LOS ANGELES – The LA Clippers entered Sunday’s home game against the 1-8 Memphis Grizzlies on a Western Conference winless streak in November, having won four games since officially acquiring James Harden and PJ Tucker from the Philadelphia 76ers. . That streak came five games after the Clippers lost 105-101 to the league-worst Grizzlies, and Clippers coach Tyronn Lue expressed some frustration with how his star-studded team is playing.
“I’ve seen some amazing things, but … we’ve got to be better,” lamented Lue, who is overseeing the team’s early five-game losing streak since a nine-game losing streak in November 2017 under Doc Rivers.
“It wasn’t a really good flow, offensively, it wasn’t a good flow on the offensive end,” Lue said. “And defensively, they ran their stuff hard. (Grizzlies head coach) Taylor (Jenkins) prepares his team, they play hard, they cut hard, they do everything hard. And if you don’t match their power on the offensive end, they will pick you apart.
When Jenkins entered Sunday’s game $25,000 short after criticizing the officials following Memphis’ season-opening loss to the visiting Utah Jazz on Friday, Lue had a different target for criticism: the team’s offensive process. After training camp, Russell Westbrook focused on a style of play that featured his ability to push the pace and find cutters in the half-court offense, while the Clippers were able to cut through Kawhi Leonard and 30-something ball handlers. Paul George is trying to find their way because of the Harden acquisition.
“I think playing too slow, just playing too slow,” he said after Sunday’s game, which dropped LA’s record to 3-6. “We’re going to come back, you get stops, you have to push. In action, we need to push, get up early and attack early. You know, we just can’t do it—— … sorry. No, I mean, we can’t just go on the offensive. You should go to the next actions.
“If you don’t do that, you don’t work hard, you get beat up every night and we’re seeing those results,” Lue continued. “So if we want to work hard on things until we want to play hard on both ends of the floor: cuts, screens, run the screen, run the floor, every night is going to be tough nights. And so, you know, it’s our guys to make a change in mindset in that regard. Because we’re teaching it, we’re showing it. , we’re telling it. So we have to do it now.
This is about as straightforward as Tyronn Lue trying to *publicly* try to contain his frustration after the game after the Golden State game in the first week of March.
And I think this was stronger than mentioning mental strength. pic.twitter.com/LdOYPZpDnU
— Law Murray 🧾 (@LawMurrayTheNU) November 13, 2023
Lu doesn’t let his emotions get the best of him and doesn’t punish his team in public. Even on Sunday, Lue tried to stop himself from lashing out, even momentarily apologizing for letting himself off the hook and refraining from overly criticizing his players out of proportion to the fleeting signs of progress he was seeing. But Lue is trying to make Harden more of himself by suggesting that he needs Harden to be more aggressive and stop thinking. The Clippers were outscored by a team-worst 28 points against Harden on Sunday, continuing a troubling trend of being outscored by a team-worst 67 points in Harden’s minutes this month.
“Just play, just do your thing,” Lue said of his conversation with Harden after Sunday’s game. “Like, if you do too much, we’ll let you know. And he is a special player. And so we understand that. And when you go into a new situation where it’s good players, you know, it’s always difficult to come in and try to take over.
“And with PG, Kawhi and Russ, we’ve had these conversations. So we have to make sure James is as comfortable as possible, because he’s going to be big for our team and that’s what we’re trying to do.
Harden in 2011. After four games in uniform with the Brooklyn Nets in 2022, he went on a four-game undefeated streak. He said there was not a single voice in the locker room. The whole team.
“We’re all in this together, man, we’re all in this together,” Harden said after finishing Sunday’s worst plus-minus game against the Nets in his first game as a member of the 76ers in March 2022. “It’s not just one, man. We are all trying to figure it out together. So we’ve all got positive energy, we’re all trying to figure it out, and obviously, losing games in a row is tough. But we’re all in this together. We know the big picture.
George, who led the team with 26 points in the losing effort, was another player who suggested that Lue needs to be more aggressive and that George needs to do more by beating forwards. Robert Covington and Nicolas Batum (and to a lesser extent former starter Marcus Morris, C.R. and season trade acquisition KJ Martin). All of these forwards were traded to the 76ers in Harden’s deal, and the Clippers have to find the right balance of how to play and who to play.
“I think when you’ve got a lot of ball handlers, a lot of players and you’ve had it since guys, you’re used to getting the ball after a steal,” George said. After Sunday’s loss. “But before that, you have these guys who know they have to be in front of the ball and go out there to stretch the floor and be ready to catch and shoot in transition.”
“That’s a little bit different that we’re working on. But I mean, yeah, we’re not too far off from how we went into camp,” George continued. “I thought we got off to a good start in most of the other games. The first quarters were great, and then When the tide changed, we took a dip.
“And to be honest, when the rotation changes, I think that’s the only place we can improve, and take it from there and keep the intensity up and the energy up. And we can’t let groups get a life.
The Clippers have now lost to the worst first quarter team (Los Angeles Lakers), worst team (New York Knicks), worst steals team (Brooklyn Nets), worst scoring team (Dallas Mavericks). ), and now the worst record (Grizzlies) in this losing season. Their next chance to stop the bleeding is on the road Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets, the defending champion and team that has beaten the Clippers 12 of their last 14 times, returning to the 2020 bubble when the Clippers lead 3-1 in the Western Conference semifinals.
Tuesday’s game will be the Clippers’ fourth time zone game of the nationally televised postseason.
“A different year,” Leonard said when asked what the Clippers need to do to win their first game in Denver since Christmas 2020. “I mean, we all have to do what we have to do to win a basketball game – play defense, limit them to one shot, finish in transition, execute our players and shoot the ball with confidence.
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(Photo: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)