Is Nic Batum the new Rudy Gobert? The Los Angeles Clippers vet is nowhere near the defensive standout the Utah Jazz center is, but after two dominant defensive performances in a row, Batum has earned a new nickname, according to head coach Tyronn Lue.
In their sixth straight win, the Clips took down the Indiana Pacers, 126-115, led by Paul George, who scored 36 points while also hauling in seven rebounds and eight assists. There was one statistic George didn’t lead the team in, however: blocked shots. That honor belonged to power forward Batum, who had five blocks and 14 points in the win. Batum has eight stuffs in his last two games and 14 in his last 12 contests, and the recent streak of blocked shots has resulted in a fun new moniker.
“They call him Nic Gobert after the game,” Lue told reporters with a chuckle.
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Batum, Clippers Showing Improvement on Defense of Late
Comparing Batum to Gobert at this point isn’t exactly accurate, as the Clippers vet is averaging 0.5 blocks per game, while two-time Defensive Player of the Year Gobert is currently second in the NBA in blocked shots (2.8 per game). Still, Batum’s defensive performance in recent games is encouraging for a Clippers squad gearing up for a crucial playoff run.
The 13-year vet is in his first season with L.A., and he may just now be hitting his stride with the team. Averaging 8.6 points a game on the season, Batum has scored 14+ points in each of his last three games, and he has also picked it up a notch on defense. If he continues this play in a supporting role, the Clips could be incredibly dangerous come playoff time — particularly considering how well the rest of the team is playing.
Clippers Gaining Steam at Just the Right Time
George, who has been nursing an injured toe, has been on absolute fire of late, scoring 32+ points in each of his last four games. “I think Paul is taking what the defense is giving him,” Lue said after the win over Indy, per ESPN. “In the second half, he was making the right pass, the right plays, just taking what the defense is giving him — slowing it down, getting to the right spots to operate.”
The Clippers currently sit third in the Western Conference standings, and they are just 3.5 games behind the first-place Utah Jazz. If they keep up their winning ways, usurping Utah is not out of the question. Veteran forward Marcus Morris Sr. certainly seems to think there’s something special happening with this team.
“This has been the first team I felt as though guys are looking to get the best shot each time down the court,” Morris said. “But … I’ve never been on a team with this many veterans. So I think guys just playing the game for so long, we all know how to play the right way.”
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