Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin
“I actually like the way we’re playing,” Rivers said after the Clippers lost to the Atlanta Hawks 107-104 on Monday.
“I think we’re very close to going on an amazing run," he said. "I can feel it, and I can see it. We’re just not pulling them out right now. You just keep building."
The Clippers have been within striking distance in each of their past five losses, which have all come on the road during a stretch of eight games in 12 days, including four games in five nights in four different time zones. The Clippers had been on a nine-game win streak before this stretch, and Rivers believes the Clippers can start another streak with the team returning home to play nine straight games at Staples Center.
“I just think we’re playing well,” Rivers said. “I think we’re very close. We’re clearly scoring the ball. I think we have to fix some things defensively which are very fixable, and we’re going to go on a run.”
Rivers bristled at the notion that he should be concerned with how the team is playing and where they currently stand in the West (sixth, five games behind Golden State). Rivers has never put much stock in early regular-season results, and he’s not going to start now.
“No. I’m fine with the way we’re playing,” Rivers said. “It was a tough trip. I’m not going to over-analyze it. We lose a couple of games, and guys are tired. They played hard, and we’re in most of them. You’re not going to win them all. It’s disappointing because you lose two close ones where you had a chance to win the game, but we keep having these stretches where teams are making runs. It could be a lot of things. We’ll get it figured out.”
Rivers believes the main thing the Clippers have to figure out is how to play more consistent defense. They have given up at least 100 points in five straight games and nine of their past 11 games, and that needs to change if the Clippers are to go on a win streak when they return home.
“Our defense has to be better, especially at the beginning of the game,” Chris Paul said. “I think right now we’re just trying to outscore teams. That starts with me. I think we gave up 31 in the first quarter. That’s been consistent for us. When teams start games like that, they really start to get confidence.”
Throughout this run, Blake Griffin has said he has seen glimpses of the team the Clippers can be, but they have yet to put it all together on the same night. The same was true Tuesday in a game that was almost a carbon copy of Monday’s loss in San Antonio.
“In stretches, we’re doing some things well and doing some good things, but you have to put it all together,” Griffin said. “I am encouraged. We’re playing here and there. A loss is a loss. They feel the same way, but it’s disappointing that we were so close.”
Rivers hasn't shied from shining a spotlight on the Clippers’ difficult schedule over the past three weeks, but as he talked to reporters while the team’s flight home was delayed, he was tired of blaming the schedule and fatigue, hurdles most teams face during the course of the season.
“It is what it is. That’s OK,” Rivers said. “Adversity’s good. You get through it, and you learn from it and get tougher, so to me, bring it on. Adversity is good. Deal with it.”
Although most of the players in the Clippers locker room were frustrated Tuesday that they were so close to another win, Rivers thinks that will eventually fuel a fire that he could see being lit this week.
“At the end of the day, our guys are playing well,” Rivers said. “When you factor in fatigue and how hard they’re playing, I’ll live with this team all day. You can just feel it. It’s coming. I don’t know when, but it’s coming, and when it comes, we’re going to be in great shape.”
The Clippers' current salary is slated to be $73,660,731 if Glen Davis, Darren Collison and Danny Granger opt out, as ESPNLosAngeles.com reported they will. That figure also includes their first-round draft pick (No. 28) and empty roster charges.
"Let's say they dump Jordan, Crawford and Dudley, and also get rid of the No. 28 pick while they're at it," Coon said. "They'd then be at $53,625,152. This assumes that all assets are dumped for future considerations only, with no salary coming back to the Clippers. The team would need to get down to $42,540,368 to make LeBron a max offer. They're over $11 million short."
So there's no chance?
"If they also dump Reggie Bullock and Matt Barnes for nothing, they will get down to $50,042,854," Coon said. "That's still about $8 million short. So there's still no way. This also presumes the Clippers will be able to dump five players with no salary coming back, which is a pretty tall order."
So let's review: If the Clippers somehow found a way to trade Jordan, Crawford, Dudley, Barnes, Bullock and their first-round pick to teams with cap space and acquired no salary back, they'd still be $8 million short of offering James a max deal. Oh, and they'd also have only four players under contract.
