Doc Rivers was 27 years old, smack dab in the middle of his 12-year NBA career, when Jerry Sloan was hired as head coach of the Utah Jazz, which made Sloan's resignation Thursday all the more difficult to fathom for Rivers.
"I was too shocked to have a reaction; it caught us all off guard, it caught me off guard," said Rivers. "It's kind of sad for the league, [Sloan has] been such a stable guy in the league. He’s been there like this rock and suddenly the rock is gone. Like the franchise moved or something. It's just strange."
Even stranger is the fact that, with Sloan's departure, Rivers is now the second-longest tenured coach in the NBA. Hired on April 29, 2004, Rivers sits behind only San Antonio's Gregg Popovich (hired by the Spurs on Dec. 10, 1996).
"That’s sad," said Rivers. "But it's got nothing to do with me. We're just so used to having him here in the league. The fact that he’s walking away, [longtime assistant] Phil [Johnson] as well -- I don’t think people realize how long Phil's been with him -- and both of them are leaving. In a lot of ways, it’s just, we’ll have to get used to it."
Rivers recounted how, after Wednesday's practice, he did an interview with a local reporter about the longevity of coaches and Sloan's name naturally came up.
"They asked me: How long do you think he’s going to coach?" said Rivers. "I said I had no idea, but that’s the greatness of Jerry, he’ll wake up one day and say, 'I’m out.' I didn’t know it was going to be [Thursday], but I said that [Wednesday]. It's kind of eerie in a way."
--MILESTONE NIGHT FOR ALLEN, BUT STRUGGLES AFTER--
About that whole "Kobe Stopper" label we slapped on Ray Allen after a phenomenal fourth-quarter effort in Boston's win in L.A. last month. It might have been premature.
Matched up with Allen in the fourth quarter of the first meeting, Bryant labored through 2-of-7 shooting (28.6 percent) while generating only four points. On Thursday, Bryant owned the matchup as, according to ESPN Stats and Info, he connected on 4-of-6 shots (66.7 percent) while scoring eight points to help the Lakers pull away late.
Of course, there's no guarantee that anyone could have slowed Bryant on this night, especially not a player plagued by foul trouble, as Allen was.
“Well, once he saw there was a chance to win, Kobe was going to be Kobe," said Rivers. "I think we knew that a week ago. And, he also knew that we had foul problems on the floor and he was aggressive. Kobe didn’t win the game with his offense. Kobe won the game today with his defense. I thought, defensively, he was absolutely phenomenal. He was everywhere. He was trapping, he was helping, you know off Rondo all night, and trapped the post, blocked shots. He just had a great floor game to me more than just scoring."
It wasn't just Allen's defense that struggled. According to ESPN Stats and Info, his offense faded as well. After hitting his record-breaking 3-pointer late in the first quarter, Allen missed four of the final five jumpers he took.
"That’s what’s so upsetting. Those same [first-quarter] looks could have been there in the second half, but obviously his foul trouble hurt him, and hurt his rhythm," said Rivers. "But the ball was moving in the first half and that’s how he got shots.”
Boston generated 16 first-half assists, and settled for only nine in the second half.
"We just didn’t move the ball like we did in the first half," said captain Paul Pierce. "I thought the ball kind of stuck there in the second half instead of running our offense and moving the ball, we shot 50 percent [in the first half]. That’s what happens. Then they came real aggressive in that third quarter and we just didn’t come out aggressive.
"That third quarter really hurt us. We come out, gave up a 3 and then the 3-point play to start off. Then it seems like the Lakers get hot and you know what they are capable of. We just didn’t play with the same urgency in the second half like we did in the first.”
--LOOSE BALLS: PIERCE FEELING BETTER; WHY HARANGODY DIDN'T GET IN--
* Pierce missed practice Wednesday due to illness, but said it didn't affect him in Thursday's game. “I don’t think I was bothered at all," said Pierce, who finished with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting with four rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block over 39:47.
* Rivers on if he considered utilizing rookie forward Luke Harangody with Boston struggling on the glass: "I did. But I just thought the size, as good of a rebounder as Luke is, you’re playing a very long basketball team and, if it were an issue where rebounds were on the floor that we could have gotten to, then Luke would’ve been great. But the rebounds tonight were above the rim, and, whenever you play the Lakers, the rebounds are above the rim because of their length, and that was a factor."
* Von Wafer, who logged 20 minutes of action with Boston's roster depleted, chipped in eight points on 3-of-6 shooting. Asked about his effort after the game, he keenly noted: "I played basketball. I just played basketball. That’s what I do. That’s what I get paid to do.”
* Lakers coach Phil Jackson on key differences between the first and second halves: "We changed ends, that’s one thing that changed," he deadpanned.