Tyronn Lue’s disgust fails to save Clippers from losing to Jazz


There wasn’t much to say, so Tyronn Lue said nothing. A gesture was enough to express his disgust.

The Clippers coach had called a time-out after less than three minutes in the first half, but he didn’t grab a whiteboard or draft a play. Twenty-six down on a Jazz team missing injured starters Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic, more drastic action was needed. Lue simply looked his starters in the eye and waved them off. As Reggie Jackson paused near the free-throw line to speak with an official, Lue pursed his lips and motioned for his starting guard to go to the bench as well.

Then came the reserves of the Clippers and then the defeat of the Jazz, whose lead had grown to 37 at halftime. It was so one-sided, the section so clinical, that the most exciting moment of the first half was watching fans watch where a miniature airship flying around the arena’s upper deck would drop its giveaways. When the Clippers returned from halftime, Lue kept three of his starters on the bench and turned to a lineup that had essentially everyone still healthy or not in the G League, including underused Semi Ojeleye and Rodney Hood.

The 121-92 loss sent the Clippers (36-37) below .500 for the first time since Feb. 17.

Jared Butler scored a game-high 21 points off the bench (44-26) for Utah, and Jordan Clarkson added 20.

Robert Covington scored 18 points to lead the Clippers.

With the Clippers down to eighth place in the Western Conference and two chances in the play-in tournament to advance to the postseason, the stakes for a mid-March blowout would seem relatively, and perhaps understandably, low. But consider how Lue used the final month of last season to polish her off-center pick-and-rolls – a time that turned a set he’d been “disappointed” with up to that point into one which paid off after the season.

Lue is trying to use the final three weeks of this season as another laboratory to buff various weaknesses, test various ideas, rest and prepare for the postseason. But the second-half lineups with Ivica Zubac, Hood and Ojeleye weren’t the kind of lineup experiments anyone expected. No one expected the recovery to come in the form of a caning so swift that Reggie Jackson (seven points), Marcus Morris (five points) and Nicolas Batum (two points) played a combined 39 minutes.

That prospect of progress, even with nine games remaining, is why, contrary to Lue’s message to his starters, this loss couldn’t be waved away. Lue wants to see if his team gets better at driving into the paint and playing at a better pace on offense in the half field.

“We’re kind of doing it in transition, but when we get to half place we’re going to be slow, stagnant, so we have to keep going to the second and third options and not slow down and not stagnate and understand what we’re trying to do and what we’re after search,” he said before the tip.

But the Clippers’ offense was so lifeless, their inability to keep Rudy Gobert and Utah off the attack glass so glaring, that the Clippers rarely had an opportunity to add some finishing touches. Instead they were beaten and rebounded 59-43. Gobert finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds, 10 more than Zubac in any category.

The bad omens first came in the first half when Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Eric Paschall, normally fringe rotation players who have been bolstered by injuries throughout Utah’s rotation, were unstoppable. They finished with 13 and 17 points respectively.

The Clippers opened the fourth quarter with a lazy inbound pass that was intercepted 90 feet from their own basket and that Jordan Clarkson turned into a quick three-pointer for a 40-point lead. Down in the square, Lue didn’t break his stony expression, both arms crossed. Just minutes later, Covington and Luke Kennard became the first Clippers to get a double-digit score. Tyronn Lue’s disgust fails to save Clippers from losing to Jazz

Andrew Schnitker

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