Ty Lue put it bluntly after the Clippers lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday: “I wasn’t satisfied tonight.”
What part was he unhappy with?
The Clippers coach might have been less than thrilled with the sluggish first quarter in which Paul George couldn’t get on track and had just six points, or with his team’s 18 turnovers or the disastrous fourth quarter when the Clippers got four points from their starters and shot 29% from the field and lost 110-95.
Lue has plenty to dissect on the plane as the Clippers make a quick two-game trip to Houston on Monday and Dallas on Tuesday. Offense, defense and turnovers will be foremost.
“I thought offensively tonight we didn’t play the right way,” Lue said. “We talked about them really protecting the paint when we got into the paint, making the right play, kicking it out for threes.
“Defensively, we double teamed (Kevin) Durant. But he made the right play, guys made shots with our double teams, and we were flying around, trying to close out situations, and they made us pay for that, especially in that fourth quarter.
“But just offensively, I just didn’t think we played with the right spirit.”
The Clippers hung in against Durant and the rest of the Nets until the fourth, when guys began to stand around and loft three-point shots, making just 2 of 8. The Nets outscored them 20-2 down the stretch to end the Clippers’ five-game winning streak.
The Clippers (7-6) can’t afford a fourth-quarter lapse against the Mavericks (7-5) and Luka Doncic on Tuesday. Doncic is coming off an impressive game in which he had 42 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists against Portland. Much like the Nets (60%), the Mavericks shot 61.1% in the final quarter of their game Saturday.
“I think it’s just we got to attack more,” George said. “We’re getting into situations where I can personally speak for settling a little bit, whereas I could be more aggressive attacking to the basket. So, it’s just shifting that mindset in the fourth to kind of be more aggressive playing at the rim.”
Lue said the Clippers cannot afford to over-dribble on Dallas, which has won six of its past 10 games, and need to do a solid job getting into the paint, where guys like Ivica Zubac and Norman Powell are most effective.
Powell, who has been the Clippers’ sixth man lately, scored many of his 16 points against the Nets in the key. He has scored 1.5 points every time he has the ball when the team attacks the paint.
“My game is to get downhill and put pressure on the rim. Make the defense collapse. Find kick-outs if I don’t have shots,” Powell said. “I think that’s the point of emphasis we had going over our game plan, just how we are as a team.
“My game is getting to the paint, so I think that’s where I can help the team most. Continue to put pressure on the rim and have the defense rotate from my attacks.”
As the season progresses, George said, the team needs to continue sacrificing minutes, sharing the ball and making the extra pass. He said the team has only one goal as it looks to advance to the postseason.
“The sacrifice comes down to passing up good for great shots, being a team player and playing for oneanother. I mean, that’s the true sacrifice,” George said. “Not anyone out there performing thinking theyhave to do it all, playing what they’ve been accustomed to coming into this year.
“It’s just one goal, one goal only, playing for one another, and sacrifice. It’s an easy one. I think guyshave done it, I think guys are doing it, but we got to continue on, and we’ve been playing well.
“I thought today was just one of those days. You hit those here and there and that was one that we hitwhere we just were flat. You have those. Good thing, it’s a cliche saying: Good thing it’s a next game. Goto the next one. We’ll be ready.”