No panic in Clippers: ‘You gotta win four games’ says Tyronn Lue

Clippers center Ivaca Zubac fouls Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber.
Clippers center Ivaca Zubac fouls Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber during the first quarter on Saturday at Staples Center.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Since their playoff-opening loss Saturday to Dallas, the Clippers have made short-term adjustments to their game plan while taking a big-picture perspective.

Count Tyronn Lue, the only coach to win an NBA Finals after trailing 3-1, as unfazed by a one-game deficit to the Mavericks entering Game 2 on Tuesday at Staples Center.

“I’m confident anyways, doesn’t matter what the series is,” Lue said Monday. “You gotta win four games, and that’s how I’m built.

“They won first game, they played well. They gotta come out and do it again tomorrow. But like I said, we’ll play better as well. And it’s the first team to win four games. That’s all I know.”


Holdovers from last season’s roster who witnessed their postseason collapse after taking a commanding two-game lead against Denver know how quickly a series can change.

“I mean, last series we played we won the first game and we know how that ended up so we’re not overreacting,” center Ivica Zubac said. “It’s just one game. It’s going to be first, best out of seven so there are still six games to be played.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue suggested that Kawhi Leonard will spend more time defending Mavericks star Luka Doncic in Game 2 of their playoff series on Tuesday.

“… There’s a lot of places we can improve and when we knock down those three-point shots with those open looks we get, we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”

The defeat Saturday marked only the third time that one of Lue’s teams has trailed at any point during the first two rounds of the postseason. His overall record in the playoffs’ first two rounds is 24-4.

History suggests an ominous end should the Clippers’ inability to contain Luka Doncic and his supporting cast of shooters continue: The franchise has fallen behind 2-0 four times in its history and lost each playoff series.

“The biggest thing is we gotta take other guys out of the series,” Lue said. “We can’t let [Tim] Hardaway have 21, [Jalen] Brunson can’t come off the bench and have 15, can’t give [Dorian] Finney-Smith five threes. We know Luka’s gonna do his thing, he had the ball in his hands a lot, so he’s gonna be a scorer, but we gotta do a better job with the other guys.”

Lue, who hinted that he’ll have star Kawhi Leonard defend Doncic more often in Game 2, was coy Monday when asked whether reserve wing Terance Mann will assume a larger rotation role as a solution for their defensive breakdowns after backup guard Reggie Jackson contributed two points and had defensive lapses in Game 1. But possessions that ended with Doncic taking off-balance, contested shots? Not a mistake, Zubac said.

“That’s one of the shots we’re going to live with and that’s how we defended him in the past,” Zubac said. “We had success with it in the last playoffs.”

While Doncic was making shots with a high degree of difficulty on his way to 31 points, the Clippers struggled to make wide-open shots. After forward Marcus Morris, the NBA’s second-best three-point shooter this season by accuracy, missed all six of his three-pointers, Lue pledged to find ways of involving Morris more often after he took only three shots after halftime.

Zubac’s time around Lue in the postseason has been brief, but it has been enough for him to believe Lue will find answers.

“It’s different,” Zubac said of Lue’s playoff approach. “Our attention to detail is very, very high. We’re discussing about everything, about every single play, every single coverage, offense, defense, whatever. And it’s been fun and exciting just going through the playoffs.”

With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leading what should be a revitalized franchise, the Clippers will have no excuse if they don’t get their act together against the Mavericks.

Kleber questionable

Dallas’ Maxi Kleber, who served as Leonard’s primary defender in Game 1, did not fully participate in practice Monday because of soreness in the right Achilles that had bothered him during the final weeks of the regular season, coach Rick Carlisle said.

Carlisle said that Kleber was held out partly as a precaution and will be listed as questionable for Game 2.

“We’ll hope that he’s going to be OK,” he said.

Kleber’s 36 minutes were his most since April 14, with one particular moment remembered most — Leonard’s emphatic dunk in transition over Kleber during the third quarter, which even Kleber called “an amazing dunk because I honestly didn’t expect him to jump up and dunk.”

Leonard, Paul George and Morris yelled in Kleber’s direction before turning upcourt, a taunt Kleber said he felt should have been called for a technical foul.

“I challenge a lot of shots, I blocked a lot of shots in my career, got dunked on before, so it’s not going to affect the game,” Kleber said. “It’s two points but you got to keep playing your game.”