“We’re not a very good basketball team now and we got to change that,” stated Lue exasperatingly.
The Clippers have hovered around .500 in the first half of the season struggling with a number of inconsistencies on their roster. They’ve had to endure a six game losing streak heading into the new year and their performance didn’t seem to be on the right track as their two best players were in and out of the lineup due to injuries and load management.
Kawhi Leonard missed all of last season recovering from a partial torn ACL and has already sat out twenty-one games. Paul George, who played in just thirty-one games last season, has also missed twelves games this year. There hasn’t been much opportunity to build camaraderie or cohesion with Luke Kennard, John Wall and Norman Powell all missing time due to injuries.
Inside the NBA
TNT’s crew of Hall of Famers: Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and two-time NBA champion Kenny “The Jet” Smith spoke about the current state of this Clippers team just a few weeks ago after a blowout loss to Denver.
“What they are doing right now is not going to work,” O’Neal stated.
“At some point you have to establish a rhythm, and they’ve had some really big deficits they’ve come back from and the reason they have these deficits is because roles aren’t defined,” Smith added.
On The Right Track
The past four games have been everything Lue and this organization had envisioned. The Clippers have won four straight for the first time this season after defeating the San Antonio Spurs 138-100 sweeping the season series on Thursday night. The combination of Leonard and George so far has resulted in a 13-7 record. The duo is +96 on the floor together which is an indication of how strong the team is when the two are healthy.
The Clippers latest win over their cross-town rival Los Angeles Lakers 133-115 keeps Lue undefeated (10-0) in their head-to-head matchups since becoming the head coach. Lue has had to concoct various lineups to mix and match to find a recipe for success. Lue has made the decision most notably to go without a traditional point guard in the starting lineup for the past ten games. The championship head coach has tried something out of the box by moving fan favorite Reggie Jackson to the bench and Wall out with an abdominal strain, that strategy has been working.
“It’s been a challenge and we’ve been battling a lot of injuries, but shout out or group we have an unbelievable locker room, but we have a lot more work to do,” George asserted. “We are rolling, playing together, and I think we’re starting to figure it out.”
Hitting Their Stride
Leonard has been averaging 26.7 ppg in the month of January and has been carrying this team with George missing six games. The organization is now 10-4 when George scores 25+ points after his 35 point performance against the Spurs.
The Clippers have shot the ball well from deep over the past two games, going 37-76 from behind the arc with multiple players coming through for them. Head coach Lue credits that to Leonard and George being on the floor consistently when asked about the shot making after the Spurs win.
“PG and Kawhi being able to create for others and when they are on the floor they cause so much attention and it’s getting other guys open shots,” Lue said.
The health of Leonard and George are the key to a championship run with the franchise sitting at 27-24 and currently fifth in the Western Conference. The Clippers believe they can get there with a healthy team. The Clips have a monster six game East Coast road trip coming up with five of the six opponents currently in the playoff picture. The team should be able to return to Los Angeles, knowing quite a bit about who they are.
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