The only realistic path to the Clippers for James would be a trade in which the Clippers sent Griffin to Miami. Griffin had always been considered "untouchable" when Donald Sterling was the owner, and that stance has not changed with Doc Rivers in charge of basketball operations, according to a report by ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne on Tuesday.
Even if the Clippers completed a sign-and-trade that sent Griffin to Miami for James after he re-signed to a maximum deal, Coon said the Clippers' cap would be about $74 million and hard-capped at about $81 million, leaving just $7 million to fill out the rest of the roster. That's essentially $7 million for about six players, including their draft pick.
If James is dead-set on getting a max deal or anywhere near a max deal, the chances of him coming to Los Angeles to play with the Clippers seem remote at best. But if he's willing to take a big pay cut to join Paul, Griffin and Rivers in Hollywood, well, there's a chance.
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul was able to look around the room this time.
The blank stare that had come over his face after his nightmarish final seconds in Game 5 had been replaced by the angry glare that comes with an early vacation he has become all too familiar with in his nine seasons in the NBA.
As Paul faces a long offseason with more questions than he cares to answer about the team to which he has committed at least the next three years of his career, he will enter his 10th season in the league having never made it past the second round of the playoffs after the Los Angeles Clippers were eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-98 in Thursday’s Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Paul took the loss particularly hard. He blamed himself for the team’s collapse in Game 5 after two crucial turnovers and a foul helped give the Thunder an improbable comeback victory. He also put the blame on his shoulders for the Clippers’ inability to hold a 16-point first-half lead in an elimination game at home.
He tried his best to hold back tears as he said goodbye to his teammates for the last time this season in the locker room. Paul has been around long enough to know he can’t take playing on teams this talented, and for a coach like Doc Rivers, for granted. This was his best shot at winning a title, or at least getting to his first conference final, and it ended at the same stop it had in the past.
“It's tough,” Paul said. “You don't get a chance to be on teams like this that often, you know. Oklahoma City absolutely deserves it. We had a really, really good team, a great team. Before the game, Doc talked about it. I told somebody at halftime: It's crazy -- you play all season long, and the last few games we really started to figure out who our team was and how to play. And it's crazy that it's over. Man, we really do have a great team, a collective group of players. It's tough to realize that it's over again.”
The sting of this loss, however, was compounded by more off-the-court drama than any one team should ever have to deal with. It began three weeks ago when TMZ released a racist rant by Donald Sterling, which led to the league to ban the Clippers owner for life and begin the process of forcing him to sell the team.
It’s a story that continues to grow and change every day, completely overshadowing the greatest season in Clippers history and muddying the waters of what could be a bright future.
It’s a harsh reality that Paul wasn’t ready or willing to face in the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s loss.
Paul’s teammates consoled him on the bus ride to the airport after Tuesday’s loss and called him and texted him after the team got back to Los Angeles. Paul is the leader of the team, but his fellow Clippers could tell that he was in need of something more than a pat on the back after what he called the worst loss of his basketball career.
“It’s probably the toughest thing basketball-wise that I’ve ever been through,” said Paul, who had 25 points and 11 assists Thursday. “I don’t know. It felt like the only way I could get it out of my mind was to play again. I got a great group of teammates that texted me all night last night and yesterday -- and it’s going to hurt for a while because we should have been here up 3-2 with a chance to close it out. It’s a long summer, I can tell you that much.”
Despite being regarded as the best point guard in basketball and one of the top five players in the league, Paul has mostly gotten a pass when it comes to his postseason résumé. While it appears to be championship-or-bust for the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, Paul has been able to distinguish himself as one of the game’s greats despite never making it past the second round.
That was largely because he never had a championship coach or a championship supporting cast worthy of going further than he took them. That all changed this season, and so will the criticism that will come his way after this loss. He has a championship coach in Rivers. He has a supporting cast that includes Blake Griffin, who finished third in this season's MVP voting, DeAndre Jordan, who finished third in defensive player of the year voting, and Jamal Crawford, who won sixth man of the year.
Paul will turn 30 next year and fully realizes that talking about growth after an early exit in the playoffs is no longer acceptable.
