Tyronn Lue’s disgust-filled stare down can’t revive Clippers in blowout loss to Jazz

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, left, is fouled by Clippers center Ivica Zubac while driving to the basket.
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, left, is fouled by Clippers center Ivica Zubac while driving to the basket during the second quarter of the Clippers’ loss Friday.
(Rob Gray / Associated Press)

There wasn’t much to say and so Tyronn Lue didn’t try.

One gesture was enough to express his disgust.

The Clippers’ coach called a timeout with less than three minutes go to in the first half. But he didn’t grab a whiteboard and draw up a play.

Trailing by 26 to a Jazz team missing injured starters Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic, required more drastic measures. Lue simply looked his starters in the eyes and waved them off the court.


When Reggie Jackson lingered near the free-throw line to have a word with an official, Lue waved for his starting guard to go to the bench too.

Marcus Morris Sr.’s potential game-tying three was blocked as the Clippers fell short against the Toronto Raptors, 103-100, on Wednesday.

March 16, 2022

On came any Clippers reserve who was either still healthy or not in the G League, and on went the Jazz’s rout, their lead growing to 37 at halftime. It was so one-sided, the dissection so clinical as Utah allowed just four points over the last seven minutes of the first half, and zero in the final four minutes, that the most suspenseful moment involved fans tracking where a miniature blimp flying around the arena’s upper deck would dump its giveaway prizes.

The 121-92 loss was the Clippers’ largest margin of defeat this season and dropped them to 36-37, below .500 for the first time since Feb. 17. Players addressed the effort afterward, center Ivica Zubac said, but like Lue during the second-quarter timeout, there was only so much to say.

“We all pretty much know what went wrong and what we gotta do and that was embarrassing from us,” said the center, who had nine points and six rebounds on a 25th birthday otherwise marred by the blowout.

Jared Butler scored a game-high 21 points off the bench for Utah (44-26), and Jordan Clarkson added 20. Robert Covington scored 18 points to lead the Clippers.

With the Clippers likely bound for eighth place in the Western Conference and two chances in the play-in tournament to advance to the postseason, the stakes of a mid-March blowout might appear relatively low. But consider the way Lue used the last month of last season to polish their pick-and-rolls without a center — time that transformed a set he had been “disappointed” in into one that later paid postseason dividends.

This season, Lue is trying to use the last three weeks again as a time to strengthen weaknesses, test different ideas and rest up with the postseason coming soon, calling his priorities attacking the paint and playing with better pace offensively in the half-court offense to avoid stagnation and get to plays’ second and third options.


But the Clippers’ offense was so lifeless and their inability to keep Utah’s wings out of the paint and Rudy Gobert from grabbing eight offensive boards so glaring, that the Clippers rarely had opportunities to add any incremental progress toward Lue’s late-season priorities, let alone approach a win. Instead, they were pummeled, outrebounded 59-43, shooting just 36% and outscored in the paint by 24.

Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) goes up for a shot against Utah Jazz forward Juancho Hernangomez.
Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) goes up for a shot against Utah Jazz forward Juancho Hernangomez (41) during the fourth quarter Friday.
(Rob Gray / Associated Press)

“Wasn’t too much to polish,” Lue said. “Well, they polished us, how about that?”

The second-half lineups featuring Zubac, Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye wasn’t the kind of lineup experimentation anyone was expecting. Nor did anyone expect rest to come in the form of a beating so out of hand so quickly that Reggie Jackson (seven points), Marcus Morris (five points) and Nicolas Batum (two points) played 39 combined minutes.

Lue said he had “nothing to say” to his such key contributors as those after replacing them en masse to end the first half.

“They didn’t have it tonight, you saw that through the first quarter. And so we got nine games to continue to find our flow and continue to find our rhythm. But tonight was one of those games they didn’t have it.”

On point guard Reggie Jackson’s night off, wings Terance Mann and Amir Coffey are solid running the Clippers’ offense efficiently in overtime loss.

March 15, 2022

The bad omens first arrived during the first half, when Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Eric Paschall, normally fringe rotation players elevated by injuries throughout Utah’s rotation, could hardly be stopped. They finished with 13 and 17 points, respectively.


The Clippers opened the fourth quarter with a lazy inbounds pass intercepted 90 feet from their own basket that Jordan Clarkson turned into a quick three-pointer for a 40-point lead. Down the court, Lue didn’t break his stone-faced expression, both arms crossed. Only minutes later did Covington and Luke Kennard become the first Clippers to reach double-digits scoring.

Lue shrugged when asked if he was disappointed in the lost opportunity for improvement. Though only nine games remain a loosened schedule will offer more chances for practices, a rarity up to this point. The Clippers returned to Los Angeles late Friday and will work out Monday before traveling to Denver.

But with the Lakers still lurking in ninth, this lost opportunity couldn’t be waved off so simply. The last month of the season is for maintaining “little habits,” Covington said. For the Clippers, he said, those habits include tighter perimeter defense, tougher rebounding and effort to “finish out plays.”