The Clippers and Pistons engaged in an absolute shootout Sunday night at Staples Center. The game was ultimately decided by the Clippers once they decided to play defense in the fourth quarter. In an entertaining 131-124 victory with an abundance of stats to go around, let’s see how the players graded out.
CLIPPERS STARTER GRADES
Reggie Jackson: B-. After some recent nuclear games, Reggie ended the homestand with a less flashy performance. His shot-making wasn’t at the clip that it was against the Rockets, but he replaced the scoring with 7 assists — tied for third on the team. He had 4 turnovers on the night including 3 ugly ones during a second-quarter stretch where he was over-dribbling, which in part led to his minus-13 mark. However, Reggie was under control for most of the game and also had a nice fourth-quarter that included a momentum-changing fastbreak block that led to a Terance Mann corner three to tie the game. 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists in 29 minutes is a fine outing for a starting point guard. No major gripes with this Reggie performance for the Clippers in a revenge game against the Pistons.
Luke Kennard: B-. It was nice to see Luke look for his shot a bit more in this game and not follow up a non-aggressive game with another. Offensively, Luke was his usually efficient self; he scored 11 points while converting 5 of his 6 shots from the field and 1 of his 2 threes. Yet, in a game where 50 shots were made and 131 points were scored, he failed to register an assist. Not great. What also wasn’t great was his Clippers-worst minus-16 in 24 minutes played, although you can credit a lot of that to some ridiculously hot shooting from the Pistons. There’s been better and there’s been worse this season. But Luke took and made shots, which is what you want from him.
Paul George: A. PG followed up consecutive 30-point games with a third 30-point outing. From the jump, George was aggressive in bullying his way downhill and finding baskets at the rim and the midrange. He did all of his damage (11 points) in those areas before even attempting his first three-pointer midway through the second quarter. It was also nice to see George be a playmaker out of the pick-and-roll. His 9 assists to just 2 turnovers were crucial in such a tightly contested affair. PG was dominant on offense for the majority of the game and then put the finishing touches on his outing by turning back the clocks to his Indiana Pacer days to deliver his best dunk as a Clipper. 32 and 9 gets an A.
Marcus Morris Sr.: A. Mook wasn’t the “best” Clipper, but it’s hard to imagine that they win this game without his shooting efforts that keep them alive through three quarters — every last one of his Clipper-career-high 33 points was needed. In a strange way, Morris Sr. filled the scoring void that was left in Kawhi’s rest — something that was much more likely to expect of him last season after filling it up with the Knicks. If we’re nitpicking here, he looked pretty slow defensively and Sadiq Bey was low-key working him during a third-quarter stretch in which Morris Sr. looked pretty gassed from the energy he was exerting on offense and the fast pace of the game in general. Nevertheless, Mook’s 13/18 shooting and 6/8 from the field were greatly appreciated.
Ivica Zubac: A-. Just when you think you’ve seen it all with Zu he goes ahead and drops a casual 7 assists — which complimented his 13 points and 10 rebounds very well. Credit to both him and the staff for the strides he’s made as a passer. Especially out of the short-roll, Zu has become so poised in reading and reacting to the defense. He’s just finding the open guys and the defenses are struggling to adjust. As the game grew, so did Zubac. He was everywhere defensively per usual and his efforts in the second half are a major reason why this game turned the way it did. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about how much of a steal it was for the Clippers to acquire Zu for a bag of chips, and THEN secure him on such a team-friendly deal for four seasons. He’s just so good.
CLIPPERS BENCH PLAYER GRADES
Terance Mann: B. Terance was statistically very quiet in this one, but his impact was loud. Some impactful defense, infectious energy, and a quick 5-point spurt at the beginning of the fourth quarter helped the Clippers take control of the game against the Pistons. There isn’t a whole lot to say about Terance in this one other than that he continues to provide whenever his number is called upon.
Rajon Rondo: B. A turnover-filled first half felt like a letdown for the Rondo who we’d last seen picking apart the Phoenix Suns. The regression didn’t last long, though, and Rondo had a very good second half — fourth-quarter specifically. He exited early in the fourth and returned to nail a big three-pointer and then find Morris Sr. on the ensuing possession for a corner three to all but ice the game. His defense wasn’t up to snuff with his prior games, but the communication was still there. We’re going to have varied returns from Rondo on a game-to-game basis, but if he can pick his spots and deliver when needed, it’ll be a worthwhile ride. He finished with 10 points and 6 assists.
Nicolas Batum: A+. On a night in which both PG and Mook topped 30 points on hot shooting, the player of the game was undoubtedly Nic Batum. As I asked the question regarding Morris Sr.’s shooting throughout, do the Clippers win this game without Nic’s fourth quarter? Don’t get me wrong — he was absolutely stellar through three quarters, but in the fourth, he saved the day. 9 points, 4 rebounds, a block, and 3 (huge) threes in the fourth alone for the Clippers are what ultimately did the Pistons in on this night that they played other-worldly. 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 logged 5 minutes and was pretty unnoticeable, and Amir Coffey received 36 seconds of garbage time — for that, they get no grades. Daniel Oturu, Malik Fitts, and DeMarcus Cousins all received healthy DNP’s. Kawhi Leonard rested, and Patrick Beverley continues to be OUT after undergoing surgery on his left hand, while Serge Ibaka is still dealing with back tightness.