Denver Nuggets vs. L.A. Clippers: Postgame Grades and Analysis
During a physical and highlight-filled Christmas battle, the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Denver Nuggets by a score of 112-100. The win was far more lopsided than the final score suggests and qualifies as the 14th consecutive victory for LAC.
So how do we grade the Clippers and Nuggets during L.A.'s historic win?
From Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan throwing down monster dunks, to Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford torching the scoreboard, L.A. had plenty to cheer about. For Denver, the best moment came during garbage time as the reserves provided admirable fight.
Spoiler alert: The Clippers' second unit won this game.
Let's get to grading.
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Chris Paul, LAC: A+
From the moment Chris Paul faked out the entire Denver defense with a faux bounce pass to Willie Green, you knew it was going to be a special night in Los Angeles.
Special it was.
Individually, CP3 finished with 14 points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes. He also finished with two three-pointers and a plus-13 rating.
Paul sparked one heck of a performance—a team-wide dominance that allowed him to take a step back and pick his spots, something he's one of the best at doing.
Paul paced the Clippers in transition and made key soccer assists while working the perimeter and interior. A prime example came as he found Blake Griffin for a touch pass to DeAndre Jordan.
If you didn't enjoy the show, do you even enjoy basketball?
Ty Lawson, DEN: C-
Say what you will about his statistics, Ty Lawson was nowhere to be found.
Lawson finished with the worst rating of any starter at minus-eight. He also committed four turnovers, missed two free throws and allowed Chris Paul to work his magic at virtual will.
Even 15 points and five assists can't save his grade here. It was a disappointing outing from the future All-Star.
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Willie Green, LAC: B
Willie Green started out hot, converting a lay-up off of a smooth Chris Paul feed. He proceeded to knock down a three-pointer just a few possessions later.
Such was how Green's night went.
Green only played 17 minutes, but he managed to score 11 points on three three-point field goals. Although his minus-eight rating is concerning, Green was not the issue when the team was struggling.
In fact, Green was one of the better performers during the first half.
Anytime you make 4-of-6 field-goal attempts and pick up 11 points in 17 minutes, you'll get a respectable grade.
Andre Iguodala, DEN: C-
Andre Iguodala may be one of the game's top defenders, but there was no defense tonight—not from Iguodala or anyone else on the Denver Nuggets.
There wasn't very much offense, either.
Iguodala finished with nine points, two assists and one rebound. He played 27 minutes and posted a respectable minus-one rating, even as Iggy failed to defend Willie Green, falling off of screens to allow Green to finish with open looks.
He did better than his teammates, but that isn't enough.
Well, better than everyone but Kosta Koufos.
Even still, a very poor performance against an elite team.
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Caron Butler, LAC: B-
Offensively, Caron Butler contributed little to nothing at all. Four points, two rebounds and one assist prove that.
Playing just 16 minutes doesn't help, either.
With that being said, Butler did nothing to hurt the Clippers. Even as he struggled to shoot, he only coughed it up once all game.
As for why he earned a B-, check the defense, folks.
Butler forced Danilo Gallinari into a miserable game on the offensive end of the floor. That defensive tenacity garners a respectable grade from Butler.
One can only imagine his minutes would have gone up, had Matt Barnes not shot the lights out.
Danilo Gallinari, DEN: D+
Don't let Danilo Gallinari's plus-three rating fool you. He did nothing to enable the team to achieve victory.
Gallo shot the ball just 1-of-10 from the field and missed each of his three three-point field-goal attempts.
He also committed two costly turnovers, which outweighs his 5-of-5 shooting from the charity stripe.
Four assists, three rebounds and two steals may not look bad, but don't be too kind. Gallinari continues to be an occasionally severe liability on offense.
He becomes shot-happy far too often. Tonight was an example of a weak evening for Gallo.
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Blake Griffin, LAC: A+
Blake Griffin may not receive praise for his fundamentals, but he deserves it.
Griffin took a Chris Paul baseline feed and turned it into a touch-pass to a wide-open DeAndre Jordan. Jordan would flush it home and provide Griffin with one of his three first-quarter assists.
It was that type of evening.
Griffin made three jaw-dropping dunks and sparked Magic Johnson's halftime comments about the Clippers being the "second-coming of Showtime."
Griffin backed that praise up.
Thirteen points, six rebounds, six assists, one block and one steal in 26 minutes may not blow you away, but those stats provide evidence to a balanced evening—an evening about much more than individual numbers.
It was about influence. Griffin's influence was unmatched, as he brought the crowd to life and the second unit the opportunity to seal the deal.
Kenneth Faried, DEN: C
Kenneth Faried set the tone for an excellent game during the first quarter.
Faried grabbed an offensive rebound between Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. He instantly went back up with it, proceeded to miss his first attempt, get blocked on his second and go up even stronger on his third.
Faried would convert the basket.
