Clippers embrace ‘next man up’ mantra with four starters out in win over Heat
It’s one thing for Clippers coach Tyronn Lue to have his team’s mantra be “next man up.”
But it was another thing for Lue to tell his group that Monday night’s game against the Miami Heat was all about the next man up … then the next man up … then the next man up again … and then the next man up one more time.
Lue had to give that message to his team when it was missing four starters at Staples Center.
Despite being so depleted, the Clippers overcame the absences of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley and Nicolas Batum by having six players score in double figures in pulling out a 125-118 victory.
It took several Clippers delivering their season-best performances for the team to win its fourth consecutive game. The Clippers moved to 21-8, while the Heat fell to 11-16.
With Kawhi Leonard sidelined by a bruised leg and Paul George still injured, the Clippers were able to beat Cleveland 128-111 on Sunday night.
Forward Marcus Morris (32 points, six three-pointers), center Ivica Zubac (22 points), and guards Amir Coffey (15 points) and Terance Mann (15 points) all produced season highs in scoring for the Clippers. Lou Williams finished with 18 points and 10 assists, and Luke Kennard provided 10 points off the bench.
“We got to do it by committee, and all of our guys are ready to play, man,” Lue said on a videoconference after the game. “Marcus in the first half with 26 [points]. Lou just took control of the game. He had 10 assists again tonight. Amir Coffey was in the G League three days ago, and now he comes back and makes five threes. And Big Zu. I mean, Zu was phenomenal. His presence on the inside was big. Just a total team effort.”
The day began with Leonard and George sidelined because of injuries, and it was decided that Beverley would not play in order to rest. Then during his pregame videoconference with reporters, Lue said starting forward Batum was out because of a concussion, although it was not disclosed how the veteran sustained it.
Highlights from the Clippers’ 125-118 victory over the Miami Heat at Staples Center on Monday.
So Lue told his Clippers squad that it was the next four men up and that those playing were expected to do their jobs as best they could in trying to extend the team’s winning streak with the Clippers playing on the second night of a back-to-back set.
Because the Clippers have quality depth, it was easy for Lue to start Morris for the first time this season and have him join fellow reserves Williams, Mann and Reggie Jackson with starting center Serge Ibaka in the starting five.
Lue said his injured starters “are doing better,” but they just weren’t ready to play yet.
Leonard missed his second consecutive game because of a bruised lower left leg and George his sixth consecutive because of swelling in a bone in a toe on his right foot.
The Clippers are being cautious with Beverley. A sore right knee caused the guard to miss eight consecutive games before he played in the last three before Monday’s game. The Clippers said Beverley was a “healthy” scratch.
“We’re just being cautious and holding him out of back-to-backs,” Lue said about Beverley. “PG’s getting better. Kawhi, I guess he’s working his way towards getting better. So the guys are doing better and we just need to get all the guys on the court at the same time. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has been diagnosed with a lower left leg contusion, and he will join Paul George on the sideline Sunday vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Clippers next play Wednesday night at home against the Utah Jazz, the team with the best record in the NBA.
After Beverley scored his 4,000th career point Sunday night against Cleveland, the talkative guard wanted Lue to know how he scored on a play that usually is run for stars Leonard and George.
“He was excited about it, and he sent me a text today [about his] 4,000th point, and it said, ‘Run slice home [play] for me,’ which is an iso we run for PG and Kawhi, so he’s feeling pretty good about it,” Lue said. “I’m just excited for him and he’s happy for it, so it’s good.”
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