LOS ANGELES — That’s been coach Tyronn Lue’s mantra for weeks. play defense. Develop a defensive mindset. Create good habits, starting with defense. He said the Clippers could score but their fall was a breakdown in their defense.
It was something he referenced again before the team faced the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. Lue said they must avoid falling behind in double digits.
“Don’t go down 15, 16 and then fight,” Lue said, “because then you’ve used up so much energy that you can’t finish the game now. We just have to have that (defensive) mindset and try to do it for 48 minutes.
His warning lasted 16 minutes before the Clippers stared at a 10-point deficit.
“You have to get it for me. You have to play harder to come after that. You can’t wait for happiness,” Lue said. “It’s easy for me to play hard for 48 minutes and give everything on both sides of the floor and that’s what we have to do.”
However, the Clippers didn’t get the win, losing 112-108 in the first of five home games to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. The loss extended their losing streak to six games.
“You know it’s a tough track that happens,” said Nicolas Batum. “We have to stick together. I mean it’s not pretty, it’s not easy right now, but we can do it. We can’t separate, so we have to stick together, stick together as tightly as a team.
“We’ll come back to that. It’s not, it’s not easy right now. It’s not pretty, that’s for sure. But we can’t just relax. We showed good things. We just had to finish it. That’s it.”
Lue hoped that with a roster change, some defensive work and maybe some luck, the Clippers (21-21) could have ended their losing streak.
“I thought we had some decent shots, but then we also had some turnovers,” said Lue. “We had some turnovers that resulted in easy baskets for these guys and then we had a few of them blocked on the edge, which was basically like a turnover. And they dropped out in transition, got a couple of easy hoops.
“We scrapped, we competed,” Lue said. “I liked our fight tonight, I thought we played hard defensively the whole 48 minutes. They have some good players over there but there are some things we just need to keep working on but I liked what I saw tonight.”
Throughout the slide, Lue said the Clippers tended to play well in spurts, and Sunday’s game wasn’t much different. They wasted a 17-point lead, trailing by 11 points in the third and leading by 11 points in the fourth before ending with a four-point loss.
With the Clippers 106-102, Dejounte Murray hit a layup followed by two free throws and a jump shot from Trae Young to put the Hawks 108-106 ahead. Leonard responded with a driving layup that tied the game.
Young drove the lane to improve the Hawks (19-21) by two. The Clippers missed two long-range shots before Young made two more free throws to seal the game. He finished with a game-high 30 points.
Leonard led the Clippers with 29 points, Ivica Zubac had 17 points and 18 rebounds while three others scored in double digits. But it wasn’t enough.
“I think we did a good job,” Leonard said. “Our pace was a bit quicker on their missed shots and even when they made the basket they just put the ball up. That meant we had more pace on defense. I think we did a good job.”
With 41 games remaining, Lue decided to change the starting lineup and played Terance Mann as guard over Reggie Jackson, a move that gave the team an initial boost of energy. The Clippers, behind Mann’s pace, led by as much as eight points in the first quarter, giving the team hope for a different outcome.
Mann competed alongside Leonard, Batum, Zubac and Marcus Morris Sr. Paul George did not play due to an ongoing Achilles tendon injury and Luke Kennard was also out. Lue said he liked what he saw of his starting line-up, especially defensively.
“I thought only defensively we’re really good,” said Lue. “We’re just learning how to play with TMann at the point guard position, but if PG comes back he can help with that too.”
With the Clippers’ second unit on the ground in the first half, the Hawks, led by Young and Murray, slowly eroded the Clippers’ lead to take a 66-52 lead at halftime. Taking advantage of the Clippers’ lack of 3-point shooting without George or Kennard, Atlanta topped the Clippers 41-26 in the second quarter that started on a 13-0 run.
The Hawks scored four points in the final 8.4 seconds through John Collins’ alley-oop dunk and a subsequent inbounds steal from De’Andre Hunter for the final points of the half.
Such a scenario Lue had hoped to avoid.
The starting lineup returned to start the third and seemed to re-energize the team, reducing the Hawks’ lead to one, 79-78, after a driver layup by Leonard. Powell put the Clippers ahead 80-79 with a jump shot, and Morris Sr. pushed them further forward with a 25-foot shot 85-81.
Morris had 11 of his 20 points in the third quarter, including 3 of 4 3-pointers, and the Clippers held a two-point lead heading into the last quarter.
The starters were bottomed early in the fourth, building a 102-91 lead before Lue slotted in Moses Brown, John Wall and Norman Powell with Leonard and Mann midway through the quarter. They kept the game tight until the end.
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/08/clippers-fall-to-hawks-as-losing-streak-grows-to-6-games/ Clippers fall to Hawks as losing streak grows to 6 games – Orange County Register