In one of their worst performances of the season, the Clippers dropped an easily winnable game Thursday night to extend their pre-All-Star losing streak to 3. Let’s assign some blame in a particularly grumpy edition of Clippers vs Wizards player grades.
Clippers Starter Grades
Patrick Beverley: B+. I mentioned last game that when the Clippers are shorthanded, they need Pat to play with a little more aggression offensively. Well, he got 10 shots up in his 26 minutes this time, scoring 17 points. He only had 3 rebounds, and added just 1 assist to 3 turnovers, but he also did the best job of anyone against Bradley Beal. All in all, Pat was one of the few Clippers who had a solid game.
Reggie Jackson: B-. Reggie did well enough in his second straight last-minute start, scoring 12 points on 5-10 shooting while adding 4 rebounds, an assist, and a turnover. He wasn’t particularly good defensively in this one, and it was his blown box out assignment against Russell Westbrook that allowed the Wizards to get the final offensive rebound that sealed the game in their favor, but I don’t really hold that against him very much. Offensively, he continues to do a nice job of hitting “bailout” shots late in the shot clock… but why do the Clippers end up needing bailouts so often when he’s in the game? Docked from B to B- not because of his missed boxout late, but because of his awful series at the end of the second quarter. Just look at this play-by-play:
1:18 – Beal makes 2 FTs
1:08 – Jackson turnover
1:04 – Beal dunk
46.8 – Jackson misses contested 28-foot 3PA
36.2 – Wagner 3-point play against Serge
26.5 – Jackson misses 27-foot pull-up 3PA (he did his thing where he tries to go for a 2-for-1, but does it too late and ends up just wasting a possession on a horrible shot)
2.1 – Beal layup
Kawhi Leonard: C-. If the Clippers had taken their 16-point second quarter lead and coasted to the end, then this would be a fine line for Kawhi. But when George is out and the team is at risk of losing to a vastly inferior team, their best player needs to be better. While 7-14 from the field is good, 22 points just isn’t enough volume. He only had 3 assists while finishing with 4 of LAC’s 17 turnovers, multiple of which came on offensive fouls–and his 5 fouls caused him to play just under 32 minutes. It was his 2 early fouls that forced him out of the game after just a few minutes, producing an ugly and disjointed first quarter that set the tone for an ugly and disjointed game.
Nicolas Batum: C. I never want to ride too high or low on single-game shooting, since if Nic goes 3-8 from deep tonight instead of 2-8 it stops feeling like he had an awful night shooting the ball (but considering LAC lost by 2, those 3 points would have helped). And it was nice to see him get 5 assists! But 3 turnovers, abysmal 2-10 overall from the field, and simply not doing enough defensively produced a team-worst -23 in 30 minutes. That is far from all on Nic, but if the team was that bad when you were on the floor there’s a limit to how much grace you can get in the gradebook.
Serge Ibaka: F. Absolutely godawful on both ends of the floor, all night long. Just 2 shot attempts in 18 minutes? Straight-up punched by Mo Wagner on multiple possessions? Killing late-game offensive possessions by refusing to take open looks? The only person who deserves more heat than Serge is Ty Lue, for making the decision to put Serge back in the game in the fourth quarter.
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Ivica Zubac: A. Is it excessive to give out an A for one of the worst losses of the season? Not in my book, because if Zu had anything to do with it, the Clippers won a blowout last night. He had 13 points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes, absolutely dominated the paint on both ends of the floor, and the Clippers won his minutes by 20 points. The only bad part about Zu’s night was that he wasn’t in the game down the stretch–but that’s on Ty, not Ivica.
Terance Mann: A-. Him defense in this one was just questionable enough for me to really lean in and give him the full A, but you have to love a lot of what you’re seeing from Terrance lately–contributing on the glass on both ends, comfort with the ball in his hands making plays for others, hitting threes, getting to the foul line (8-8 on FTs in this game!).
Lou Williams: D. A hot spell in the second half saves Lou from an F in a game where he really put up an F-worthy performance. He shot 5-8 in the second half… and 1-5 in the first half, with just 3 assists on the game compared to 4 turnovers, most of which were just absolutely careless giveaways. You might see that Lou had 16 and 3 on 6-13 shooting and think this was a typical night for him, but it was pretty brutal to watch and he got bailed out by some shots dropping to redeem the performance.
Luke Kennard: A. This! This was the Luke Kennard we were expecting when he came from Detroit a few months ago. Earlier in the season, when coaches, teammates, and fans alike begged Kennard to shoot the ball more often instead of his pump fake-hesitate-dribble twice-pass it back routine, he didn’t fully get the gist–instead, he started pump faking, hesitating, dribbling twice, and then taking out-of-rhythm contested shots. Not in this game, though! Luke caught the ball and made quick, decisive moves to get into dangerous positions on the court, creating scoring opportunities for himself and others. It helped that he had a hot shooting night–5-8 from the field, 4-5 from deep–but even if he had shot his average from beyond the arc it would have been the sharpest he’s looked all year, just in terms of confidence and decisiveness. Add 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and no turnovers to his efficient 14 points and you’re looking at a really nice 21-minute outing for Luke Kennard, and the Clippers indeed won his 21 minutes by 23 points, losing the other 27 minutes by 25.
Paul George was a last-minute scratch for this game after experiencing dizziness in warm-ups. We don’t know anything beyond that, so hopefully everything is ok with Paul. Marcus Morris is out with a concussion. Patrick Patterson remains away from the team for personal reasons, and Amir Coffey is finishing up his time with the Agua Caliente Clippers in Orlando (I thought for sure they’d bring him back for this game with Morris out, but I guess they wanted him to see out the ACCO season). Jay Scrubb and Daniel Oturu remain sidelined. Oh, and Mfiondu Kagengele is technically still on the team. He was the sole unused sub tonight.
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