The good guys got an easy tally in their column in the Battle of LA Sunday afternoon, as the Clippers got a lucky match-up against a Lakers team down both Anthony Davis and LeBron James and took advantage in expected fasion, 104-86. It was an uneventful contest that saw the Clippers jump out to an early lead and hold the offensively-deficient Lakers at bay for the remainder of the contest. Let’s take a peek at the individual performances with our Clippers and Lakers player grades!
Clippers Starter Grades
Reggie Jackson: B. The 2-8 shooting in the box score is kind of glaring, but I think it’s a little unfair to fixate on: two of his misses came on a play where he missed a contested driving layup in transition, and then got a fingertip on the rebound to attempt a putback. Another miss came on a drive where he pulled Marc Gasol out of position, Gasol technically blocked his shot, and Ivica Zubac was able to easily gobble up the offensive rebound and dunk it home. Overall, Reggie had a perfectly fine performance and deserves credit for his role in the team’s great defense as well–even though this Lakers crew is dismal offensively, it’s still a group of NBA players and this was LAC’s best DRTG game of the year and LAL’s worst ORTG game of the year, even significantly worse than their other games without Davis and James.
Paul George: B-. I didn’t get around to grading the Clippers’ loss to the Denver Nuggets due to a little injury of my own, but if I had, I would have given PG a pass on his bad night as he was clearly physically limited by his foot injury, and willed himself into the lineup despite being listed as out because it was a big game. That said, I didn’t feel the same type of mobility limitation coming from him in this game. It just felt like a quiet night for LAC’s second star, which is fine because the team had a healthy lead throughout and didn’t need him to shift into gear. But 16 points on 6-14 shooting, just 2 free throw attempts, and 3 assists to 5 turnovers is rather uninspiring. Bumped from a C+ to B- because of his contributions to the team’s overall defensive performance.
Kawhi Leonard: A-. Kawhi was similarly quiet offensively, but far more productive overall: his 19 points on 8-15 shooting is only marginally better than Paul’s marks, but Leonard also flirted with a triple double as he contributed 10 rebounds and 8 assists while committing just 2 turnovers. On the cusp of B+/A- before getting the nod due to the overall team defensive performance.
Marcus Morris: A. So, Paul and Kawhi only combined for 35 points? Well, the production had to come from somewhere to lift the Clippers to 104 points, and a radioactive Marcus Morris was just what LAC needed. Marcus had a super-efficient 22 points on 9-13 shooting and also grabbed 7 rebounds, tied for his season high. I don’t think the Clippers will win many playoff games when Marcus outscores Paul and Kawhi, but it’s a long season and you take games like these from your supporting cast where you can get them.
Ivica Zubac: A. There should be little doubt in the minds of anyone who watches the Clippers that Zubac is the team’s third most important player and absolutely instrumental to their success on the defensive end. While his stat line tonight wasn’t anything special (6 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks), his presence on defense has meant everything to the Clippers in this recent stretch:
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Terance Mann: B-. It was an uncharactersitically inefficient outing for Terance, who mostly got the shots you’d want him to get but got blocked twice around the basket and had one missed putback dunk attempt. In fact, his only make around the basket was a really wild, flailing driving hook shot in the waning possessions of garbage time. Still, he was attracting a lot of attention on his drives, which is a good counterweight to the Clippers’ perimeter-oriented attack, and I really like that he had no hesitation on his four corner three attempts–he only made 1, but he’s shooting 41.2% from the corners this season. Those four 3PA mark a career high, and likely a good simulation of the shots he’s going to have to make to stay on the court in the playoffs.
Nicolas Batum: A-. It was a low-minutes outing for the Clippers’ second-unit veterans as the team pulled away in the second half, but Nic had a nice all-around performance in this game. I have been a bit disappointed that we’ve seen less of his playmaking chops as the season has gone on, so I was happy to see him come away with 4 assists in this game–nothing fancy, just making the extra pass to a corner shooter or driving a closeout and picking out the right pass to a teammate when help comes. With his three-point shooting regressing to expected levels in March after a red-hot opening half of the season, the ability and decision-making to aggressively drive against closeouts and create good looks for others is going to be more valuable than Nic taking high volumes of threes for himself.
Luke Kennard: B+. Luke had a really nice outing, but he doesn’t get full appreciation for it in this space because his contributions came almost exclusively with the Clippers holding a big lead in the second half. It was certainly still valuable, in a game that was hovering in the teens for the entire fourth quarter, that Luke led the effort to keep the Lakers at bay by scoring all 15 of his points in the final 13:04 of game time, but it’s just a little less meaningful than if he had put forward this kind of productivity in more intense moments. He did get some clean looks as a screener for Kawhi Leonard in their shared fourth quarter moments in an action that looks promising for continued future use by Ty Lue.
Patrick Patterson: B. The real problem with Patterson’s recent run of play isn’t really his fault–he’s just not a center, and nobody expects him to provide rim protection. It still really hurts the team when he’s in at center, because they then have no rim protection. He was fine in this game, doing his best to fill a role he isn’t suited for at a position he doesn’t play while his physical tools abandon him. The Clippers’ Patrick Patterson problem has more to do with what they aren’t getting from their two open roster spots than what they aren’t getting from him.
Rajon Rondo: NG. A mulligan here for the Clippers’ newest player (a title he won’t hold for very long, as DeMarcus Cousins should sign his contract today). It’s always a great and inspiring narrative when someone has an amazing debut–imagine if Rondo had like a 10-10-10 triple-double against his former team in his LAC debut? The reality is that adjusting to a new team and role mid-season while coming off an injury (and maybe picking up a new one?) is incredibly tough, so some rust and errors were to be expected today. We can, and will, have a ton of conversations about the strenghts and weaknesses that Rajon brings to the team once he gets going, but I don’t think fixating on 4 turnovers and 4 fouls in his 13-minute debut is useful when it’s unlikely to end up being meaningful.
Daniel Oturu and Amir Coffey both got in the game for a few minutes of garbage time, while Patrick Beverley, Serge Ibaka, and Jay Scrubb are all sidelined with injuries. Beverley should hopefully return to the lineup relatively soon, while Ibaka might require a little more time, and Scrubb is unlikely to debut this season.
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