Takeaways from the Clippers’ win over Heat
Fresh off a win in Miami, the Clippers arrived in Orlando early Friday morning. The schedule called for them to stay in central Florida for less than 24 hours before departing for New York, the next stop on their six-game trip.
Maybe the less time in Orlando the better.
Having spent two disappointing months on the Disney World campus just outside the city last summer during the restart of the NBA season, the Clippers would “like to forget about that whole experience, to be honest with you,” guard Lou Williams said last month.
Said forward Marcus Morris on Thursday, following his team’s 109-105 win in Miami: “That wasn’t the best time.”
Neither was what followed the abrupt exit in the second round, as the Clippers made numerous changes to their roster and staff to address what they believed were the weaknesses that led to the collapse. For as much as they have tried to follow Williams’ lead and forget about their time in the bubble, Morris acknowledged “we use it as motivation to continue to move forward.”
He certainly has, at least. It was a factor in why he re-signed with the Clippers as an unrestricted free agent in November.
“I thought we had a great team and made some moves,” he said. “I want to be a part of that team that holds that first championship for the Clippers. That is how it works, you have a good team and you don’t live up to everybody else’s standards, [supporters] tend to jump off the ship. But we get back to where we need to be and we end up winning a championship, then they will jump back on the ship. That is just how it goes.”
Five takeaways from the Clippers’ win in Miami:
1. When Reggie Jackson made his fourth-quarter mistake, the Clippers told him to move on. Once the victory was in hand, they razzed him for calling a timeout when they had none.
The technical foul was gifted to Miami with 27 seconds left and the Heat trailing by only six. Serge Ibaka grabbed Jackson and teammates quickly surrounded them with the message, Nic Batum said, of “move on.”
“It was a bad mistake, but see our reaction?” Batum said. “Nobody was mad. … We’re gonna make mistakes, we’re all gonna make mistakes, but we just move on. We’ve got to stick together. That’s the team this year. That’s the spirit of this team, and I love it.”
Ultimately it didn’t cost the Clippers what would have been a deflating loss. It was easy to laugh about — afterward. Morris said the play “wasn’t worse than Chris Webber’s,” then predicted the replay would appear on Shaquille O’Neal’s weekly NBA lowlights.
“Man, because we were on [him] in the locker room,” Morris said. “It was a fun time, it was funny. Reggie is our guy, he is a vital part of this team and we need him and we just told him stick with it, it’s over, we got the win and we are going to Orlando.”
2. A Mann’s game.
Second-year guard Terance Mann isn’t typically a knockdown shooter from deep, meaning that while Kawhi Leonard, Paul George (health and safety protocols) and Patrick Beverley (knee) remain out indefinitely, his effectiveness on offense hinges on how aggressively he can get into the lane and either kick out passes for shooters or draw contact. He was excellent in that regard Thursday, making all five of his free throws and finishing with 12 points. One of his two assists came after he drove baseline before passing to Batum for a wide-open three-pointer at the top of the arc.
3. Tyronn Lue’s point of emphasis? Shoot.
The Clippers made just one of their first 14 three-pointers on their way to trailing by 18 in the first quarter, but it was the shots they weren’t taking that frustrated their coach most. Without George, Leonard and Beverley, the Clippers are missing nearly 60 points. They can’t be picky about their open looks.
“I thought we turned down six or seven shots that we had wide open threes and we tried to put it back down or tried to be cute and make the extra pass,” Lue said. “Nic turned down a few in that first half, Luke [Kennard] turned down a few. And I thought in that third quarter, Nic really came out and gave us a spark from the three-point line.”
Batum made four of his six three-pointers in the quarter.
With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley out indefinitely, the Clippers turned to Marcus Morris and Lou Williams to help fill the void.
4. Lou Williams played through pain for a bounce-back game.
Instead of leaning into his airborne defender and drawing contact for a potential three-shot foul in the first half — something he does routinely — Williams opted to pass. Was that perhaps a sign he didn’t want to risk hurting a hip that has caused lingering pain for several days? Possibly. He also appeared to labor on a handful of possessions in the first half. But in an encouraging sign for the Clippers, Williams rebounded from his four-for-14 shooting performance Tuesday in Atlanta with 17 points on just nine shots against the Heat. And yes, two of those points came in the second half, when he leaped into his defender for a foul call.
5. A homecoming for Clippers assistant Dan Craig.
Clippers associate head coach Dan Craig made his first return to Miami since leaving the Heat in the offseason after 17 seasons. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said Craig’s responsibilities grew to encompass far more than leading the defense and “really helped me in all facets of coaching.” The pair both rose up the ranks after starting in the team’s video room.
“We’re like brothers in this profession,” Spoelstra said. Craig acknowledged some of his former players before tipoff, pointing in their direction, but the greetings could go no further than that amid the league’s health and safety protocols.
“He comes into Miami and he couldn’t even leave, like all of us, couldn’t even leave the hotel,” Spoelstra said. “Over the years, we have a good watering hole that we have spent a lot of time, had a lot of beers in this place, and we couldn’t even do that. And won’t be able to do that tonight either.”
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