It is plain to see that the LA Clippers are in the midst of one of the most difficult stretches in recent team history. After starting the season 3-1, they have dropped six consecutive contests to fall all the way to 12th in the Western Conference standings.
Clearly, adjusting to life with James Harden has been more than a little difficult for both Head Coach Tyronn Lue as well as the players. Not having a backup center has not helped either, though the Clippers are on their way to solving that issue.
Surprisingly enough, LA's loss to Denver on Tuesday night was largely a product of them repeating an egregious mistake they have made in the past. With the best player on the planet on the floor for the Nuggets, the Clippers stayed with their small ball lineup.
They did not attempt to slow down Nikola Jokic with bigger players. As a result, life was easier for Jokic than usual and he allowed Denver to emerge with the win.
The Clippers ruined their chances by not going big against Jokic
Several fans on social media noted that this was the same tactic that caused the Clippers to blow a 3-1 lead against this same Nuggets squad four seasons ago in the playoffs. When LA took Ivica Zubac out of the game, it gave Jokic more opportunity to dominate.
The same situation occurred on Tuesday night. Zubac exited the game with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter, and was not subbed back in until there were 13 seconds left in the game. In the time that he was on the bench, Jokic scored or assisted on 16 Nuggets points.
Lue's decision to remove Zubac from the game had to do with foul trouble, as he did not want to lose his big man for good due to fouling out. But with Zubac remaining out until 13 seconds left in the game, he may as well have fouled out anyway.
Figuring out how to manage minutes when fouls become an issue is another thing the coaching staff will have to improve on. Fortunately, adding a backup center should provide some immediate relief the next time this situation crops up.