Clippers feeling like they’ve turned a corner ahead of busy week – Orange County Register

The Clippers matched their season-best winning streak with Friday’s victory against the Utah Jazz, ending a losing record in Utah that dates to 2016, and moved beyond .500 for the first time since early in the season.

The players seem to have adjusted to the lineup changes and accepted their roles, having won 8 of 11 games since All-Star veteran James Harden moved in permanently as the starting point guard.

Does this mean that they have turned some sort of corner, where wins and lofty standings await them down the road?

“I think we have a little bit in terms of how we want to play, who we’re playing through, rotations, things like that,” guard Norman Powell said. “I think guys are getting more comfortable in their role and knowing when they’re coming in and out of the game, figuring out the game flow, who they’re on the floor with, spots and things like that.

“So, I think we’ve turned the corner, but I think there’s still a lot of room where we can improve offensively and defensively.”

Translation: they have a long way to go to gain a clearer perspective on what success looks like.

But the Clippers (11-10) can get a glimpse this week as they play four home games, starting with Monday’s contest against the Portland Trail Blazers, who have lost 12 of 15 games, including the past three.  They then face the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks – all winnable games.

“I think just trying to understand how we need to play (has led to the wins),” Lue said. “I think how to keep James, PG (Paul George, and Kawhi (Leonard) in a rhythm, in the flow of the game – that was going to be the hardest part. That was going to be the biggest challenge, understanding how we want to play.

“I think just where our rotations – by getting James out early, bringing him back with the second unit, letting him control that unit, has been really good for us. I think just understanding how we want to play. I think our rotations, who plays well with who, has been really good for us in the last few games.”

Among those who have been playing well are George, who is averaging a team-high 23.4 points, Leonard 22.5 points a game, and Harden at 15.8. Ivica Zubac is contributing 12 points and 9.1 rebounds a game.

To get started on extending their winning streak, the Clippers need to ignore the Trail Blazers’ record (6-15) and come out with the right mindset and focus, Lue said. The Clippers opened the season with a 123-111 victory against Portland.

“They’re playing a lot better basketball than the first game of the season, and they’re playing really fast and the young guys are competing and getting after it,” Lue said. “So, we have to come in there with the right mindset, right physicality, right energy and be ready to run.”

Portland is led by Anfernee Simons, who is averaging 25.3 points, Jerami Grant at 22.1 points and Shaedon Sharpe with 18.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. Rookie Scoot Henderson is contributing 9.4 points and 4.1 assists a game.

“We just got to come in as a unit, ready to match their energy and pace, and be the more physical, dominant team.”

In his first 24 meaningful minutes of the season, Brandon Boston Jr. scored nine points and had three rebounds and four assists with the Clippers’ G League team last Thursday. His totals weren’t game changing as the Ontario Clippers lost, but the outcome was still a plus as far as Lue was concerned.

“He came out healthy. That’s the most important thing,” Lue said.

The third-year wing has not played since Oct. 8 when he suffered an injury to his left quadriceps tendon during the first minute of a preseason game. He is expected to stay with his rehabilitation assignment in Ontario for the next few games.

“He hasn’t played since training camp, so having these reps in the G League to get better, to get his timing back, to get his offensive timing back (is beneficial) because I thought he had a great camp coming out of Hawaii and then unfortunately he got hurt,” Lue said.

“He’s feeling good, he’s healthy. That’s the most important thing. We know his game is going be good so we’re not really worried about that.”

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