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Sunday, May 4, 2014
Clippers ready to face Thunder

By Arash Markazi

LOS ANGELES -- When the Los Angeles Clippers returned to their locker room after defeating the Golden State Warriors late Saturday night to advance to the Western Conference semifinals, they were greeted with a spiral-bound scouting report of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Clippers didn't have much time to soak up Saturday's win and recover from a difficult week on and off the court before boarding a flight to Oklahoma City on Sunday.

Chris Paul
Chris Paul survived a seven-game series against the Warriors, but his nagging injuries figure to linger in the next round.
"We've already passed the books out," Rivers said shortly after the game. "They have the Oklahoma books in their lockers. I asked them to go home and read tonight. That's their homework."

The Clippers and Thunder split their four-game season series with both teams claiming a win at home and on the road. The Clippers' win in Oklahoma City in February helped jump-start an 11-game winning streak before they added veterans Glen Davis and Danny Granger after the trade deadline.

Rivers says he believes the keys in this series are to limit turnovers -- something the Clippers failed to do against Golden State as they turned the ball over an average of 14 times per game -- and make life difficult for the soon-to-be MVP Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

"You can't turn the ball over against Oklahoma," Rivers said. "You turn the ball over against Oklahoma, it's almost a guaranteed two, and with Durant it's a three. They're terrific at offensive rebounding. They have length. I think Westbrook is one of the best rebounding guards in our league, so we have to control that. You have to make Durant's baskets hard. He's going to score.

"We already know that, but we don't want him to get easy scores. We want to make it as difficult as possible."

Chris Paul's injured right hamstring and right thumb is expected to continue to be an issue, but it didn't prevent him from having 22 points, 14 assists and four steals in 42 minutes on Saturday in Game 7. There were several times during the game when Rivers wanted to take Paul out, but Paul continued to tell his coach that he was able to play.

"He really showed what he's made of," Rivers said. "Just the character he has. I thought his leadership and his will helped the entire team because they know what he's going through. To give that performance on that stage was huge for us."

Paul's injury will force the Clippers to limit how often he defends Westbrook as other players, such as Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford, will be assigned with the task of trying to limit the Thunder guard.

"I don't know if we'll start that way but clearly with Chris' health we cannot put him on Westbrook for 40 minutes a night," Rivers said. "That would be very tough physically for Chris. That's why we have other players like Darren Collison, who is playing terrific for us. Jamal Crawford could get a piece of it as well. I think there will be multiple players on Westbrook."

The Clippers' route to the second round, just their third in team history, wasn't ideal with everything they had to go through off the court and playing a Game 7, but Rivers says he believes that will only help the Clippers in the long run.

"I just think every time you go through one of those tests, your team gets closer," Rivers said. "They start believing and they start trusting more. We went through the tough battle of Golden State plus the side attraction. That combination is enough adversity for a while."

"We're right where we want to be. No matter how we got there and how much adversity it took to get there. We're here and we're happy."