“I'm going to prepare every offseason like I always do,” Paul said. “This ain't tennis. It ain't just me. We don't play one-on-one. It's not just to get out of the second round, it's to win a championship. I don't know anybody in our league that plays for the finals, for the Western Conference finals. That's not enough.”
Rivers wasn’t ready to talk about Paul’s legacy after the game, focusing on this as Paul’s first missed opportunity at a title but certainly not his last chance.
“It's just this time, as far as I'm concerned,” Rivers said. “I don't look at it as another time for them. We got out of the first round, advanced. We had a chance in this series, clearly. I just feel awful for him. Just point-blank, I do. He's the spirit of our team. Right now his spirit is broken. He's going to have all summer to work and get ready for next year, but he'll be back. He'll be ready. He'll be better next year.”
Rivers believes the Clippers finally found themselves at the end of a roller-coaster season that played out like a dysfunctional reality show on national television the past three weeks.
“I think we started coming together, but time ran out,” Rivers said. “I was around Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] a lot and Duke basketball. You know exactly what Duke basketball is because he's been there forever. Early in the year, I heard 'Clipper basketball,' I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ We're trying to figure out what that is. I thought during this playoff series, we started figuring out exactly like what Clipper basketball is and will be. I just kept thinking, ‘Man, if we can get through a couple more games, we're there.’ You can feel it. And time ran out. That's the tough part.”
Time ran out on the Clippers’ season late Thursday night, but if they can survive what is sure to be an eventful offseason, at least off the court, perhaps they will finally be able to showcase what Clippers basketball is, and will be, on the court.
LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers was beside himself after the Clippers’ Game 5 loss. He said the referees "robbed" the Clippers of the game and that awarding the ball to the Oklahoma City Thunder toward the end of the game on a controversial replay was a "series-defining" call.
It ended up being just that.
On Thursday night, the Thunder closed out the Clippers 104-98 to advance to the Western Conference finals, in which they will meet the San Antonio Spurs.
The Clippers were in control for much of the game, going up by 16 in the first half and 11 in the third quarter before the Thunder took their biggest lead of the game late in the fourth quarter. OKC was able to fend the Clippers off for the win, putting an end to the season for L.A.
How it happened: The question coming into Game 6 was how the Clippers would respond to the Game 5 loss. They answered much of any doubts early, taking a 14-point lead in the first quarter and a 16-point lead before halftime. They controlled the pace and tempo of the game and basically did what they wanted to do offensively. The Clippers led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter and looked like they would force a Game 7. Then, the Thunder tied the game at the end of the third quarter and, in the fourth quarter, took their first lead since the first quarter. OKC went up by as many as 10 points before holding off a late Clippers rally for the win.
What it means: The Thunder win the series in six games and advance to the Western Conference finals to play the Spurs.
Hits: Blake Griffin had 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists before fouling out of the game with 2:27 left in the game. Chris Paul had 25 points and 11 assists, while J.J. Redick scored 16. DeAndre Jordan added nine points and 15 rebounds.
Misses: On a night when the Clippers were trying to extend their season and force a Game 7, they needed more from more players. They needed Matt Barnes to go better than 4-for-14 for nine points. They needed Jamal Crawford to score more than four points off the bench. And they needed Danny Granger to do, well, anything (0-for-3 for a single point).
Stat of the game: The Clippers dominated the Thunder in points in the paint (52-28), which was a goal coming into the game that didn’t matter in the end.
Up next: The Clippers season is over, and they will have the next five months to regroup, recover and reload before training camp starts.
But they weren't satisfied with just tying the series. The message from the coaching staff was simple: Steal another one in Oklahoma and put yourselves in a position to close out the series back home.
It looked as the Clippers were about to do exactly that for much of Tuesday's Game 5 ... before the Oklahoma City Thunder repaid the Clippers with a comeback that was just as improbable in a 105-104 win.
With the Clippers leading 104-97 with 44 seconds left, the Thunder closed with an 8-0 run, including three free throws by Russell Westbrook to clinch the win and take a 3-2 series lead.
