In the immediate aftermath of Friday’s fall-from-ahead loss against Golden State, Tyronn Lue couldn’t peg what, precisely, is ailing the Clippers’ bench, beyond the obvious: “I know we didn’t make shots, for sure.”

The Clippers’ reserves shot 9 for 23 and scored 20 points. That was 22 fewer than the guys off the Warriors’ bench. And while the Clippers’ starters continued to perform effectively, finishing as plus-7 in the box score of the 115-105 loss, the reserves were minus-17.

It reflected a trend that’s at odds with recent Clippers seasons, when their bench was among their most effective features (resulting in back-to-back-to-back Sixth Man of the Year winners).

Not so much this season, at least not yet: Through 10 games, Clippers reserves are a league-worst minus-5.3, which is to say they’ve been outscored by 53 points.

Last go-round, with Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell leading the bench production, Clippers reserves were a third-best plus-2.0. The year before that? Plus-1.1, which ranked sixth.

It’s a consequence, Lue said, of some ongoing, early tinkering.

“We just go to figure out the right combinations, see who’s playing well together, whether or not we want to stagger PG (Paul George) and Kawhi (Leonard) like we did the first seven, eight games. Just trying to figure out the rotations, and who plays best with who,” the Clippers’ new coach said before Friday’s loss, in which his team gave up a 22-point third-quarter lead, including letting 10 points evaporate in the final 2:19 of the third quarter, when Leonard was the only starter on the floor.

“We are going to figure that out,” Lue added. “It is a good problem to have, especially when you can get Marcus (Morris) back, who has been a starter and now is coming off the bench. You have that kind of talent coming off the bench, it adds a different dynamic to your team.”

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Morris returned from right knee soreness Wednesday and made his first three shots; since then he’s gone 2 for 13 as he gets acclimated to his new role.

But he isn’t the only one finding his way.

Williams’ shooting averages – 43.2% from the field and 39.1% from 3-point range – are on par with recent seasons. But under Lue, the 34-year-old, three-time Sixth Man of the Year is averaging just 20.3 minutes per game, about eight fewer than last season. And it shows: He’s averaging about eight fewer shot attempts and just 8.9 points per game – in single digits (for now) for the first time since 2006-07.

With Williams’ former running mate Harrell now working for the team down the hall, Ivica Zubac has slotted in at the backup center position. Despite flashes of what could be a beautiful working relationship with Williams, and the notion that the former starter conceivably could feast on second-string opposition – Zubac’s contributions haven’t been especially robust.

Zubac is averaging 17.9 minutes off the bench – down form 18.4 as a starter last season. Although he’s shooting 71.1% from the field, …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News


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