Clippers see positives ahead despite 6-game slide

Terance Mann can’t remember ever experiencing a six-game losing streak. Not in college or during his three-plus seasons in the NBA.

Nicolas Batum, though, has been in the league long enough to have seen losing streaks longer than the one the Clippers are riding, one that could extend this week.

The Clippers (21-21) dropped their sixth consecutive game on Sunday against Atlanta and will face Dallas (23-18) on Tuesday night and Western Conference-leading Denver (26-13) on Friday. Yet, despite their circumstances – injuries, illnesses, a 33-point loss to the Nuggets last week and a few long faces – the team continues to see positives ahead.

“We still have half the season left to turn it around,” Mann said. “So, you know, anything could happen. I mean, it’s not easy, but what are we going to do? Sulk and be like, ‘Oh, we lost.’ We got another game in two days that we got to try and win.”

Batum, a 15-year veteran, said the team needs to stick together right now and not give up on each other. They can’t point fingers, but they also can’t sit back and take a lackadaisical attitude as the second half of the season progresses.

“It’s not pretty. It’s not easy right now, but we can’t separate ourselves,” Batum said. “So, we’ve got to stick together, stick together tight as a team and we’re going to get back to it. We can’t just relax. We showed some good things (against the Hawks); we just had to finish it. That’s it.”

Not even Coach Tyronn Lue was altogether upset by the 112-108 loss to Atlanta. He said he saw several positives, especially the way the team played on defense, even though the Hawks outscored the Clippers 21-6 over the final six minutes to pull out the victory.

Among the encouraging statistics from Sunday’s loss was that the Clippers outrebounded Atlanta 59-43 (center Ivica Zubac had 18 boards) and had nearly twice as many second-chance points – 21-11.

“Tonight, we had a conscious effort of playing the right way and so I could live with the results,” Lue said. “We have to keep working. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. But I’m encouraged.”

All of that is not to say the Clippers are content being 6½ games (and sliding further back) behind Denver in the standings. All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard said sometimes all it takes is winning one game, or even one possession, to turn around a team’s fortunes.

“Every possession matters,” Leonard said. We need to value every possession on the defensive end or the offensive end. You just keep building that through a 48-minute game and see if we get it to win. And then you move on to the next one, keep it going.”

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His sentiments were echoed by Mann, who added that “it just starts with one game, winning it” then moving on to the next one.

Lue said it’s up to him to find ways to get the team back on track, stay healthy and return to the playoff conversation. The Clippers have had a full healthy roster for just a handful of games this season with Leonard taking at least one game off during any back-to-back set and Paul George dealing with a nagging hamstring injury.

Injuries and illnesses have led to 84 games missed and 15 different lineups this season, including Sunday’s starting five, which had Mann in the backcourt alongside Leonard. The turnstile lineups have led to a win-some, lose-some season.

“Of course, you want to win games, but what our circumstances, what they’ve been all season long, it’s not taking a toll on me,” Lue said. “I have to keep going to the drawing board every night trying to make us better. I have to continue to make sure we are doing the right things on both sides of the basketball and make sure our guys are positive.”


When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Arena

TV/radio: Bally Sports SoCal, 570 AM

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