How it happened: After sleepwalking through the first quarter of Sunday's game, falling behind by 22 points nine minutes in, the Clippers took a 15-point lead in the first quarter Tuesday and controlled the tempo and pace for most of the game, despite having multiple players in early foul trouble. The Clippers never trailed in the second half until the final seconds, when Westbrook's free throw put the Thunder ahead for good.
What it means: The Thunder have taken a 3-2 series lead and can clinch the series with a win Thursday in Los Angeles.
Hits: Blake Griffin had his first double-double of this season's playoffs, finishing with 24 points and 17 rebounds. Chris Paul had 17 points and 14 assists, Matt Barnes posted 16 points and 10 rebounds, Jamal Crawford tallied 19 points off the bench and J.J. Redick scored 16.
Misses: After being the star of Game 4 with 12 points in the fourth quarter, Darren Collison had only one point in 10 minutes Tuesday and was a team-worst minus-15 while on the court. Meanwhile, Paul had a game-high five turnovers.
Stat of the game: The Thunder outscored the Clippers on points in the paint (44-22) and had the Clippers' big men in foul trouble for most of the game.
Up next: The Clippers will play host to the Thunder in Game 6 at 7:30 PT Thursday night at Staples Center, as L.A. looks to stay alive in the series.
“You mean in the four times,” Rivers said. “Any of those stats don’t matter. If you said the Lakers or the Celtics, then that would matter. With us, at least those historical playoffs things, [it doesn’t resonate] here.”
It’s no secret the Clippers don’t have much of a playoff history. Even if they were to win Sunday’s Game 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Clippers have lost five of six best-of-seven series when tied 2-2. And they have never advanced past the second round.
Doc Rivers cares less about the Clippers' meager playoff history and more about the tough lessons his players are learning in their series against the more-grizzled Thunder.
Yes, the Clippers have made great strides. But they still have yet to win more than one game in the second round.
There is only one player on their roster -- Glen Davis -- who has won a title, and he’s a reserve. Only one starter -- J.J. Redick -- has played in the NBA Finals.
At some point, the Clippers believe, they can get to the conference finals and the Finals and win a title. But their lack of experience in these moments is often exposed while going up against an Oklahoma City team that has enjoyed repeated success over the past five seasons, including a trip to the Finals.
“That’s the one advantage Oklahoma has had on us,” Rivers said. “They have several guys that have been all the way to the Finals, and they get it. They get the urgency of every single possession. We’ve been in and out of that throughout the playoffs. For us to keep going, we have to get that every-possession urgency.
“Offensively we scored 112 points [Friday], but we took off 15 possessions where we were running it but we weren’t running it crisply. We didn’t get to the right spots; we took shortcuts. Those are the things you just can’t do, and I think our guys are quickly understanding that. That point alone was beaten into us.”
It’s all part of the process and growth Rivers has talked about with the Clippers since arriving last summer. As much as he wanted to win a title in his first season, he also wanted the Clippers to take strides in learning how to become championship contenders.
When Rivers heard Paul call Game 4 a “must-win” game, he said that’s how Paul and the Clippers should approach every game and every possession in the postseason.
“I think Games 1, 2 and 3 were must wins,” Rivers said. “I honestly think that’s the urgency you have to play with in the playoffs, and I think we’ve been in and out of that. That’s, right now, the lessons we’re learning. You can still keep getting better through the playoffs. That’s why you don’t panic. You keep getting better and you keep pushing. There’s growth with every team.
“Miami will grow during the playoffs. You grow during the playoffs. You learn. You get beat and you learn, and you get better or you go home; it’s one of those two things. That’s part of the process. You have to be willing to take it, understand it, process it and move on.”
Despite being down 2-1 in their series against Oklahoma City, the Clippers weren’t too concerned after practice on Saturday. L.A. was down 1-0 to the Golden State Warriors and won its first-round series.
The Clippers also showed they could win on the road -- twice, including a Game 7 -- two years ago against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Clippers still feel good about their chances versus OKC, but those hopes largely rely on tying the series up on Sunday here at home.
