The Clippers Got Embarrassed By Some Old Friends
12:52 PM EST on November 28, 2023
Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan were both pressed into the Denver Nuggets' starting lineup last night. They were joined there by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., and Justin Holiday. This is the kind of thing that can only happen when the Nuggets' three best players—Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Aaron Gordon—are all unavailable on the same night. It's the kind of thing that happens when a team is on the second night of a back-to-back, staring down a difficult road trip, and looking to punt.
The team the Nuggets were attempting to punt to was the Los Angeles Clippers, who since losing their first five games after the James Harden trade went on to win four of their next five (two of those wins came against the godawful Spurs; make of that what you will). That run of encouraging, competent basketball came to an end on Monday night, as the Clippers welcomed a team that was all but trying to hand them a free W and proceeded to lose the game 113-104.
Throughout the first half, I was sort of shocked at how much of A Thing the Clippers broadcast was making out of Jackson's return to his former home arena. The L.A. announcers kept talking about how nice it was to see him again, and the Clippers even played an in-arena tribute video for him during a break in the first quarter. A tribute video? For a guy who played in 211 games for the Clips? Perhaps I just do not possess enough of an appreciation for Los Angeles Clippers culture and heritage.
As soon as that tribute video finished and the Clippers' announcers made it through their list of compliments for Jackson, the funniest possible thing happened: Jackson, with a lot of help from Jordan, absolutely smoked the Clippers. Jackson finished the game with 35 points on 15-of-19 shooting, 13 assists, and five rebounds. Jordan backed him up with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists.
I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan combining for 56 points in a win over a fully operational Clippers team is the most surprising single-game result of the NBA season so far. If you had forgotten until just now that DeAndre Jordan was still in the league, there's good reason for that: The 35-year-old spent all last season and the start of this season as the Nuggets' version of Udonis Haslem, meaning that actually playing basketball was near the bottom of his list of responsibilities. Jordan played 586 total minutes last season, and coming into last night's game had only been on the floor for 24 total minutes. He's on this roster for no other reason than he's good at making Nikola Jokic laugh and offering well-timed motivational speeches during timeouts.
Jackson, meanwhile, is 33 years old and has acquitted himself well filling in as the starting point guard while Murray has been injured, but a performance like the one he put on last night has felt out of reach for some time. The last time he scored 30 points in a game was in March of 2022, and he was tacked onto the Nuggets' bench in February of last year after first being traded by the Clippers and then waived by the Hornets. He hardly played during the Nuggets' championship run, and his one-minute cameo in Game 3 of the Finals was so shocking that I distinctly remember a drunken Paul Pierce cackling at the sight of Jackson on the floor and declaring that it was "over" for the Nuggets.
So, yeah, these are not the two guys you would pick to crush a Clippers team featuring James Harden, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard. Just as funny as the mere fact that Jackson and Jordan humiliated their former team is how they went about doing it. The creaky duo spent basically the entire game spamming a basic pick-and-roll that the Clippers, for whatever reason, had no ability to defend. Jackson glided into the paint at will and finished with ease at the rim while Jordan caught and dunked five lobs. The big man even adopted the role of playmaker here and there, catching the ball on short rolls and then finding a cutting teammate along the baseline for an easy dunk.
Getting pick-and-rolled to death by Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan in 2023 is like getting triangle offense'd to death in 2016—the game is supposed to have moved beyond such possibilities. And yet there the Clippers were, looking like they barely gave a shit while a guy who hadn't scored 21 points since 2018 kept dunking on them while looking like he was having the time of his life.
The game reached its hilarious crescendo right at the end. The Clippers had an 11-point lead to start the fourth quarter, which was erased within four minutes. Jackson and Jordan continued to pull away, at which point the Clippers became so desperate that they started not only hard-doubling Jackson on every possession, but intentionally fouling Jordan in order to send him to the line. Jordan went 2-of-4 from the line down the stretch, and Jackson easily passed out of the Clippers' double-teams in order to set up teammates for easy baskets. It's just like they always say: When the Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan two-man game is cooking, there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.