Funny how winning even a single game can ease the pain of a sore ankle. Clippers veteran Nicolas Batum has a sprained ankle but when asked how he was feeling two days after a six-game losing streak, he said: “We’re on the winning streak so yeah I’m fine.”
The entire team needs that kind of positive outlook when the Denver Nuggets are next on the schedule. The Nuggets, who lead the Western Conference and have the second-best record in the league at 28-13, blew up the Clippers a week ago, beating them by 31 points in Denver.
Their meltdown was so complete that coach Tyronn Lue benched his starters after the first half, saying he and his coaching staff went to the drawing board “three or four times.” However, nothing he tried changed the outcome.
“I felt good going in, but I didn’t feel good afterward,” Lue said Thursday.
The Clippers (22-21) have a chance to avenge that loss when the Nuggets visit Crypto.com Arena on Friday night and give them a chance “to see what we’re made of,” Lue said.
“They beat us by 40 in their homeland. They kicked our ass,” Lue said. “So tomorrow (we have to go in) be ready and have a different mindset.”
Batum, who sat out the game Jan. 5 because of his ankle, called the Nuggets one of the best teams in the NBA at the moment.
“They have the best player in the NBA and they have a great group. So we can’t let them play the way they want,” Batum said. “… It’s definitely not going to be easy because they play so well as a team.”
The Nuggets are led by center Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 24.9 points, 11 rebounds, 9.4 assists and 1.4 steals. But the two-time league MVP isn’t the only player the Clippers need to focus on.
In the previous game, Jamal Murray led a group of seven to hit double digits in the 122-91 win as the Clippers’ defense faltered, particularly when the second unit was down.
Lue included a three guard lineup when the starters are out to give opponents a clear path to the basket. Lue abandoned that pattern Tuesday in the 113-101 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
“When you’re little, you have to be there early to try and stop the boys from getting to the basket at the launch pad,” Lue said. “So we have to get better at that. But I think it starts with our attacking defense, the one-on-one defense.”
The manager also deployed a starting line-up featuring Kawhi Leonard, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac and Nicolas Batum in the last two games – an all-wing lineup. Without a starting point guard (Mann replaced Reggie Jackson), the Clippers were able to pick up a faster pace and outperform their opponents by 12 points.
The Clippers are expected to use this lineup at least until All-Star Paul George (hamstring) and Luke Kennard (ankle) recover. The two received shots during Thursday’s practice, but Lue said he wasn’t sure either would be available on Friday.
“The problem for us is that we’re so small that it hurts defensively,” said Lue. “It hurts us to bounce off the basketball. So just do a few things differently. That doesn’t mean Reggie is done, nothing like that. I’m just looking at some things I can do and throw differently.
“It’s been pretty good the last few games. We just have to see (what happens) how we move forward.”
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/12/clippers-rematch-with-nuggets-is-a-chance-to-measure-up/ Clippers vs. Nuggets rematch is a chance to measure up – Orange County Register