Two days after the Clippers played what their coach, Tyronn Lue, described as their best basketball of the modern season, the players sat in folding chairs Monday morning inside their practice facility to revisiting what Lue considered his “blueprint” for. offensive success.
To drill the point home, a white board in front of the assembled chairs listed the season high marks from Saturday night’s blowout win over the San Antonio Spurs: assists, turnovers, assist chance rate, effective field goal percentage.
The numbers — especially the Clippers’ 329 passes, as tracked by Second Spectrum, a stark contrast to the quarterback’s postseason average of 262 — are backed up by data that the litmus test Lue often refers to as the “right” way to play. .”
A strained right hamstring tendon sidelined Paul George for Monday night’s 121-114 win over Utah at Crypto.com Arena, a victory that served as a reminder of why there’s a premium on continuing to play the right way, as d The Clippers improved to 11-7, just half a game behind the Western Conference-leading Jazz.
In a first half that produced meaningful numbers on Lue’s whiteboard, the Clippers scored 10 unanswered points late in the first quarter with backup guard John Wall’s 41-footer going through the net. Wall was going to celebrate a 10-point lead by strumming an imaginary guitar, and he was just getting started. Wall, who came off the bench to replace Kawhi Leonard, kept himself and the ball moving at breakneck speed. Lue set a goal of 20 transition points – Wall helped them score 17 points in the first half, the kind of easy points the Clippers need to generate with George, one of their main shot creators, unavailable.
“Making the right play in transition, which was big for us,” he said.
One game after posting 15 assists, Wall ran past the last line of Utah’s transition defense for layups and found Norman Powell for short jumpers and Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum for spot-up three pointers as the Clippers took the lead 17-point 9: 50 before half time. Instead of a typical second quarter lull, the Clippers fired back after cutting their lead to eight, extending it to 13, while making 17 of their 26 baskets.
To open the third quarter, Marcus Morris Sr. stood. at the top of the three-point arc and Leonard’s eye cut alone along the baseline toward the rim before firing a pass for a dunk and an eight-point lead.
Then it was like a different team when Leonard checked out. Wall became the Clippers’ primary distributor again – this time, in passes to the Jazz. He finished with as many turnovers, eight, and assists and never played a quarterback.
There were no box-outs en route to allowing Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen six rebounds in the quarter – one more than the Clippers combined as a team. When a ball went to the floor, no Clippers went to the floor to corral it, and Utah’s hustle resulted in a bucket en route to winning the quarter by 15 points.
But the lesson of making the simple play was not something the clippers had to learn the hard way. In the fourth quarter, Jackson, who scored 27 points – his third straight game with at least 20 – attacked the paint off the dribble and found open shooters. There were only two Clippers turnovers. Powell scored nine of his 30 points off the bench in the final quarter doing exactly what the Clippers envisioned when they traded for him last season, earning seven free throws with drives to the rim.
“Sixth man of the year, that should be his goal,” Lue said.
With a 117-112 lead with one minute remaining, Amir Coffey stepped in front of a surging Talen Horton-Tucker and drew a critical charge to preserve a win based on Lue’s so bad spotting habits.
A tight squeeze on George’s right sidelined him, and the loss of the team’s primary scorer for an undetermined amount of time reduces the offense’s margin for error. It was a different diagnosis than the sore right knee that first knocked George out after 15 highly effective minutes Saturday, and one that will keep him day-to-day, though Lue said the All-Star, who averaged 23.6 points, felt per game, fine.
George’s absence, coming so soon after the Clippers appeared to be almost at last following Leonard’s return from a knee injury that cost him 12 games over three weeks, was a new twist on the theme of the last two Clippers seasons, a stretch who saw them. rarely healthy at the same time. In addition, there is no clarity on how soon guard Luke Kennard can return from a calf strain.
But whether healthy or with holes in their rotation, Lue wanted to define his team’s three-forward line play the right way.
“Just make the simple play,” he said before tipoff. “The defense will show you what they’re giving you, and we have to make those plays. And so we harp on it all year. It’s early in the season, but we have to get better at that.”
Monday night was a demonstration of the power to do so – and the pitfalls when it doesn’t.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.