Thoughts on the G-League Ignite’s Loss to the Agua Caliente Clippers

March 3rd, 2021

By Alan Lu

With three games left to go, the G-League Ignite were going to square off against the Agua Caliente Clippers, and the Agua Caliente Clippers were currently the only team left on the regular season schedule that had a losing record.  If there are signs that the G-League Ignite are bound to make it to the playoffs, they needed to win this game (but they didn’t).

The G-League Ignite’s playoff hopes are starting to slip away, and they really dropped the ball by losing to a previously 3-9 Agua Caliente team, which drops the G-League Ignite’s record to 7-6 on the season.
The G-League Ignite squad will square off against a 7-6 Rio Grande Valley Vipers’ team tomorrow at 3pm EST on ESPNU.
(Photo:
Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

Today however, the G-League Ignite got off to a slow start, as they struggled to make shots early on, and they consistently had defensive breakdowns in the first half.  Jonathan Kuminga turned in a horrendous first half, as he went 0 for 7 from the field, was held scoreless while having logged 17 minutes in that time span, and also played absolutely atrocious, listless defense as he just did not seem to put in any sort of effort on that end of the floor. 

He was a little better in the second half, but he got hurt and left the game early in the fourth quarter, but Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd picked up the slack by managing to score in double figures.  However, though the G-League Ignite briefly took the lead in the fourth quarter, they were unable to hold off Agua Caliente, and they ended up losing to them, as the G-League Ignite dropped to 7-6 on the season.  Here are my thoughts on how Green, Todd, Daishen Nix, and Kuminga fared on this day. For those that are interested in the box score of this game, here is the link.

The G-League Ignite’s Jalen Green soared for a thunderous dunk midway against the Agua Caliente Clippers in this game. He played well, as he scored 20 points in his team’s losing effort.
(Photo:
Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jalen Green had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Agua Caliente.  He scored 20 points, made 4 threes, and he also had 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals, but he was a bit streaky with his jump shot, especially early on, and he also tended to make a bit too many defensive mistakes in this game.

Green shot the ball well, especially from downtown.  He showed a knack for making three-point shots, as he can do so off the catch, and he also would pull up to make them effortlessly.  He even used a quick crossover to score on a smooth, step back three midway through this match.  He also was able to score on a fadeaway, mid-range jumper from the baseline.  However, he tended to miss on mid-range jumpers, and he had more trouble finding his shooting touch from that range.

He also showed a satisfactory ability to score off the dribble.  Green was able to use a crossover to score on a thunderous dunk on a drive to the hoop.  He also managed to go to his left to draw free throws.  Also, Green managed to score on a quick layup off of a speedy drive in transition.  On the downside, sometimes he would take tough, off-balanced shots that would lead to misses.

He also displayed good playmaking skills.  Green tended to throw crisp, accurate interior passes to string together a wealth of assists in this game.  He was able to throw an accurate lob pass to a teammate in transition, and he also would make good reads to find teammates on the move.  Plus, he also handled the ball very well.  On the downside, he was called for traveling on a drive to the hoop, as he didn’t establish the pivot foot when he caught the ball prior to dribbling towards the rim. Also, Green did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would chase down balls to get plenty of boards on both ends of the floor, and sometimes he would push the ball quickly up the court after getting defensive boards.

Defensively, he struggled in this game.  For the positives, he is an athletic, active defender that can get steals for his team.  He was able to break up a lob pass to get a steal, and he also poked a ball from an opposing ball handler to get another.  He also would’ve jumped on a loose ball to collect another steal, but a whistle blew before that.  He also was able to contest jumpers to force a couple of misses. 

However, he tended to make too many defensive miscues in this game.  Sometimes, he would over-help in the paint and not pick up a man in time, which would put his team in scramble situations.  Other times, he would be loafing and would not hustle back on defense.  Sometimes this would be the case as he would be late to get back, and then he would be too aggressive on close outs, which would lead him to be out of position, causing him to foul shooters and to allow opponents to score on long-range jumpers.  Other times, he would get beat off the dribble by opponents who shouldn’t get by him, and he also took a bad gamble by whiffing on a steal attempt that led him to get beat off the dribble, which then caused a scramble situation.