“We put ourselves in a hole, but we just have to correct some of our mistakes,” Blake Griffin said. “We came back from this situation down 1-0. It has turned, but it’s not like we’re down 3-0. We’re down 2-1 and we got another game at home.
“We need to correct our mistakes, but it’s nothing to hang our heads about or be down about. We have a chance to even it up Sunday.”
LOS ANGELES -- After two lopsided games for both teams to start the series, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder were due for a close game that would finally live up to the hype preceding this series.
That’s exactly what happened Friday, as the Thunder took a 2-1 series lead with a 118-112 win over the Clippers.
In a game that saw 13 ties and 19 lead changes, the Thunder were able to pull away late and take control of the game and the series, thanks to Kevin Durant’s 36 points and Russell Westbrook’s near triple-double of 23 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds.
How it happened: It was a seesaw game for most of the night with exchanging leads as the stars played like it for most of the evening. While Durant and Westbrook will get the headlines, the Thunder are at their best when their role players have big nights; and they did Friday. Serge Ibaka scored 20 points, Reggie Jackson posted 14 points and former Clipper Caron Butler also had 14.
What it means: The Thunder have taken a 2-1 series lead and can take a commanding 3-1 lead Sunday before the series returns back to Oklahoma City.
Hits: Chris Paul had 21 points and 16 assists and was far more aggressive than he was in Game 2 -- but still not what he was in the Game 1. Blake Griffin had his best game of the series, finishing with 34 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Matt Barnes had 14 points, and Jamal Crawford, fresh off his Sixth Man of the Year award, had 20 points.
Misses: After playing well in the first two games of the series, J.J. Redick was a nonfactor in Game 3, finishing with three points after missing his first five shots and going 1-for-6 from the field. Glen Davis also was a liability when he was on the court, finishing with two points and with plus/minus of minus-12.
Stat of the game: The Thunder had the advantage in points in the paint (52-48), rebounding (44-33) and fast-break points (19-14). Throughout most of the game, Oklahoma City held the advantage when it came to hustle plays and 50-50 balls.
Up next: The Clippers will take on the Thunder in Game 4 of their second-round series at 12:30 p.m. PT on Sunday in Los Angeles.
What Rivers was referring to, however, had nothing to do with anything off the court. It was about the way the players responded when things didn't go their way on the court.
After getting through the ultimate "emotional hijack" off the court, finding a way to win Game 7 of their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors and blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the second round, the Clippers actually let the on-court distractions get the best of them in a 112-101 loss in Game 2 on Wednesday.
"The playoffs are a single-possession game," Rivers said. "Every single possession, you have to have great focus and you have to be locked in. Today we were not. I thought it was because of all the clutter today. We were upset at the officials, we were upset at everything, instead of turning our anger toward the opponent and focus. Tonight we just didn't have it, but I've got to give them credit. I don't know if we didn't have it or they took it from us. I thought they were very good tonight. They were physical, they moved the ball, so give them a lot of credit."
The Clippers were still talking about some of that clutter after the game, amazed in particular that Chris Paul got a technical at the end of the game while he was sitting on the bench.
"I don't know, man," Paul said when asked about the technical, smiling and looking off to the side. "Did you see it? What did you get from it? I'm going to save my money, man. He already got $2,000 with the tech."
Paul, however, did admit the Clippers had to do a better job of getting past calls with which they don't agree and focus on playing their game, which they did not do Wednesday.
"We got to be better," Paul said. "We can't worry about the bad whistles. You start off the game with bad turnovers, and me and the ref get a foul and then I get another one and go to the bench. You could tell it was going to be a long night."
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Los Angeles Clippers came into Oklahoma City looking to steal one game and home-court advantage. After doing that Monday night, the Clippers were looking for something more on Wednesday night that would never materialize.
The Oklahoma City Thunder avoided dropping their first two home games to the Clippers and tied up their second-round playoff series at 1-1 after claiming a 112-101 victory.
Kevin Durant, who was presented with the MVP trophy before the game by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, scored 17 points in the first quarter as the Thunder took an 11-point lead. Although the Clippers would come back, the Thunder controlled the game for the most part, going up by as many as 20 points, and Durant finished with 32 points. Russell Westbrook had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double in his past five playoff games.
