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Turnovers doom Tyronn Lue’s plans: Takeaways from Clippers’ loss to Warriors

Clippers guard Paul George passes under pressure from Golden State's Andrew Wiggins and Stephen Curry.
Clippers guard Paul George, right, passes under pressure from Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins, left, and Stephen Curry during the second half of the Clippers’ 105-90 loss Sunday.
(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

Four takeaways from a 105-90 loss Sunday to Golden State that leaves the Clippers 11-9 entering a Monday matchup against New Orleans:

1. The Clippers knew which Golden State defenders they wanted to target, coach Tyronn Lue said before tipoff. And they knew how they wanted to attack the Warriors’ top-ranked defense.

If there was a coach who could find their weak spots, it was him.

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“I think Ty has coached against us 40 times over the last five or six years,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “So he knows our team better than any coach in the league probably.”

So much for best-laid plans. The Clippers finished with more turnovers (25) than assists (18) and nearly as many field goals (32) at least until garbage-time minutes late in the fourth quarter provided a boost to their offensive numbers. They haven’t had this many turnovers since committing 26 in 2018.

With no Kawhi Leonard to help the Clippers on defense, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry had a field day in Warriors’ win over Clippers.

The Warriors scored 31 points off of Clippers mistakes.

“Careless turnovers,” guard Eric Bledsoe said.

Golden State turns over teams, but the Clippers’ own indecision is at the heart of their issues — a running theme throughout so many Clippers losses this season. On numerous occasions, ballhandlers would jump in the air without knowing where their pass would go, leading to a forced pass, an interception and a Warriors fast break the other way.

Foul trouble that limited Reggie Jackson’s minutes and took a dependable ballhandler off the floor might have contributed, but Lue didn’t use it as an excuse. The lack of focus behind so many of the errant passes — Lue classified 13 or 14 turnovers as “bad” — went directly against one of the top points in the Clippers’ game plan: Take care of the basketball.

“They’re a terrific team, but I think this game we kind of just beat ourselves,” Lue said. “We had a lot of turnovers and we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds, so we actually guarded well, but we just didn’t execute and finish the play by getting the rebound and going to the other end.”

2. Out of necessity, the ball has been in the hands of Paul George more than ever. He took 24 shots Sunday, nine more than his next-closest teammate, to finish with 30 points, his sixth game this season with 30-plus.

The Clippers are 3-3 in those games.

Yet George has also never been more careless with the ball than this month.

He entered the season having never committed more than seven turnovers in a game in 11 seasons. George now has three eight-turnover games in the last 14.

Lue suggested he might have to “put our guys in better positions” to fix the team’s turnover woes and clarified that he meant changing up his play calls. Yet as he also noted, the vast majority of NBA offense revolves around the pick and roll, meaning the Clippers simply have to be more efficient in the pick and roll than the 0.78 points per possession they entered Sunday averaging when George is the ballhandler — a figure that ranked 30th out of the 39 players this season who have run at least 100 possessions, according to Synergy. Lue said he instructed George not to dribble too deeply into the paint because it would make any pass out to the perimeter more difficult to execute.

“They were helping, they were doubling, they were pulling in, you’ve got Draymond [Green] who roams, Steph [Curry] who roamed a little tonight, so it was a little bit of uncanny defense, it was different,” George said. “But again there was some mistakes that we made that just was pure on us.”

3. The dual-center lineup debuted Friday wasn’t used against the Warriors. Serge Ibaka played nine first-half minutes and reserve center Isaiah Hartenstein stayed on the bench until the third quarter’s final minutes — a substitution whose immediate dividends underscored why it will be difficult for Lue to keep the former training-camp invitee off of the court even with Ibaka healthy.

On his first offensive possession, Hartenstein grabbed an offensive rebound and found a cutting Marcus Morris for what should have been a layup if not for a bobbled turnover. On his first defensive stand, his help defense stopped a drive by Warriors guard Jordan Poole. When Hartenstein blocked Poole’s attempt near the rim, he knocked the guard down and yelled while standing over the prone Poole, flexing his arms. It earned Hartenstein a technical foul and was an outburst of emotion about as out of character from Hartenstein’s off-court, soft-spoken nature as could be imagined.

While Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant dominate the NBA MVP discussion, the Clippers’ Paul George is putting up worthy numbers and providing leadership.

It had the unintended effect of waking up Poole, who made his next four three-pointers within two minutes to push Golden State’s lead to seven entering the final quarter. But it was telling that when asked whether he had ever seen Hartenstein so demonstrative, Lue didn’t mention the play that led to the technical, only the positive minutes the backup brought.

“He really brought us a boost with his energy,” Lue said. “Playmaking ability, blocking shots around the rim, verticality. So, you know, he was good for us.”

4. Jackson’s foul trouble limited him to seven minutes before halftime and threw off his rhythm, leading to his first scoreless game this season. It also revealed the limitations of this roster if either Jackson or Bledsoe can’t play their normal rotations.

“We just don’t have that extra ballhandler once Bled goes to the bench and Reggie’s already out,” Lue said. “We kind of ran Bled into the ground, because we don’t have a point guard.

“So with that being said, like I said, defensively, I thought we did some good things. You know, Steph made some tough shots. And he’s going to do that. We know that. He’s going to explode at some point in the game. But I thought we played good enough defensively that we could have won the game if we took care of the basketball and got good shots.”


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