Things got dicier today than they did the first time around, but the Clippers held on for a 108-100 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Read on for the full slate of Clippers vs Thunder player grades.
Clippers Starter Grades
Patrick Beverley: B. It’s a little tricky to evaluate this outing from Pat, as he only played 13 first-half minutes before exiting with knee soreness. In those 13 minutes, he had 7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals, with the 14 points he scored or created (plus an extra possession created by a classic PatBev flying offensive rebound) providing a nice early boost to a Clipper offense that would sputter in his absence. But he was also part of the team’s cold shooting, going 1-5 from deep in his limited minutes.
Paul George: C. I want to give PG a bit of a break here, since he came into the game with hamstring tightness, clearly wasn’t himself today, and didn’t close the game after that tightness returned. But, hamstring or no, he was pretty bad tonight. Not only was he just 4-13 for 11 points–his lowest scoring game of the season–but he had 4 turnovers to go with 4 assists and was getting burned defensively all game. Hopefully Paul can get some treatment and be back to his usual self Tuesday in Atlanta.
Kawhi Leonard: A. What is there to say? 34 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 0 turnovers. On an afternoon where the Clippers struggled to get much of anything going consistently on offense, Kawhi scored or assisted on 57 of the team’s 108 points.
Nicolas Batum: B-. It was a more pedestrian outing for Batum, which was a shame because the Clippers could have really used a bigger impact from him with Marcus Morris unavailable for the second unit. Nic had a well-rounded 7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal, but those numbers are a bit disappointing in an extended 36-minute outing, and he was just 1-5 from deep.
Serge Ibaka: A-. Serge had another really good individual offensive performance, with 17 points and 6 rebounds in 22 minutes on 7-8 shooting. OKC’s minor league-quality frontline couldn’t do anything in this pair of games to even make things difficult for him inside. But with the Clippers struggling offensively and needing to dig in on the other end, Serge was lackluster in team defense today and ultimately watched from the bench as Ivica Zubac closed the game.
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Ivica Zubac: A. Yes, it’s just the Thunder–a really bad team that is particularly weak in the frontcourt. But not only does Zu deserve credit for going out there and dominating opponents that he should have dominated, but he also deserves credit for the contributions he brought to the team’s defense, with 2 blocks and a number of other misses forced around the basket. Zu’s individual matchups will get tougher as the Clippers’ opponents get better, but after his last several games it feels safe to say that the fretting over his early-season struggles was premature.
Luke Kennard: B. Luke was just 1-4 from deep tonight, and a couple more makes (and more attempts!) would have really moved him up the grade sheet, but cold shooting doesn’t negate the overall impact that he had on the team’s offense. Not only does his presence always help open the floor for others, but he created looks for others and finished with 4 assists, second on the team to only Leonard. It was nothing to write home about, but he did make some positive contributions in a game where LAC could get little going.
Reggie Jackson: A. This is right on the cusp of an A- for me, as Reggie’s game had a few glaring shortcomings–no rebounds and just 1 assist in 20 minutes, calling his own number for some missed floaters in traffic down the stretch, and the team ultimately losing his minutes due to some sluggish defense. But when someone who hasn’t been in the rotation sits for the entire first half and then plays 20 of 24 minutes in the second after an injury, we’re giving him credit for the positive contributions he made; namely, 14 points on 8 shots to provide a big chunk of the very little offense the Clippers manufactured in the second half.
Lou Williams: D. It was 14 minutes of struggles for Lou, who once again didn’t shoot well. On top of that, unlike Friday night (when he had 8 assists), Lou couldn’t make inroads with his playmaking today and finished with just 1 assist and 1 turnover. His 1-9 shooting and relative lack of impact is the reason for the bad grade; to give an F I’d need to see some combination of extreme defensive woes (he didn’t have major mistakes today), more turnovers, or poor offensive decision-making (I don’t mind Lou playing aggressive and trying to find a rhythm when the team is struggling). The Clippers are heading out on a 6-game road trip. I bet at least one of those six games gets swung by a hot Lou Williams night.
Patrick Patterson: D. Similarly, I’ll give Patterson a D for a poor performance but need to see bigger negatives in areas other than shooting to move him all the way to an F. The story on Patterson is that he’s a good locker room presence and smart veteran whose body can’t keep up with his IQ defensively, but he adds value as a sharpshooter on offense. So when he misses all four of his threes and has a turnover in 12 minutes of play, he didn’t have a good night. I do trust PatPat to make at least like 36% of his threes over a large sample size (it’s unlikely he’ll play enough this year to put up enough shots for the sample to be meaningful), but if you’re counting on his shooting to offset his defense, it really hurts when he’s bricking. The Clippers missed Marcus Morris today, but in the bigger picture need to add a playable forward for injury insurance.
Terance Mann played a few first-half minutes but didn’t do enough either way to warrant evaluation. Amir Coffey subbed on for the last 18 seconds of the game to let Kawhi get off the court early. Mfiondu Kabengele and Daniel Oturu were both healthy unused substitutes, while Marcus Morris (non-COVID illness) and Jay Scrubb (foot surgery) were unavailable.