How it happened: The Thunder came out firing after Durant was given the MVP trophy and a standing ovation by the sellout crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Durant's big quarter had the Thunder up by 11 points early. The Clippers stormed back to take a four-point lead, but the Thunder came right back and were up by as many as 20 points in the third quarter and never trailed again.
What it means: The Clippers and Thunder are now tied 1-1 after two games in their second-round series, with the next two games taking place in Los Angeles on Friday and Sunday.
Hits: Chris Paul had 17 points and 11 assists but wasn't as aggressive as he was in Game 1, when he had 32 points and eight 3-pointers. Paul shot only 6-of-13 from the field and 2-of-5 from beyond the arc. J.J. Redick was solid, scoring a team-high 18 points and hitting 7 of 10 shots from the field and 2 of 4 on 3-pointers. Matt Barnes had 11 points, and Darren Collison and Glen Davis combined for 23 points off the bench.
Misses: Blake Griffin finished third in MVP voting this season and will need to play like the third-best player in the league for the Clippers to have chance in this series. On Wednesday, he was nonexistent early and finished with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting to go along with six rebounds and two turnovers. Jamal Crawford also didn't play up to his sixth-man-of-the-year status, finishing with seven points on 2-of-13 shooting and hitting only 1 of 7 from beyond the arc.
Stat of the game: After going 4-for-6 from beyond the arc in the first quarter, the Clippers went 5-for-21 over the final three quarters from long range.
Up next: The Clippers will take on the Thunder in Game 3 on Friday night at Staples Center.
Clippers guard Chris Paul finished seventh. The Clippers are the fourth team in the past 10 years to have two players finish in the top seven of MVP voting. The previous three teams (2004 Los Angeles Lakers, 2011 Miami Heat and 2013 San Antonio Spurs) advanced to, but lost, in the NBA Finals.
“I’m honored, really,” Griffin said. “It’s hard to believe, but I’m honored and humbled by that. I said all year it was kind of a two-man race and towards the end it was a no-brainer. It’s definitely cool to be up there."
While Griffin is happy to be ranked as one of the top three players in the league by voters, he said his goal is to continue to improve his game and one day win the MVP.
“Third place, you don’t really get a trophy for that, maybe a bronze medal,” Griffin said. “It’s nice to be considered as that, but I have a lot of areas for improvement.”
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Chris Paul was the first player at Chesapeake Energy Solutions Arena on Monday.
Before the first team bus pulled into the arena, Paul had gotten into a cab and come over on his own almost four hours before the start of the game to shoot with Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Dave Severns.
Whenever Paul feels the need to shoot before or after a game, he will tell Severns and the two will go through a shooting drill that takes Paul around the court with Severns feeding him the ball.
Paul felt the need to come over early on Monday after feeling sluggish during the morning shootaround and falling asleep during the film session on Sunday.
“Me and Blake talked about it this morning at shootaround,” Paul said. “Obviously, we were still a little tight from traveling and we said at 8:30 we better be ready to go, so I came over here early before the game and got a lot of shots up.”
By the time Paul walked off the court in the afternoon, his injured right hamstring and right thumb were behind him. He felt better than he had since the postseason began and told his teammates that he would look to be more aggressive early in the game.
In one of the biggest games of his career, Paul had the best shooting night of his career. He finished with 32 points on 12-of-14 from the field and 8-of-9 from beyond the 3-point line. Paul made his first eight 3-point attempts and fell one shy of the single-game playoff record of nine 3s.
Never before had Paul made more than five 3-pointers in a game (a span of 665 regular season and postseason games). He hit six before halftime and eight before the end of the third quarter.
It didn’t matter who the Oklahoma City Thunder threw at him, Paul made a pull-up jumper against eight different Thunder defenders on the night.
Not only did Paul lead the Clippers to a 122-105 blowout of the Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series, he became the first player with at least 30 points and 10 assists on 75 percent shooting in a playoff game since Michael Jordan in 1991.
