LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Clippers have been ineffective amid high stakes during these playoffs. They reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, recovering from 0–2 draws against Dallas and Utah.
Down 0-2 to the Phoenix Suns, they have rallied within a win to tie the series and force Game 7. His resilience can be credited to Tyron Lew, an NBA-best 10-2 at Elimination Games. Coach.
Lew describes being in the playoffs as his “happy place” and he thrives on the necessary chess match moves from game to game.
“Sometimes it’s hard because the adjustment means some people can’t play, some people play more, and you have to be able to accept that,” he said. “It means a lot for those guys to trust me, to understand that whatever I’m doing is best for the team, not for me.”
Lew informs his players ahead of time whether or not they will start the bench. He is quick to hit them with encouragement via texts and phone calls.
Paul George said, “It’s special, I just have a relationship with T,” and T-Lew has a relationship with everyone on this team in general. It says a lot about him.”
Lew has kept calm during the post-season frenzy.
“He always has a chill demeanor,” said Marcus Morris. “It is like having one of my best friends as head coach. This is the best thing about him, he is very open. He allows you to speak. It goes a long way with the players in this league. “
The Clippers’ season is on the line again on Wednesday night against the Suns at Staples Center, leading the series 3-2. Phoenix is the 1-point favorite according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
LA is likely to be without two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who has been ruled out with a right knee sprain. The team did not provide an update on Tuesday about center Ivica Zubac, who was ruled out of Game 5 due to an MCL sprain in her right knee.
The Clippers have proved they can win without those two starters as well as potential starter Serge Ibaka, whose back surgery ended their season. Each of their two wins so far have got 14 points each. Phoenix’s win was a combined 11 points.
“They are one-possession games where they could have gone either way,” Morris said.
Last year, the Clippers gave Denver a 3–1 series lead in the conference semifinals, citing chemistry as the main issue. Doc Rivers was fired and Lew was promoted from the bench to the top position.
It was Rivers who first encouraged a suspicious Lew to take up a head coaching job. Rivers is one of the few high-profile mentors that Lew has had over the years, including Phil Jackson, Scott Skills, and Stan Van Gundy.
Lew honed his ability to tell high-paid superstars what he wouldn’t want to hear in Cleveland, giving him practice dealing with Leonard and George during his first season in charge in LA.
“If they’re doing too much, I’ll let them know,” Lew said of his team. “But I want people to not feel any pressure, just go out there and play their games. This is what has brought them to this point. It’s nice to hear people say positive things (about him), but he has the talent that he has got so far.”
on the verge
Chris Paul has done it all in his career of 16 years.
He is an 11-time All-Star, MVP of the All-Star Game, a four-time All-NBA first-team selection, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
But their playoff fortunes have been mixed. In the subsequent 12 appearances of the season, they made it to the conference finals twice and lost six times in the first round.
Now he’s a game away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time at age 36, but refuses to look any further.
“Until the job is done,” he said. “We can talk about all of that, but right now it’s just laser focus. Three wins doesn’t win a series.”
Deandre Ayton all but disappeared in Game 5, and the Suns will need to engage their big man more if they want to kick off the series in LA.
Ayton had 10 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes, his lowest points since Game 3 of the conference semifinal against Denver. He took only nine shots – his lowest in the series – against a smaller Clippers lineup.
“He has to do a better job to get it,” Paul said. “They were like three guys trying to box him or catch him, so we just had to pick our spots better and be more aggressive.”
Ayton’s two best performances against the Clippers came in Games 1 and 2, when he scored 20 or more points. His “Valley Oop” slam won Game 2 with 0.9 seconds remaining.
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