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Clippers stars get little support: 5 takeaways from Nets loss

Nets guard Bruce Brown has his shot challenged by Clippers forward Paul George.
Brooklyn Nets guard Bruce Brown has his shot challenged by Clippers forward Paul George on Sunday evening at Staples Center.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Five takeaways from the Clippers’ 112-108 loss to Brooklyn, which was only their second loss this season when making more three-pointers than their opponent — the other instance coming against Brooklyn as well:

1. With three of the NBA’s best scorers, the problems that Brooklyn presents offensively are obvious. Its defense, meanwhile, has largely been derided since James Harden’s arrival. Yet in two losses to the Nets this season, the Clippers have been frustrated offensively to a degree few other opponents have. The Clippers knew exactly what was coming. Coach Tyronn Lue said before tipoff that the Nets would switch every defensive assignment, point guard through center, when Jeff Green played small-ball center, and that they would switch their defenders from point guard to forward when lumbering center DeAndre Jordan played.

Yet just as in Brooklyn’s win Feb. 3, the Clippers felt they’d played stagnantly despite assisting on 60% of their baskets. Even their league-best free-throw accuracy was off — the Clippers finished 13 of 18 en route to only their eighth game this season shooting worse than 80% from the line.

“We got 35 threes, which is way better than we’ve been getting, but I don’t think I liked the shots that we got by getting those threes,” Lue said. “We settled for a lot of jump shots, we didn’t get to the paint to make the next play or the next pass for another guy, and that hurt us. It made us stagnant. … A lot of times they gave us the matchups we wanted — Landry Shamet and Kyrie [Irving] on PG and Kawhi and our guys, and we just weren’t able to capitalize on it.”

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George called it “the only thing we got to improve on from an offensive standpoint. In games like this when we get these switches. But yet we still got to play our offense.”

2. Lue felt his team’s offense was more culpable for the loss than the defense, and the lack of anyone outside of George and Leonard to leave a mark as a scorer was a main reason.

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Highlights from the Clippers’ 112-108 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

Center Ivica Zubac (13 points) was the only other scorer in double figures. Marcus Morris, who had made better than 50% of his three-pointers over his last 13 games, was held to five points. So was Lou Williams, who finished 2-for-11. Nicolas Batum scored three points and has made one of eight shots combined in his two games since returning from a concussion.

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3. With a fully healthy lineup, Lue said he will decide whether to use Terance Mann or Luke Kennard as the second guard off the bench based on whether he feels the matchup calls for Mann’s defense or Kennard’s shooting.

“Both of those guys understand that you can’t play 11 to 12 guys in this league,” Lue said.

Sunday was Mann night’s, and Kennard did not play for a second consecutive game by coach’s decision.

Immediately after checking in during the first quarter, Mann gave Harden too much space to get off a shot — which is to say any space — and the Nets star made a three-pointer. But this wasn’t a night about only learning lessons. Mann leaped to tip away an alley-oop from DeAndre Jordan at the top of the pass’ flight early in the second quarter, and later fought over the top of a screen to stay on Harden’s hip and bothered him enough to deny a clean shot attempt off the dribble. To say Mann’s value hinges only on his effort devalues his improvement as a mid-range shooter and passer, but that level of energy has become extremely important to the Clippers’ second unit.

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4. Just 6-foot-4, Brooklyn’s Bruce Brown repeatedly gashed the Clippers’ defense close to the rim because it often appeared his defenders — including Clippers centers — lost where he was. It led to easy cuts, back-door baskets and 13 critical points as the Nets, like the Clippers, desperately needed scoring outside of their two stars. It made him by far the night’s most valuable player among those involved in November’s three-team trade that sent Shamet from L.A. to Brooklyn and brought Kennard from Detroit to the Clippers.

Former Clippers guard returns to L.A. while playing for a new contender, the Brooklyn Nets. He reflects on his days in L.A. and playing with superstars.

As Kennard watched from the sideline, Shamet made just one of his seven shots.

5. That two-handed transition slam by Nets guard Kyrie Irving? It was his first dunk since the 2018-19 season.


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