Stopping Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving at forefront of Clippers' Game 2 strategy

The final stats from Dallas’ dynamic backcourt of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving from Game 1 of the playoffs Sunday told one story of how they performed at a high level with a combined 64 points, but the defense the Clippers played against the sensational pair told a story of stick-to-itiveness that resulted in the most important thing:


And because of Terance Mann and Amir Coffey, who started in place of Kawhi Leonard (inflammation in his right knee), the Clippers took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series because those two followed the defensive game plan all the while knowing that Doncic and Irving could erupt at any time.

Doncic finished with 33 points, but he was 11 for 26 from the field and four for 12 from three-point range. Irving finished with 31 points on 10-for-18 shooting that included him going three for six from three-point range.

The task now is to try to slow down Doncic and Irving again in Game 2 on Tuesday night at Arena.

“It’s very challenging,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said before his team’s practice Monday. “You got two of the best scorers in the league on the same team. So, when they’re both on the court at the same time, it’s kind of hard to double-team one guy and leave the other guy. So, you got to pick your poison. I thought for the most part our guys did a good job with executing the defensive plan. We still had I think 26 points that we gave up on game-plan mistakes, which is going to happen throughout the course of a game. But I thought we did it hard, and I thought we tried to do it our best. We just made some mistakes and so we got to be better with that.”

The Clippers were at their best defending Doncic and Irving in the first half.

Doncic was four for 13 in the first half, one for seven from three-point range and scored just 11 points.

Irving was one for six in the first half, missed all three of his three-pointers and had 6 points.

But Irving heated up in the third quarter, scoring 20 points on 8-for-8 shooting.

Doncic got going in the fourth, scoring 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting.

“They’re going to do whatever they feel like doing,” Mann said. “They both play at their own speed, at their own pace. So just like you said, just play tough, be aggressive and try to keep them in front as best you can.”

Irving joked after Sunday’s game that Lue gave Mann and Coffey cues on how to defend the point guard.

Lue and Irving won an NBA title with Cleveland in 2015-16, making the two familiar with each other.

“You going to get a cue and then he’s going to do something else,” Mann said. “So, he’s a smart player and very good player, so I’m sure he picked up on that and started doing the counter.”

“Kyrie is a player that can score at all three levels,” Coffey said. “He could go left, he could go right. So, even with his tendencies, it kind of seems he’s got a counter to everything. So, like I said, just us trying to make it extremely tough for him. Throw some different coverages at him and just make it tough and make ‘em work for every basket.”

Coffey may get the job again and may start again with the uncertainty Leonard will play in the second game.

The plan was for Leonard to practice Monday, but Lue said they were “not doing contact.”

“He’s going to go through practice today and we’ll see,” Lue said.

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