Tyronn Lue saw a lot to like during Clippers’ six-game road trip
When Clippers coach Tyronn Lue was asked to review his team’s six-game, 10-day road trip, he thought of Jan. 28 in Miami.
Down three starters and 18 points in the first quarter, coming off a trip-opening loss in Atlanta in which they struggled to score without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley, the Clippers rallied for a win that Lue said was a turning point of the trip.
“Those are the type of wins you need, you know, momentum builders,” Lue said. “I thought that was a huge step forward for us.”
There was much to like from the trip. There was the continuation of point guard Reggie Jackson’s steady play, the fact that George and Leonard looked as though they’d never missed a step after missing four days because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and the focus and “good habits” that Lue said remained consistent throughout the trip.
“Guys are trying to do the right thing defensively, trying to do the right things offensively by sharing the basketball and making plays for each other,” he said. “And that’s what you want.”
But along with a 4-2 record on the trip, the Clippers returned early Thursday to Los Angeles, where they will play eight of their next 10 games, with plenty of homework, too.
Only minutes after Wednesday’s 121-99 win over Cleveland, Lue sounded like he wanted to get back in the gym to work on a laundry list of areas.
“Take advantage of mismatches, I think making certain passes and reads versus pick-and-rolls,” Lue said. “Our small-small pick-and-rolls, I think we got to get better at — when teams are trying to show, when teams are switching. We’ve got to get better with switch defenses.
“So, you know, offensively it’s about six or seven things we want to get better at, and we have. We have, we can do that, so we’re going to continue to keep working on [it] every day. Days of practice, shootarounds, just keep getting better at it because I think going forward it’s going to be big, it’s going to be huge for us.”
There is another area he didn’t touch on: Without Beverley, who missed the trip while rehabbing an injured knee, the team lost not only one of its most dogged defenders, but also one of its loudest voices. Leonard has been more vocal around teammates this season since being prodded by center Serge Ibaka during training camp to take charge as a leader, but the importance of his growing comfort level was only increased by Beverley’s absence, whether the point guard is able to rejoin his teammates from the sideline at Staples Center or not.
“We got a pretty quiet group, you know, especially while Pat’s gone right now,” Leonard said. “So [I] just want to make sure that we know what’s going to happen, you know just making sure that we read plays before it happens, letting them know what we’re not doing right, what we are doing right and just moving forward from there.”
In their last six games the Clippers ranked fourth in offensive rating and 11th in defensive rating. Even after committing 16 turnovers against the Cavaliers, they still turned the ball over on only 11.3% of possessions during the trip, the league’s second-lowest mark in that span.
With his teammates’ help, the Clippers’ Luke Kennard is rediscovering his shooting prowess after a year spent rehabbing from tendinitis in both knees.
“I thought we built a lot of just team chemistry,” George said. “We played some pretty good teams on this trip. … To go 4-2, we’ll take that. Obviously, things could’ve been different. We could’ve played a little better in Brooklyn. Had we been full strength in Atlanta, we could have had an even better trip. But you know, I thought we battled. We played hard. We competed. There was a lot of consistency within this group.”
Coffey and Oturu to play with G League
Clippers guard Amir Coffey and center Daniel Oturu will each play with the team’s G League affiliate over the course of the G League’s 15-game season, which begins next week on the campus of Disney World near Orlando, Fla.
The 6-foot-7 Coffey has appeared in 16 games this season, most recently late in Wednesday’s win in Cleveland. The hole in the Clippers’ depth chart caused by Beverley’s injury has placed rotation minutes closer within Coffey’s reach, and with roster absences because of health and safety protocols a looming possibility this season, having his defensive length and downhill driving ability waiting on the bench has been valuable insurance.
Former Siena, Georgia Tech and George Mason coach Paul Hewitt will coach the G League Agua Caliente Clippers.
As a player on a two-way contract, however, Coffey is limited to 50 NBA games this season, and the G League’s Agua Caliente Clippers represented a chance to increase his playing time for however long he ultimately spends in Orlando. Because the G League is operating in a “bubble” environment with daily coronavirus testing, it is expected that teams will be able to recall players and have them available for NBA duty after a brief wait of possibly only a few days.
The Clippers’ other two-way player, Jay Scrubb, a second-round pick in November’s draft, is unavailable to play after undergoing foot surgery. Oturu, a 6-8 center who was the team’s other 2020 second-round pick, has appeared in 10 games. He’ll play on a roster that includes Ty Wallace, who played in 92 games with the Clippers, along with former training camp invitees Ky Bowman, Malik Fitts, Jordan Ford, James Palmer Jr. and Donte Grantham.
When: 7 p.m.
On the air: TV: Fox Sports West, ESPN. Radio: 570, 1330
Update: The Celtics (11-9) are 6-6 on the road coming off a loss Tuesday in Sacramento. Jayson Tatum has averaged 26.8 points and Jaylen Brown 26.4, with Brown’s scoring double his average from just two seasons ago. Boston is 0-5 this season when trailing at halftime and is one of only three teams this season — joining Milwaukee and Houston — that have yet to win when down at the half. Conversely, the Clippers (17-6) are 0-4 when behind after three quarters.
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