Faried was on his way to a double-double after one quarter, but he never managed to pull it all together. He shot just 3-of-9 from the floor in 33 minutes.
With that being said, Faried also grabbed nine rebounds and posted a minus-four rating during a lopsided affair.
Unfortunately, failing to make shots and slow down Blake Griffin doesn't help one's grade. Faried played as well as you could ask during a blowout, but a loss is a loss.
Faried busted it all night, folks. Praise him for that.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
DeAndre Jordan, LAC: B
DeAndre Jordan may be a few years away from his prime, but he's displaying how quickly he's approaching that potential each time out.
Jordan started out strong, picking up three rebounds, two blocks and a steal in the opening quarter. He also finished a Blake Griffin feed with a dunk, altered Kenneth Faried's interior attempts and provided interior toughness.
Unfortunately, he also played just 19 minutes. That may have changed had the Clippers not won by a dominant 12 points.
For the night, Jordan posted six points, six rebounds, two blocks and one steal. He made 3-of-4 shot attempts and posted a plus-six rating.
A solid but not spectacular evening from Jordan, one which displays how much he can contribute in limited minutes.
Kosta Koufos, DEN: A-
During the following slide, I will praise JaVale McGee as the player who should be starting. For one night, however, Kosta Koufos played like a star.
In fact, he was the best player on the floor for the Denver Nuggets.
Koufos finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and a steal in 27 minutes. Koufos also made 8-of-8 field-goal attempts and posted a minus-four rating.
What more could you ask for?
Koufos' physical altercations with Blake Griffin offered reason for concern and encouragement. Even as the game got out of hand, Koufos kept on fighting and displayed a will to win.
This loss was not Koufos' fault, not even close to it.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jamal Crawford, LAC: A+
Whether he was crossing the life out of one defender or three at one time, Jamal Crawford had the ball on a string.
Crawford made the highlight reel three times in the first half alone. With his smooth ball-handling and pinpoint passing, Crawford made two plays work with his dribble and another with his passing.
For shock factor, Crawford gets an A. For the rest of his game, he gets an A+.
As the game progressed, Crawford placed himself in perfect position to be found by teammates and create for himself. A prime example came during the fourth quarter as he rotated to the pocket for a corner three.
Eric Bledsoe was able to find him with a smooth bounce pass for the conversion.
From a statistical standpoint, it was more of the same from Crawford. He finished with 22 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Perhaps most impressive of all, Crawford posted a plus-20 rating, tied with Matt Barnes for the game-high.
During postgame commentary, Jeff Van Gundy said it best: "He's an incredible bad shot maker with unlimited range."
He's also a leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.
JaVale McGee, DEN: C-
JaVale McGee tallied four points, three rebounds and two blocks during his first six minutes. Do you still doubt who should be starting in Denver?
For one night, you might. Respect to you, Mr. Koufos.
On the evening, McGee tallied nine points, six rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes. Although he continues to see limited action, McGee has proven time and time again that he's capable.
He also finished with a minus-23 rating.
Van Gundy summed it up by saying, "I don't know if I'd want to deal with the ups and downs, but he never makes it boring."
Tonight, it was an up...individually. The question is, do statistics lead to your belief that McGee deserves a higher grade?
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
A Tribe Called Bench (LAC): A+
Call Matt Barnes a fluke if you'd like, but this is the 12th time in 14 games that he scored at least 10 points. It is the second consecutive game that he's had at least 15.
If Barnes' scoring touch is here to stay, how exactly do you expect to stop the L.A. Clippers?
Barnes finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks in 32 minutes. His performance alone earns the Clippers bench a perfect score.
A game-high plus-20 rating doesn't hurt, either.
Even as Eric Bledsoe had a rough evening, the Clippers managed to set a season-high in bench points scored in one half, with 38 in the first quarter. They dropped in a quick 11 in the third quarter and an additional 15 in the fourth.
That's a total of 64 second-unit points.
Clippers bench: 38 first-half points-- their most in any half this season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 26, 2012
Along with the points were 25 rebounds, 14 assists, seven steals and three blocks.
For one final note, Lamar Odom finished with another impressive outing. Six points, 10 rebounds, four assists, one block and a steal in 30 minutes.
If Odom can continue at this rate, L.A. will be unstoppable.
Denver Nuggets: D+
On a night in which the Denver Nuggets' second unit posted statistics as well as they could be asked, the L.A. Clippers reserves were dominant.
The Nuggets combined for 47 points. Unfortunately, eight of those points came from players that only played during garbage time.
As for why their grade is a D+, try this number.
The Nuggets reserves that played at least five minutes posted an average minus-17.5 rating.
They lost this game by being unable to compete with the Clippers' second unit.
Jordan Hamilton deserves a shout-out of the evening for his season-high 16 points in 17 minutes. His career-high is 18, also against LAC.
Unfortunately, their grade suffers significantly due to their horrendous plus/minus rating average.