Overall, Jalen Green played well in his team’s loss to Agua Caliente, and he primarily excelled as a shooter, scorer, facilitator, and rebounder in this game.  On the downside, he tended to make too many mistakes defensively, and his team really struggled on the defensive end in general.  Still, Green is a very talented prospect, and he is a likely lock to go in the top 5, as he could end up being a very good player in the NBA.

Isaiah Todd had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Agua Caliente.  He was able to score on some very tough shots, and he also showed some defensive skills, as he managed to score 14 points, and he also collected 6 rebounds and 3 steals in this game.

Todd excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He would run the floor hard to score in transition, as he was able to score on a strong, running layup off the glass, and he also caught a lob pass to score on an alley-oop dunk another time.  Plus, he also managed to score on a quick, tip-in after grabbing an offensive board.

He also showed a satisfactory ability to knock down mid-range jumpers.  Todd was able to make a smooth, turnaround jumper from just inside the arc, and he also pulled up to make a long two on a separate possession.  On the downside, he was a bit streaky in taking and making long, two-point shots, and he also missed on all three of his three-point shots that he hoisted up from beyond the arc.

He also flashed the ability to score in the post.  Todd was able to score on a quick, one-legged, turnaround fadeaway jumper.  However, he missed on a contested double-pump layup, and he also missed on a couple of switch of hands layups after looking to score on the block other times.

As a playmaker, he looked to be fairly average.  He didn’t pick up any assists, but he would swing the ball to shooters to get them the basketball.  He had a ball poked away from him out of bounds when posting up, but Todd also did not commit any turnovers in this match. Also, Todd was able to leap up to get his fair share of rebounds, as he was able to get multiple boards on both sides of the ball.

He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Todd did a good job of getting his hands on passes to get steals and deflections, and he also was able to alter and take balls away when defending in the post to force turnovers due to possessing good length, athleticism, and timing.  He also would sometimes hold his ground when defending in the post to force misses, and he also managed to poke a ball away out of bounds.  He also was able to stay in front of an opposing ball handler to force his man to pass the ball due to possessing solid lateral quickness.  Sometimes though, he would sag too far off his man, which would allow opponents to score on jumpers.  Other times, he would get beat off the dribble, which would put his team in scramble situations. 

Overall, Isaiah Todd had his ups and downs, but he looked to have a decent showing, even if he was rather inconsistent in making plays on both ends of the floor.  In this game, he showed that he can make some very tough shots, and he is a rangy defender that also can get steals and blocks for his team.  He will need to make more plays consistently in games, but he is a talented player that could be a very good pick for an NBA team in the second round on draft day.

Daishen Nix put forth an uneven performance in his team’s loss to Agua Caliente.  He didn’t shoot the ball well, but he was able to make some good plays to help his team at times on both ends of the floor. Nix showed a satisfactory ability to score off the dribble.  He would score on strong, powerful drives to the hoop, and he also has a good pump fake that he can use to get his defender in the air to get fouled to help him get to the free throw line.  He is a forceful player that can absorb the contact to get to the foul line often.  Sometimes though, he would take tough, rushed shots in traffic, which would lead to misses, as he sometimes doesn’t always play under control. He also struggled to knock down outside shots in this game.  Nix had trouble making long two-point shots when he was on the floor, and he also did not take a single three-point shot against Agua Caliente.

He also showed off good playmaking skills in this game.  Nix is a good passer off the dribble, and he can throw crisp, accurate passes to roll men to set up scores for his teammates.  He tended to throw solid interior passes, and he can find his teammates on the move to get them the basketball.  Sometimes though, he would throw inaccurate passes, as a couple of them were dropped out of bounds, and he also threw a weak bounce pass that got intercepted early on.

