His two stars have been out with injuries, yet Clippers coach Ty Lue has kept his team moving forward.
Some of his key role players have also been out, yet Lue keeps pushing the rest of the Clippers in the right direction.
Kawhi Leonard has been out all season recovering from right knee surgery and Paul George has missed the last 18 games with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the two marquee players who are the key to the Clippers’ success.
Marcus Morris, the teams’ third leading scorer (15.5 points a game), will miss his third straight game Friday for personal reasons and Nicolas Batum, one of the team’s best defenders and versatile players, has missed 20 games this season with an assortment of injuries and stays in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
The Clippers have had 10 players in the health and safety protocols over the course of this tumultuous season.
But 50 games into the season, they are 25-25.
When asked if he had known before the season started all of this would have taken place and the Clippers would be .500, Lue chuckled before he answered.
“I’ll take it,” Lue said Wednesday night after another comeback victory by the Clippers in Orlando.
The Clippers play at the Miami Heat on Friday night, the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference (31-17).
The Clippers will have their hands full with the Heat, but they would have it no other way.
“I just think we need to continue to keep building, doing the right things on both sides of the basketball,” Lue said. “Like I said, it’s going to be tough. We understand that, and so when you have your two best players out, like I said Marcus has been dealing with what he’s been dealing with, it’s going to be tough. But we just got to find the right combinations and that’s my job.”
Lue has had the steady of hand of starting point guard Reggie Jackson to help steer the Clippers along with center Ivica Zubac.
He’s gotten contributions from youngsters Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, Isaiah Hartenstein and Brandon Boston Jr., and resurgent play from Justise Winslow.
“We’re not going to play well every night being as short-handed as we are,” Lue said. “But the one thing we can do is continue to compete every single night. So, that’s my job is to make sure we do that and like I said, our guys do that every single night.”
The Clippers are in the middle of an eight-game trip that was going to be challenging even if they were fully healthy, and they have made history along the way.
The Clippers rallied from 24 points down to beat the Philadelphia 76ers and then topped that with a 35-point comeback win over the Washington Wizards, the largest in franchise history and tied for the NBA’s second-largest comeback since 1996, when the league started keeping play-by-play stats.
“We knew it was going to be a tough eight games,” Lue said. “But to be 3-2 right now is good for our team, it’s good for the morale, and like I said, different people are stepping up every single night so that’s good to see. And our guys are cheering one another and pulling each other along.”
The Clippers began Thursday in the eighth spot in the West, meaning they would be in a play-in game instead of having secured a playoff spot.
Lue said the Clippers would like to move up in the standings.
“I pay attention to it because we want to be a playoff team and no better feeling with PG and Kawhi being out for long extended periods of time for this young team to come together and make the playoffs,” he said. “That’s a huge step for us and that’s giving our young guys to get playoff experience. … We want to make the playoffs. That’s our goal. We have no reason to lose games and so we understand that and the guys I have in that locker room they understand that. They want to win as well. And so, it’s very important to keep watching the standings and hopefully we can move up.”
When: 5 p.m. PST, Friday.
On Air. – TV: Bally Sports SoCal; Radio: 570, 1220.
UPDATE: The Heat have won eight of 10 games and have done so because of a stingy defense. Miami is giving up just 103.9 points per game, fourth-best in the NBA. Jimmy Butler (21.4), Tyler Herro (20.7) and Bam Adebayo (17.9) are three of the six Heat players averaging in double figures.