Clippers hope to bounce back in encore at OKC

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Clippers veteran Nico Batum had a message for the team’s fans after Tuesday’s 14-point loss to the previously winless Oklahoma City Thunder.

“We’re going to take some time for sure, fan base, relax,” Batum said. “We know it’s not easy. It’s not cool to watch a game like that and we love the support but we’ll be OK.

“We’re going to find a solution and be OK. We have a good staff, perfect coach for that.”

The Clippers take a two-game losing streak into Thursday’s second of a two-game set in Oklahoma City.

Los Angeles was without Kawhi Leonard (injury management), Paul George (non-COVID illness) and Marcus Morris Sr. (personal reasons) in Tuesday’s game. Leonard and Morris are expected to miss Thursday’s game, while George could return.

Leonard’s absence was the most concerning, as he was expected to play in Tuesday’s game before being held out with stiffness in his surgically repaired right knee. Leonard missed all of last season after tearing his ACL.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Leonard wanted to play.

“We want to be cautious, make sure we’re doing the right thing by him,” Lue said.

Leonard was expected to return to Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The Clippers were outrebounded 60-47 by Oklahoma City. The disparity helped the Thunder pull off their first win of the season despite shooting just 4-for-30 (13.3 percent) from behind the 3-point line.

OKC’s 3-point percentage was the fifth-lowest by a winning team with at least 25 attempts in a game in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Meanwhile, Clippers guard Reggie Jackson was 4 of 17 from the floor in the loss and is shooting just 30.6 percent through four games. A career 13-point scorer, Jackson’s averaging 7.8 points per game so far.

“We’re still trying to figure out how to get everybody going, how to get the ball moving, just how to continue to get good shots and really pick up our defensive effort but I’ve got to be better all around,” Jackson said. “It starts with me and that’s something I’ve got to do.”

The Thunder are hoping to build off their strong defensive performance that helped them overcome their atrocious 3-point shooting for win No. 1.

“We know for us to win games, and for us to be what we can be, we have to get stops,” Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said.

Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault has shuffled the lineup frequently so far this season, trying to find combinations that work while finding areas of improvement in a team focused more on long-term development than short-term on-court success.

“We just try to create, like, an extremely ruthless consistency with our approach and just trust that if we do that, the guys will improve, the players will grow as they gain experience, things will slow down, their bodies will get stronger,” Daigneault said. “And we just trust in that deal.”

While Gilgeous-Alexander returned for Tuesday’s game after missing the previous game with a hip contusion, Josh Giddey remains out after suffering an ankle injury in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota.

–Field Level Media

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