In this game, though he didn’t grab many rebounds, he was able to get a board on each end of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  Nix was able to leap up to break up a lob pass to help his team get a steal, and he also blocked a shot due to possessing good length and timing.  He also managed to contest a three to force a miss another time.  On the downside, sometimes he would not make much of an effort to close out on shooters, as he will give them to much space to allow scores to them.  Another time, he got beat off the dribble, which ended up putting his team in a scramble situation.

Overall, Daishen Nix had his ups and downs, but he did a good job of distributing the basketball in his team’s loss to Agua Caliente.  He will need to be more comfortable in taking and making three-point shots, and he has struggled with his outside shot this year.  He’s made more of an effort defensively lately, which is a good thing.  Right now, Nix is a solid playmaker that can reliably run the point, and he also can play either backcourt position.  While he may not have nearly as much upside as the other three prospects, his court sense, ability to run the team, and feel for the game could make him a solid pick for an NBA team in the second round range of the 2021 draft.

Jonathan Kuminga had an abysmal showing in his team’s loss to Agua Caliente.  He had an atrocious first half that was plagued by poor shooting and a frustrating lack of willingness to make plays on the defensive end, and his consistently terrible, underwhelming first half play set a bad tone that pretty much doomed his team to lose this game.  He did play better in the late third quarter and early in the fourth quarter, but by then, his efforts were too little, too late, and it didn’t wash out his poor overall performance.

Kuminga excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  His team was not able to get him the ball enough on cuts or in transition, and the other team did a very good job of limiting those chances overall.  Kuminga was able to use a crossover move to score on a quick, smooth layup on a drive in transition after going coast to coast off of a defensive board.

He also showed a fairly good ability to score in the post.  Kuminga was able to get the ball deep in the post, and he was able to draw free throws on a strong, turnaround layup, as he then was able to make a two-point free-throw afterwards.

Also, he flashed the ability to knock down threes in this game.  Kuminga was able to move off the ball to make an open, spot-up three off the catch late in this contest.  However, he struggled to make spot-up threes consistently, and he was unable to score on any of the pull-up jumpers that he hoisted up from the mid-range.  Sometimes, he would take tough, contested jumpers that would be tightly guarded, and he also threw up an air-ball on a tough, fadeaway jumper from the mid-range that missed completely.  Kuminga took far too many tough, contested shots from the mid-range, and it really hurt his shooting percentages in this game.  

As a playmaker, he looked to be fairly average.  Kuminga was able to push the ball up the court off of a defensive board, and he then drove and kicked a ball out to a shooter to set up a scoring chance for a shooter on the break.  He also had a ball poked away when dribbling towards the hoop another time.  While he did not pick up an assist in this game, he did not turn the ball over either on offense.

He also showed a solid ability to rebound the basketball.  Kuminga was able to leap up to get a handful of defensive boards, and sometimes he would push the ball up the court after getting them.  He even managed to get an impressive, one-handed defensive board in this game, and he also tipped a ball to help his team get another defensive rebound.

Defensively though, he really struggled, and his effort levels pretty much ranged from atrocious to non-existent.  It was really baffling and frustrating that Kuminga did not seem to be willing to be an active defender at all in this game.  His only sort of good play was that he made a half-hearted contest on a three-point shot that missed early in this game. 

On the downside, most of the time, he would drop too far back into the paint, as he would sag too far off of shooters to allow them to score on open three-point shots.  He also would tend to not fight through screens quickly, and sometimes he would either get stuck or take the wrong angle in trying to do so.   Another time, he didn’t run hard back on defense, as he just did some cursory jogging before giving up on the play, but he didn’t make much of an attempt to hustle back, as his team allowed a score on a drive in transition.  Kuminga tended to allow opponents to score on three-point shots far too often, and he would also tend to get stuck on screens on the defensive end.

Overall, Jonathan Kuminga did not play very well in his team’s loss to Agua Caliente, and he did not play well on either side of the ball.  He scored just 7 points on 2 of 9 shooting, and he grabbed 5 rebounds in 23 minutes in this game.

