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Clippings: Who needs dribbles anyway?

Nicolas Batum had one of the more surprising scoring outbursts in the Clippers’ latest win.

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

After Amir Coffey entered the starting lineup against Memphis, Nicolas Batum said that Coffey was like him because both of them instinctively know how to create plays with their movement. When Ty Lue was broached with the comparison, he laughed it off, saying that Coffey might be like a young Batum, because the current version “can’t dribble no more”.

Even if Batum is scared of putting the ball on the floor — and the Clippers veteran noted that this has become a talking point every day between him and Ty Lue — that hasn’t diminished his effectiveness on the court, because Batum doesn’t need to dribble to make plays. He isn’t the primary creator, so he can facilitate simply by pinging the ball around the court. Or he can be a play finisher, meaning he just goes up with the ball the moment he gets it.

The ability to affect the game without dribbling was on full display in LA’s win over Indiana Monday, as Batum scored 32 points, all in the second half, while only dribbling twice before his 11 made field goals. It had shades of Klay Thompson scoring 60 points while using only 11 dribbles, if only halfway. Take a look.

“From the talk we had before the Atlanta game, just moving the basketball, sharing the ball, I thought guys have made a conscious effort just trying to do that,” Lue said postgame. “We haven’t made shots, but tonight like you said, shooting 50 percent, making 18 threes and Nico 7-for-10, you know, just catch and shoot. When the ball’s moving and bodies are moving, we’re making the right play, guys are gonna get open shots like that. So it was just good to see.”

Batum credited Coffey for drawing the defense’s attention, along with Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr., which allowed the Frenchman to just cut baseline and make open threes. His performance looked a lot like the last few games of the Clippers’ first-round series against Dallas last year, when Rick Carlisle — now the head coach of the Pacers — employed a similar zone defense, and Batum had no trouble finding the gaps.

When asked if he was aware of how little he was dribbling, Batum said, “That’s just not really my job right now with that team. We have so many guys who can create stuff, so my job is more to facilitate the game.”

Batum has been brilliant as a connector throughout his time with the Clippers. But his scoring burst was a nice reminder of Batum’s full skill set, a reminder that he was a near-max player on his last contract. Only four players have scored 30 or more points in a half this season: Stephen Curry, Jaylen Brown, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and now Batum. That is elite company, even if it’s not the kind of list Batum usually finds himself on.

“Good for them to be with me in that,” Batum joked. “I mean, don’t get used to it. I don’t think it’s gonna happen a ton of times this year, but it happened today, so that’s good, but hey. Like I say, I got open shots, I had one dribble you say? One dribble. C’mon. Maybe two. That was cool to do it.”

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