Despite win, Rivers still wants more

March, 9, 2014
Mar 9
12:37
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers was not happy after the Los Angeles Clippers' season-high seventh straight win on Saturday.

There were no congratulatory messages from the coach as he addressed the team after the game. The usual music blaring from an iPad and players' children running around the locker room was replaced by the booming sound of Rivers' voice.

[+] EnlargeRivers
AP Photo/Gus RuelasDoc Rivers says the Clippers need to continue striving for a stronger identity as they get closer to the postseason.
He lit into his players about execution and turnovers that nearly cost the Clippers a crucial game they led by 11 points with 5:30 left.

"I wasn't real happy with our execution down the stretch of the game," Rivers said. "We won the game, but we wouldn't win a lot of games with the way we turned the ball over and how careless we were with the basketball. Every night you're not going to play well, it's just human, but you can execute well or at least be in the right spots. The turnovers the last three or four games were just too casual."

The Clippers have won those games, but that doesn't always matter to Rivers. He said he's more concerned about the way his team is playing during the final stretch of the season than celebrating a win that would have easily been a loss against most teams in the NBA.

"I don't like turnovers period," Rivers said. "You are going to have some, but a lot of them were not forced. They were way too casual. And I think you have to be a great execution team. That does not mean the plays work defensively or offensively, but it certainly helps when everybody's in the right spot. It gives you a fighting chance. That is the only thing I didn't like."

Rivers didn't want his team celebrating the win because squeaking out a one-point win over the 26-35 Hawks, losers of six straight, isn't going to help them beat teams like Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Houston in the playoffs.

"You're not going to win deep lucky," Rivers said. "You're not going to luck into it. You're going to have to go get it and do it right."

As they got dressed in the locker room, Clippers players began making plans for meeting at the team's training facility to shoot and workout despite no scheduled practice Sunday.

"I almost felt like we lost in that locker room because I think we expect a lot from ourselves," Chris Paul said. "At the end of the day, the name of the game is "win the game." So, obviously we're happy we won, but there are a lot of things that we need to clean up."

Two days after the Clippers handed the Los Angeles Lakers their worst loss in team history, Rivers scoffed at his team having any letdown in the afterglow of a 48-point win in which his starters had most of the second half off.

"What were we up for? I don't understand the letdown, if you know what I mean," Rivers said. "We had a lot of time to rest, and you should be better for the next game. We're finding ways to win with a lot of guys out, so there's always a silver lining in that."

With Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick sidelined, players such as Matt Barnes have stepped up in their absence. Barnes is averaging 17.2 points over his past eight games and is playing with a renewed energy after staying with the Clippers after being rumored to be traded before the trade deadline. But even Barnes had a hard time finding much positive after Saturday's game.

"I just told Blake [Griffin] in the locker room, this is the worst I've felt about a win this season," Barnes said. "It was just a nasty win. We know we have a lot to work on."

Rivers wasn't as concerned about one game and one letdown when he spoke to his players. He wants them to find themselves as a team and trust in the system. There will be games when they play well and lose or play poorly and win, but they will have to play with a consistent purpose and effort that hasn't always been there this season.

"I don't know if you have to play well going into the playoffs, but you have to know who you are going into the playoffs," Rivers said. "Your guys have to trust. You have to know your team and they have to know each other and know their roles. The execution part has to be sound and you can win.

"I think to a man, for the most part, everybody understands what we need them to do. Now you have to do it every night and you have to execute every night. I like where we're at. I just didn't like the way we played tonight."

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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