Clippers Trying To Find Their “Mojo” After Recent Stretch
LOS ANGELES – The Clippers are looking for their mojo.
Head coach Doc Rivers believes the Clippers’ recent losses don’t have a common theme and aren’t connected, but after suffering their fifth loss in their last seven games, they’re searching for their early-season ways.
“Tonight was a bad night,” Rivers said after the loss to the Warriors. “We’ll be back tomorrow and watch film and the next day in practice try to get our mojo back, because right now we’re not playing well.”
Wednesday against Golden State, it began with turnovers – nine in the first quarter, to be exact. That’s not a normal occurrence for a Clippers team that, in jumping out to a 14-2 record, committed just 12.1 per game, good for the fifth-best mark in the league.
During the last seven games, however, they’ve committed 14.9 turnovers per game, ranking 21st in the NBA in that stretch.
“Because of the turnovers, I thought we lost a spirit, and we never really regained it,” Rivers said.
That word, “spirit,” got brought up more than once by more than one person following the loss to Golden State.
“Doc was right – our spirit wasn’t right,” Paul said. “Our early turnovers, and me getting an early tech like that, you can’t do that in a game like that.”
That meant playing from behind the rest of the night, which is lethal against the Warriors.
The result was a fifth loss in seven games, leaving the Clippers in search of their “mojo,” or “spirit,” or, as Blake Griffin said, whatever someone wants to call it.
“We haven’t been playing the same type of basketball,” Griffin said. “If that’s what mojo is, then yeah.”
Griffin, Paul and the Clippers will leave the definition of “mojo” to Austin Powers; they’re more concerned about figuring out how to get back to playing the way they did in their franchise-best start to the year.
Paul said that’s a process that started when they lost three in a row on the road.
“As well as we started off the season, you lose three in a row, you still need to know that feeling of winning,” Paul said. “For us, right now, losing that many games – I don’t even know how many it is – but it’s definitely a different feeling than when we were winning those games. We’ve got to find it, and I think we will.”
When they had “it,” they jumped out to a 14-2 record, sitting in the top two in the league in shooting percentage (47.2), steals per game (9.8), offensive rating (111.7) and defensive rating (98.2).
Since their win in Dallas, a 2-5 record followed, during which they’ve been No. 20 in field goal percentage (43.6), No. 25 in steals (6.6), No. 18 in offensive rating (102.8) and No. 14 in defensive rating, in addition to the aforementioned uncharacteristic turnovers of late.
Despite this recent stint, the Clippers are still No. 1 in the league in defensive rating and in the top five in offensive rating, as well as top 10 in field goal percentage, turnovers and steals for the season – all a testament to just how dominant they were early on.
So, how do they get it back?
“We have to be a little bit more resilient,” Griffin said, after also mentioning the intensity the team needs to bring at the start of games.
Along those lines, Jamal Crawford said the Clippers need to get back to being the aggressors, which he said entails a combination of things.
“Defensively disrupting things, not letting teams, kind of, connect the dots,” Crawford said. “Attacking the paint. If somebody gets beat, a physical presence stepping up behind them and somebody rotating for him.”
Rivers added that spacing needs to be better, particularly in transition, to avoid some of the recent turnovers. More than anything, though, J.J. Redick said the Clippers need to get back to having fun through the ebbs and flows of the season.
“The big takeaway for me after the game last night was just, we’ve got to play with some joy,” Redick said Thursday, as the Clippers returned to the practice court. “Basketball’s meant to be fun. We’re serious – you’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to follow the game plan and all that – but I just think we’re better when we play with joy.”
The teams Redick said have won championships recently do a good job of that, and he believes the Clippers can be one of those teams, too, though he felt they weren’t Wednesday night.
Too often, Redick said people and teams get some sort of sweeping generalization made about them, where in reality it’s much more dynamic.
“We tend to (say), ‘OK, this team or this person fits in this compartment,’” Redick explained. “I think over the course of a year things change; they can change quickly, they can change in two weeks. Two weeks ago…we were rolling. So, hopefully we’ll get back to it.”
The easiest way to do that?
“Winning is good,” Redick said. “It goes back to, I think I mentioned this maybe in the last week, but just understanding our identity and playing to that. I think we’re still trying to figure that out, but we’ve got to be good defensively and we’ve got to be sharers on the offensive end. When we do that, we’re good.”