Tyronn Lue remained optimistic in his post-game press duties, but his mood is becoming less and less reflective of a fanbase still asking questions about whether this team is good enough to achieve its aims this season and even beyond.
Here are the takeaways…
The starting lineup
The Clippers started off well. While there wasn’t a ton of scoring in their starting lineup, having a variation of the ‘Wingstop’ lineup that a vocal majority of fans have been crying out for gave them the impetus on defense that can suffocate opponents.
Ty Lue on the starting lineup change:— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) January 9, 2023
"I like it. Just defensively we were really good. Still learning how to play with T Mann at the point guard position. ... Overall I thought it was pretty good."
Terance Mann brought the energy at the point guard position and brought optimism that him playing at the one could be revisited when the team is back to full health, where Paul George would be able to carry that extra offensive burden to set the team up for a run.
What happened from there (twice) was ugly…
That second quarter
This team seems to be getting worse in the second frame of games, and it has become deeply concerning at this point. They gave up 41 points to Atlanta during that period and went away from everything that made them tough to break down early in the first quarter.
Coach Lue’s decision to flip from a big lineup to a five of Jackson-Wall-Powell-Mann-Brown was an absolute momentum killer and once again the deficit they gave up just before halftime proved insurmountable as they tried to run through the tape to end the game.
Reggie Jackson— Joey Linn (@joeylinn_) January 9, 2023
The Clippers looked good to start, but this lineup unsurprisingly killed every bit of momentum.
One decision in particular proved to be the death of the Clippers…
The lack of minutes for Terance in the fourth and the decision to ride out a bad scoring night from Norman Powell in particular pulled the rug out from under the team just when they had wrestled the momentum back.
Nobody would begrudge Lue doing some experimenting with the team throughout the season to see what works and what doesn’t. However, the commitment to go away from things that are clearly working in favor of things that definitely aren’t – whether a genuine attempt to fix them or not – is not allowing this squad to get the kind of reps they need to have established come the postseason.
For too long, making the playoffs has been treated like a foregone conclusion by those in and around the franchise, but if they’re not careful the Clippers may find themselves at too much of a disadvantage against the top teams in the West.