With his team facing enormous pressure to keep its season and title hopes alive, Ty Lue believes the LA Clippers will show what they are made of in Game 3 on Friday in Dallas.
Trailing 2-0 and having lost home-court advantage to the Dallas Mavericks, the Clippers must halt a five-game playoff losing streak dating back to last year’s postseason.
Lue says the Clippers will show who they truly are with their backs against the wall.
“Most definitely,” Lue said. “I think when you’re down 2-0 and you’re coming into another team’s arena, it shows what you’re made of. Our toughness all year, just trust, sticking together, this is going to show us tomorrow who we are and what we are made of. So I’m excited to see [it].”
While Lue and All-Star guard Paul George said they weren’t concerned after falling down 2-0, the Clippers have been unable to live up to massive championship expectations and are staring at the possibility of another embarrassing playoff failure.
They blew a 3-1 series lead in epic fashion in the second round to the Denver Nuggets last year in the bubble. Determined to change the narrative around their postseason crash, the Clippers haven’t won a playoff game since Game 4 against Denver. The Clippers are the only team in the past 30 postseasons to lose five consecutive playoff games as a favorite, according to data from ESPN Stats and Information.
And the Clippers could be without veteran center Serge Ibaka, who is a game-time decision due to back spasms that had him in pain on Thursday morning, according to Lue.
With or without Ibaka, the Clippers must come with the right mindset in Game 3.
“Urgency is the right word,” Lue said. “Pressure or panic, I don’t believe in that. … [The Clippers have to] understand the urgency and understand what we are trying to do and basically everybody get on the same page. That’s the biggest thing for me. But like I said, we are urgent and we are ready to go. We cleaned up some things we need to clean up.”
The Clippers entered the playoffs not playing their best basketball, choosing to rest players at the end of the regular season. They have looked out of sync and discombobulated on defense. Last year, the Clippers handled the Mavericks in six games in the first round but Lue’s defense has yet to show up in this postseason. Dallas is shooting 50% from the 3-point arc and Luka Doncic is averaging 35 points, 9 assists and 8.5 rebounds in his second postseason against the Clippers. Role players like Tim Hardaway Jr., Jalen Brunson and Josh Richardson have hurt the Clippers in the fourth quarters of the two losses as well.
And the Clippers have started the two setbacks by giving up 33 and 35 points in the first quarters, respectively.
Lue made it clear the Clippers must be the more physical team in Texas this weekend if they are going to make this a series.
“Swing,” Lue said when asked how the Clippers respond after being punched in the mouth by the Mavericks in Los Angeles. “You can’t hit back if you don’t swing. … We’ve got to bring physicality to the game. They’ve definitely been the more physical team, and I don’t know why that is because we talk about that. So in order to throw a punch, you’ve got to swing.”
“We have got to be more physical, we’ve got to swing and we have to come out punching and we can’t keep getting behind the eight ball in the first quarter. We have to be better defensively to start the game. We are well aware of that, and now we have to go out and execute it.”