Paul’s teammates often tell him to be aggressive, but more often than not his comfort zone is in facilitating for his teammates and letting the game come to him. On Monday, however, he listened to his teammates, especially Blake Griffin, who looked at him early in the first quarter and repeatedly told him, “Be aggressive. Be aggressive.”
“I try to take what’s given to me and early, and I think the shot clock might have been running down on one of the first shots that I shot and I made it and I just kept trying to be aggressive,” Paul said. “I didn’t want to force it or anything like that. I’m one of those people that think when you’re hot and you take a bad shot, it’s gone. I just tried to be aggressive.”
Paul has been getting around-the-clock treatment from the Clippers training staff on his injured hamstring and thumb. Doc Rivers hinted before the series started that most people outside the Clippers’ locker room have no idea what Paul had to go through to play in the previous series against the Golden State Warriors.
“That’s just toughness,” Rivers said after Game 1 in Oklahoma City. “I thought he really set the tone for us at the start of the game. I just thought he went downhill a lot with the drives and that’s what we have been trying to tell him to do. Quick decisions and move the ball. I thought his being aggressive at the start of the game really set the tone throughout the game.”
Paul often jokes he’s not much of a 3-point shooter. But it has become part of his arsenal recently. After going 51-for-156 from 3-point range in his first 53 games of the season, Paul is now 52-of-102 in his past 17 games.
“That’s what I do,” Paul said when asked about his 3-point shooting. “That’s a lie. I don’t know. It was just one of those nights. I promise you it has to be a career high. This one will definitely go down in the record books for me. Don’t count on it for Game 2, I can tell you that.”
Paul was 10-for-12 for 28 points on pull-up jump shots Monday, including 8-of-9 from 3. And the only thing Paul’s older brother, C.J., was interested in talking about postgame were those two misses and Paul’s two turnovers.
“That’s the way it’s always been,” Paul said. “That’s the way it is.”
Paul is a perfectionist who usually only looks at the number of mistakes he made in a game. His eyes will almost always dart to the turnovers column; if there is a number greater than zero for him, that’s what he will focus on.
But Paul has taken a big-picture approach to this season and this playoff run. He read the book "The Way of the Champion," by Jerry Lynch, before the start of the postseason and talked about the need to take advantage of being on a championship team, not knowing how many opportunities he will have during his career.
“I’ve never been past the second round, and this is my ninth season. I remember the team I was on in 2008, when we lost Game 7 to the Spurs, and you feel like you’re always going to be back there. And that’s not the case,” Paul said. “The team here, I think is a special team. Not only do we have a good team, but also it’s fun to be around each other.”
Rivers doesn’t think this is a make-or-break postseason for Paul, but that he’s approaching it like it is certainly doesn’t hurt.
“I think Chris Paul is going to be in a lot of second-round series trying to get to the third round, and this is not going to be the last one,” Rivers said. “He has the urgency like this is going to be the last one, and I think that’s really important for the entire team that this is going to be the last one. And I think that’s really important for our entire team to have that urgency. You can’t assume anything in our league.”
Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this story.
LOS ANGELES -- The longest week in Los Angeles Clippers history ended Saturday, but their season will go on.
Playing in their first-ever playoff Game 7 at home, the Clippers defeated the Golden State Warriors 126-121 to win their first-round playoff series and advance to the second round for only the third time since 1976.
Doc Rivers still hates to talk about the last time he was involved in a Game 7 at Staples Center.
It was the 2010 NBA Finals and his Boston Celtics blew a fourth-quarter lead to the Los Angeles Lakers that cost him a chance to win his second title in three years with the Celtics.
On Saturday, Rivers was back in Staples Center for a Game 7 and was happy to not look up at a reminder of his result from four years ago as the Lakers' championship banners have been covered by oversized photos of Clippers players for Clippers home games this season.
"Thank god, we don't have to see those banners tonight," Rivers said. "That's probably why I hung those other things so if we do have a Game 7, I'm not reminded."
Rivers will now have new Game 7 memories that will help push the past aside, such as Blake Griffin bull-rushing his way toward the basket and turning a somersault after an acrobatic layup and foul, DeAndre Jordan dunking another lob from Griffin and, well, the memory of himself pumping his fist and giving high-fives to everyone in sight after the longest week of his professional career.
