingram quite a bit with the undersized guard doing a stellar job.
Paul George: A-. Paul George is just having a different kind of season, man. Tonight’s line is starting to look routine: 27 points on 16 shots, 6 rebounds, 6 assists. He even limited himself to 3 turnovers! I would like to see PG, at least sometimes, take more shots (especially more threes!) than he has so far this season so he can put up nights in the 40-point range. I would also like to see the team win the minutes he’s on the court against a lottery team down three starters. So we settle at A- instead of A.
Kawhi Leonard: A-. Kawhi had 28 points on 18 shots tonight, but where his efficiency came from deliberate intent to get to the free throw line (10-11 from the stripe), I think he gets a little too mid-range happy which can cause the Clippers’ offensive lulls. Tonight he was 2-3 around the rim, 2-4 from three, and 4-11 from in between. But, I have to give him credit for a 9-assist, 2-turnover night. Kawhi is distributing the basketball far and away above anything he has done in his career.
Nicolas Batum: B+. Only a B+ for Nic? Is the honeymoon phase over? Batum overall had a good night, but for a player who thrives by doing every little thing right in the margins, he made a few notable mistakes tonight. He moved his feet unnecessarily trying to take a charge on Brandon Ingram in the first quarter, a play which would have taken Ingram out of the game with his second foul. Instead, it was Batum’s first offense–and he’d give his third away for free to stop a fast break in the third quarter before picking up his fourth on the next possession, sending him to the bench early. Then, in the fourth quarter, he lost JJ Redick for an open three and recovered late with an over-aggressive closeout that sent Redick to the free throw line for a four point play. On the defensive glass, he did not to a good job coming over to box out the Pelicans’ bigs when Ibaka or Zubac stepped up to help on drives. At one point in the second quarter, he got out hustled to a rebound four times in a 30-second span! Nic doesn’t normally make mistakes like that! Overall, he had a good night–9 points on 3-7 from deep, 4 assists, 2 rebounds. But there were a couple moments where he didn’t do his job on the little things, and that’s been rare for Nic this season.
Serge Ibaka: B. I thought Ibaka had a better night offensively tonight than he has in most recent games, but it wasn’t anything special–12 points on 5-8 shooting, though his 2 assists perhaps underrate how good he was passing out of the short roll tonight. He made a number of good reads to find open shooters in the corner when the ball came to him in the middle of the floor and the help defense stepped up. Defensively, he improved as the game went on but only had 3 defensive rebounds and (I believe) was responsible for Steven Adams having an easy 8 points on 4-4 shooting around the rim in the first quarter.
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Ivica Zubac: B+. Oh, glorious relief, an actual legitimately good game from Ivica Zubac. Not special, not great, not game-ball worthy… but the Clippers haven’t been getting adequate second unit minutes from him in recent weeks and they certainly got them tonight. Zu had 9 points and 7 rebounds, finishing around the rim and getting to the free throw line, and even had one brilliant assist in the short roll to find Paul George for an open three on the weak side of the floor. Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans’ backup center, did have 5 offensive boards–but that wasn’t all on Zu. Two of them came against Ibaka with Zu sitting, and even when Zu was on the floor it was often his forwards missing rotations to box out when Zu had to step up to defend drivers. No, he wasn’t perfect defensively, or offensively, or on the glass. After all, this is a B+, not an A. But he was legitimately helpful in all 3 categories, which is really good to see.
Marcus Morris: B-. Marcus gets bailed out a little bit by the Pelicans defense deciding to leave shooters wide open–he hit 2-4 from three to create 6 of his 8 points and finish with an alright offensive night despite going 1-4 inside the arc with some questionable looks. In one stretch, he clearly wanted to exploit a perceived mismatch against New Orleans forward Nicolo Melli, and ended up with three straight possessions where he missed a shot or turned the ball over. Defensively, he was a culprit on several of the blown rotations for box outs in the first half that led to offensive rebounds for the Pelicans. But overall, he was fine, and the Clippers won his minutes.
Luke Kennard: C+. I’m at the point where I’m ready to start holding Luke’s lack of aggressiveness against him. After taking 6.7 and 7.1 threes per 36 minutes the last two seasons, he’s taking just 5.0 so far this year. He’s a 40%+ three-point shooter. He’s gotta let it fly. Tonight he was 2-3 from deep in 21 minutes, but on multiple occasions passed up a good look for himself that messed with the flow of the offense. Normally that’s an issue with bad offensive players–like how LAC’s offense would collapse when Luc Mbah a Moute didn’t take open corner threes to keep the defense honest. I have no clue why it’s a problem with a guy who is known for being a versatile and efficient scorer. He gets a C+ because he still made 2 of his 3 threes, the Clippers won his minutes, and he wasn’t noticeably bad on defense. But he’s gotta start putting up more shots when he gets good looks at the rim or else the offense will stick when he’s on the floor.
Lou Williams played 9 minutes tonight, but I’m not going to give him a grade. I’ve assigned grades for smaller samples than this, but my reasoning is understandable: Lou was a late addition to the injury report with hip soreness, played his normal second quarter stint without making any visible impact, and then didn’t feel good enough to go in the second half. So, this was basically just a night where he was out.
Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann, Patrick Patterson, Mfiondu Kabengele, and Daniel Oturu were all unused substitutes tonight. It would have been nice to get some extended garbage time with the Pelicans missing 3 starters, but it is what it is. Jackson could see minutes this weekend if Williams’ hip problems persist. Amir Coffey was moved to the inactive list, presumably to try and help preserve the days on his two-way contract. He’s allowed to be on the active list for a maximum of 50 of the Clippers’ games this season (unless they give him an NBA contract and add him to the 15-man roster at some point), and I believe he’s been on it for all 11 games before tonight. Jay Scrubb remains out.
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