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Calm coach Tyronn Lue gives poise to new-look Clippers

Calm coach Tyronn Lue gives poise to new-look Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyronn Lue (left) said he learned to have a calm demeanor from Phil Jackson, when he played for the Hall of Fame coach from 1998 to 2000 with the Los Angeles Lakers. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Adversity strikes often this season for the Los Angeles Clippers and players think Tyronn Lue is the perfect coach to help them handle the tribulations.

Lue showed exactly why he has the players' trust when the Clippers fought back from an 18-point, first-quarter deficit to beat the Miami Heat on Thursday in Miami.

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"We are going to make mistakes, but we just have to move on and stick together," said Clippers guard/forward Nicolas Batum, who scored 18 points in the 109-105 win.

"That's the strength of this team this year and I love it."

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Players for years have touted Lue's composure on the sideline. LeBron James, who won a championship under Lue 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, once told reporters the "level of calmness" was his favorite thing about his former coach.

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"There is no reason to get too high or too low. It's an even-keel mentality," James said. "It helps us as players when we go out into war [a game]."

Lue says inherited the stoic approach from years of watching former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Jackson coached Lue when he played for the Lakers from 1998-99 to 2000-01.

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On any given night, Lue's Clippers can be up 18 points or down 18 points, and the 43-year-old coach likely sports the same loose body language and unruffled facial expression.

Lue's cool qualities were on full display again Thursday. The Clippers started the game ice cold from 3-point range, while the Heat set the nets ablaze with eight treys in the first 12 minutes.

Lue called a timeout and allowed his players to discuss the struggles amongst themselves before he slowly pulled a chair up between the huddle to listen and exchange ideas. He didn't shout or point fingers, but instead collaborated and determined that his bench could provide a spark of energy.

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Miami led 33-19 in the first quarter and started strong in the second frame before Lue's Clippers -- who played without All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George -- responded. Los Angeles picked up momentum and closed the deficit to two points at halftime before a second-half surge.

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"I told them at halftime: You can' turn down shots," Lue said. "It's hard to make up the points with guys out."

The Clippers -- who made just two 3-pointers in about 16 minutes of first-half action -- made 11 of 22 shots from downtown in the second half. They used a 20-2 run in the third quarter to flip momentum in their favor.

"Obviously all of us are NBA players," Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. said. "It's next man up. I thought coach Lue did a heck of a job of just telling us to play free.

"The 3-point shooting came up big in the second half. We made shots, tried to keep it up and got the win. Everybody contributed."

Morris also was a member of the Clippers team last year that underperformed. The team entered the season among the betting favorites to win the NBA Finals, but lost to the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs.

The team responded by firing veteran coach Doc Rivers in September and promoting Lue, who worked as an assistant under Rivers.

Lue's calmness flows from the bench and into the players on the court. It settles the Clippers when they are overly excited about success or distraught about failure.

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He says his strategy entails being a teacher and coach in practice, but letting players "figure it out" when they struggle in games. He says he's willing to live with the results if he knows he did his best to prepare for a game.

"We are going to compete every night, try to build habits and play the right way on offensive and defense," Lue said.

Lue's approach, and the players' push to build a stronger bond as teammates, has the Clippers in position to compete with the best teams in the NBA.

"I thought we had a great team [last year] and we made some moves," Morris said of Lue's promotion and the team's player transactions this off-season. "I want to be a part of the team that wins the first [Clippers] championship.

"If you have a good team and you don't live up to everyone else's standards, people tend to jump off the ship. We are getting back to where we need to be."

The Clippers (14-5) have won four of their last five games. They face the Orlando Magic at 8 p.m. EST Friday in Orlando.

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"You never get to high or too low," Morris said. "We are just going to keep chipping away and improving our camaraderie and come playoff time we are going to be ready."

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