After a very familiar second half led to the Clippers dropping to 6-4 on the season, let’s break down some Clippers vs Warriors player grades for the week’s second contest between the two sides.
Clippers Starter Grades
Patrick Beverley: B. Steph Curry’s 38-point, 11-assist barrage tonight had a lot more to do with him being one of the game’s all-time great players than anything the Clippers were or weren’t doing against him defensively. Pat more or less did his job, and it was really in the second half that Curry detonated against LA’s second unit. Still, he didn’t have his fingerprints on tonight’s game the same way that he did on Wednesday, and while the starting unit was overall successful tonight, his 2-8 shooting, 1 assist, and 2 turnovers didn’t help the times when their offense stalled.
Paul George: B+. With a super-efficient 25 points and 7 assists to help offset his four turnovers, it was a nice individual outing for George tonight–probably more of an A- than a B+. But he gets knocked back a bit here for only having 2 points in the fourth quarter when the Clippers were desperate for offense. I think for PG specifically and for the team at large, nights like tonight leave me wanting for a little bit more assertiveness in perilous moments.
Kawhi Leonard: C+. I don’t think that Kawhi was as good as Paul tonight when things were going right, and I think he deserves a greater share of the blame for the collapse (he stayed in with the second unit to close the third quarter as Golden State erased the Clippers’ lead), and I think he deserves a greater share of the blame for the starters’ offensive issues down the stretch as his shot selection became questionable. The line–24 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals on 7-17 shooting–is fine, and his impact was fine. But he wasn’t good. A C+ is appropriate.
Nicolas Batum: A-. Is it weird that he went 2-8 from three and yet I could have sworn he shot the ball well? Nic added 10 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals tonight as the Clippers won his 30 minutes by 10 points (therefore losing the 18 minutes that he sat by 20). Here’s a number: the Warriors scored 59 points in 30:17 while Nic was on the floor and 56 points in 17:43 while he sat. Now, Nic isn’t solely responsible for that–that’s measuring the lineups he is and isn’t a part of, and he happens to get to only play in the team’s best lineups. But you can’t ignore that good things happen whenever he’s on the floor and especially whenever he touches the ball.
Serge Ibaka: A-. This was definitely one of Serge’s better games this season, as he really controlled the paint offensively and put up an efficient 19 points despite only taking two three-point attempts (he made one). It was nice to see him making a big impact offensively again. So what am I waiting for for an A? I’m not sure. Maybe a bigger scoring night than 19, maybe a night where I feel better about his interior defense. Tonight was good for Serge but not quite the gold standard.
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Marcus Morris: D. I was kind to Marcus on Wednesday, giving him an A on a B-level night because it was his first game back and he selflessly volunteered to give up his starting spot so Nic Batum could continue playing well with the first unit. I’m being kind again tonight, giving him a D for an F-level performance because I’m pretty sure he’s still shaking off rust and settling into a role. This is the last break he’s getting. Just 2 points on 1-7 shooting, with bad shot selection, as part of the second unit’s miserable effort–that’s not gonna fly.
Luke Kennard: D-. Luke passes because he hit a couple of threes tonight, but I’m tempted to let him share the F that his fellow bench players will be getting after a truly dreadful team effort where a predictably-bad bench unit failed to do anything to off-set their concessions as they absolutely imploded on the offensive end. If you go -22 in 18 minutes, you didn’t do your job on the second unit.
Ivica Zubac: F. I’ll use this space to say this: miss me with the “wow, Zu is really being hurt by not starting” line. I do think that the culprit for the second unit’s defensive woes is the three-guard lineup that Zu is being asked to cover for moreso than Zu himself–that much is obvious. And I can even forgive lapses on handling his own business when he’s so busy trying to clean up after everyone else. But whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, or whether he’s playing with All-Stars or third-stringers, there’s just no excuse for some of his play. He. Can’t. Catch. The. Basketball. And getting roasted by Eric Paschall in one-on-one? Have some pride in your game, man. If your defense of him is “Zu’s dropping the ball and getting bodied by backup bigs because not starting is bad for him,” then he’s not the guy we thought he was. I am, however, optimistic that once Ty Lue starts consistently putting out viable bench lineups and the second unit as a whole actually figures out what the hell they are doing, Zu will be able to play his role. But none of them–Lue, the bench collectively, or Zu individually–are getting it done so far.
Lou Williams: F. I’m ready for the Clippers’ new offense, which is beautifully effective with the starting lineup, to stop being used to handcuff Lou Williams on the second unit. We know Lou isn’t a great defender. We know he’s undersized. He has his weaknesses, and he has his strengths: he’s probably the team’s third-best pure bucket-getter after PG and Kawhi and he’s their best pick-and-roll playmaker who can get downhill and create good shots for others. Let him play that game. Stop asking him to be someone he’s not. It just produces miserable performances like this where he’s not only ineffective when he’s on the ball due to lack of rhythm, but rarely on the ball at all.
Reggie Jackson: C. For all the maligning about the Clippers’ three-guard lineup on the second unit, the small sample size tonight suggests that it works a hell of a lot better than staggering. The Clippers lost Jackson’s 6:20 of first-half court time by 2 points as he was a non-factor whose only box score contribution was one personal foul. Then the bench turned around and blew a 20-point lead playing without him as Kawhi Leonard’s minutes were staggered to the second unit lineup. I still think the Clippers’ 3 bench guards don’t fit well together, and I still think staggering is the answer long-term, but I saw a few too many tweets scapegoating “Reggie and the three-guard lineup” following a bench collapse where he was glued to the bench.
Jay Scrubb is still injured. Mfiondu Kabengele, Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, and Daniel Oturu all got the last 43 seconds, with Terance making a relatively unbothered reverse layup with the final result already assured. Patrick Patterson did not play.
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