I kept waiting for him to suddenly play alert and springy defense, and to be the shutdown defender he’s capable of being, but that just never happened in this match.  Though he’s considered to be a likely top 5 pick, his inability to consistently knock down outside shots and tendency to be disinterested defensively seem to pose as significant red flags.  His shooting efficiency has seemed to have crashed, as his shooting percentages have dropped significantly over time, and so has his defensive effort, it seems.  Right now, he is still talented enough to be a surefire lottery pick, but he might end up being a riskier pick than anticipated.  He’ll need to get his game back on track, and he’ll need to shoot and defend better, but if he doesn’t, his team’s playoff hopes could come crashing down if he’s unable to play well in the next two games.

Other Notes:

As the G-League Ignite’s loss now puts them at 7-6, they are now tied for eighth place with their Thursday’s opponent, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.  As there are only eight playoff spots for the NBA G-League playoffs, this game is definitely a must-win for the G-League Ignite.

Tomorrow, they will face a tough Vipers squad that has former Cleveland Cavaliers’ guard, Kevin Porter Jr., who is an athletic, skilled scorer and all-around player at the G-League level who was once thought to have a very bright future with the Cavaliers before having had off-court troubles that forced him to be traded.

The G-League Ignite have not played well recently.  They started off 4-0, but are 3-6 since, which includes a 28 point loss to Delaware on Monday, and they lost to a previously 3-9 Agua Caliente team today.  Even more so, Jonathan Kuminga left the game hobbled early in the fourth quarter and was unable to return, but with a lack of news from the main sources, it seems that it’s most likely a minor leg injury, and that Kuminga probably would be cleared to play tomorrow.

Even still, the G-League Ignite have to get on track, and they face a real possibility and the imminent danger of potentially getting their playoff hopes dashed by the end of the week.  Both Rio Grande Valley and the Austin Spurs have winning records, which will make the G-League Ignite’s journey to try to get to the postseason a very tough road. 

The G-League Ignite really needed to win today against Agua Caliente and they didn’t.  They dropped the ball on this game, and it is uncertain if they will get an eighth win in the regular season.  If they don’t win one more game, they will surely be missing the playoffs this year.

The G-League Ignite has struggled to make outside shots, they have been too turnover prone, and they have also had too many defensive breakdowns recently.  They basically let the other team knock down threes and move the ball on them at will. From a personnel standpoint, losing Donta Hall to the Toronto Raptors and the Raptors 905 hurts their team, especially from a defensive standpoint, even though it’s good from a developmental perspective that the G-League Ignite can develop players and get them to the NBA. In this game against Agua Caliente, there were numerous times where the G-League Ignite’s big men had trouble guarding shooters out on the perimeter. Either way, if the G-League Ignite don’t fix their defensive issues, their season could end this week.

It would be very fun to see Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Isaiah Todd, and Daishen Nix get some meaningful minutes in the playoffs and come away stronger and more battle-tested for the experience, and I would like to see them compete in the playoffs with real stakes and a championship trophy on the line.  But if they don’t get to the postseason, the other teams would be sending a message that they are in pro ball, and they aren’t going to get a playoff berth handed to them, that they will need to earn the trip instead.

Other Notes, Part II:

For the Agua Caliente Clippers, six players scored in double figures.  Amir Coffey scored 21 points, made 5 threes, and he also had 6 assists.  Malik Fitts scored 19 points, and he also had 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in this game.  Jordan Ford scored 22 points, and he made 4 threes.  Also, Emanuel Terry, James Palmer Jr., and Sacar Anim also managed to score in double figures for Agua Caliente in this game.

For the G-League Ignite, Brandon Ashley led all scorers with 26 points, and he also had 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, and 1 block in this game.  He made 12 of 15 shots, and he also made two three-pointers.  Amir Johnson scored 16 points on 8 of 9 shooting in this game.  Bobby Brown also scored 13 points and had 7 assists in this game.

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