Going into Game 3, the Clippers felt that most of their errors were self-inflicted. They were making mistakes in the defensive game plan, and those gaffes were allowing the Mavericks to get too comfortable.
That’s why they weren’t worried about despite being down 2-0 heading on the road. The Clippers knew they could fix what they were doing, and it helps that the roster is filled with players who have been in deep playoff runs before who are accustomed to making changes on the fly.
“It’s very helpful to have guys who have been there, who have done it, who have seen it,” Ty Lue said Tuesday. “The playoffs are a game of adjustments; one game, one play can change a series, and we understand that.”
Rajon Rondo has been an important part of that veteran leadership. Rondo has been on a team that was up 2-0 in a playoff series and lost; he’s been on teams that have upset higher seeds; he’s had to recover homecourt advantage as the favorite; he’s seen it all. That’s why Rondo is the perfect person to take the lead when the Clippers are reviewing their film and trying to figure out where to improve. His encyclopedic knowledge of the game and years of experience allow him to find an answer to every problem.
“Rondo and the players, they have a film session where they watch the game together and kind of break it down, different plays, and holding each other accountable for what guys are supposed to be doing,” Lue said. “By the time they get to us, they’ve seen the tape like two times, so when we’re talking and explaining, the guys understand what we’re trying to present and what we’re saying as well. He’s been great. That’s the Rondo I’m accustomed to since I met him in 2009 when I first started coaching in Boston.”
Having veterans around also helps put things in perspective. Unlike Rondo and Kawhi Leonard, most of these older players haven’t succeeded at the highest level. That makes them willing to do whatever it takes to seize the remaining opportunities they have to win a championship.
Reggie Jackson made it to the NBA Finals nine years ago and the conference finals seven years ago, but hasn’t come close since. He’s a couple years removed from barely being able to play because of knee injuries. He appreciates where the Clippers are, which is why a 2-0 series deficit didn’t faze him.
“It’s just been fun, it’s fun to have your number called,” Jackson said. “Anytime you get to play this game, you try to do it with joy and passion and you can go out there, compete and test yourself, it’s a blessing. It’s always a blessing to wake up and do something you love, so I never take it for granted. Just go out here and compete with these great talents on this team, and trying to do something special this year has been exhilarating.”
The Clippers are now in the driver’s seat, but they’re still approaching the next game with the same focus they had back in Dallas. They have years of experience up and down the roster telling them that their situation could once again change in an instant.
More news for Wednesday:
- Shane Young compares 2021 Kawhi to his Finals MVP run in 2019.
- Ricky O’Donnell lists all the injuries that are ruining this year’s playoffs.
- Home teams haven’t seemed to benefit in the 2021 postseason.
- The Pistons are hiring former Cavaliers head coach John Beilein to their front office.
- The Clippers are trying out a new broadcast for Game 5: a Kids Cast!