Nothing can take the place of winning a championship, but after Saturday's win, the Clippers took the first big step toward doing just that.
How it happened: The Clippers looked sluggish early as the Warriors could not miss from the field. Golden State jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter and pushed it to 12 in the second quarter. The Warriors shot 72 percent from the field in the first quarter and were close to 60 percent in the half. The Clippers, however, continued to stay in the game and finally made a push in the third quarter, going up by eight points thanks to 10 points from J.J. Redick in the period. But this game was destined to go down to the end as the Clippers and Warriors exchanged baskets and the lead before the Clippers finally pulled away in the end.
What it means: The Clippers have won the series. They advance to the second round for only the third time in team history.
Hits: On a night when they needed it most, the Clippers got one of their more balanced scoring games of the season. Six players, including all five starters, scored at least 13 points. Griffin had 24 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds, and Jamal Crawford came off the bench and scored 22 points. Chris Paul had 22 points and 14 assists, and Jordan had 15 points and 18 rebounds. Redick had 20 points, including two late free throws that helped seal the win.
Misses: No real misses, but the Clippers were hoping to get more from Danny Granger and Glen Davis in the postseason, and on Saturday they combined to go 1-of-5 for only two points.
Stat of the game: The Clippers had 62 points in the paint compared to 38 for the Warriors.
Up next: The Clippers will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their second-round series, which begins Monday night in Oklahoma City.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Over the past six days, the Los Angeles Clippers have leaned on each other to get through one of the most chaotic, grueling and draining weeks they had ever experienced.
With an opportunity to close out the week and the Golden State Warriors early, they went in their own directions Thursday at Oracle Arena.
After finally finding their way together off the court, they lost it on the court during their 100-99 loss to the Warriors, who forced a decisive Game 7 back in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
Blake Griffin got in foul trouble Thursday and exited early. When he's not in with Chris Paul, the Clippers seem to lose their rhythm and confidence in one another.
Sometimes the Clippers have that trust, and sometimes they don’t.
On Thursday, as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick battled through injuries and foul trouble -- with the latter two fouling out in the fourth quarter -- the Clippers decided to go in their own separate directions in search of a victory.
“We've just got to trust each other,” Rivers said after the game. “I thought the third quarter, we stopped trusting. We were basically an iso basketball team. No fun to watch, and we're not very good at it.”
One of the biggest reasons Rivers was pried away from the Boston Celtics last summer and brought to Los Angeles was to lead the Clippers through moments like this. Not only does he have a championship ring to his name, during that 2008 title run with the Celtics his team was pushed to Game 7 in the first two rounds.
During his time in Boston, Rivers coached in seven Game 7s and sported a 4-3 record.
“Well, I've lost some and I've won some,” Rivers said. “So the experience is you have to come to play. I've won some on the road, I've lost some at home, and you've got to go play. You've just got to go out there and play the game and be aggressive and try to take the game.
“When you're at home, you can't rely on home. That doesn't work. It's going to be great to be at home. We'll be back in our safe haven now, and the fans will give us great energy, but you've still got to perform -- and that is the bottom line.”
The only player on the Clippers roster with a championship ring is Glen Davis, who was with Rivers when the Celtics won in 2008 and when they lost Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2010.
Davis thought his 2008 team learned how to play in the playoffs as they were pushed to the brink of elimination. After Thursday, he isn’t quite sure if the Clippers are learning the same lesson.
“We knew playing in a Game 7 we’d have home court advantage, but, at the same time, we had to go out there and make it happen,” Davis told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “The more and more that series went on, we realized that every possession counts. Every possession and every moment on the court counts. I think we, as a team ... I don’t think we understand that right now.”
Rivers has constantly talked about “emotional hijacks” with the Clippers and their tendency to get too high and too low during the normal ebb and flow of a game.
“When things go up, we have to keep our composure and make sure we stay levelheaded and do what we know how to do and play Clippers basketball,” Davis said. “I think we get away from that. I think too much we try individually to get it done. Everybody wants to win, but they don’t understand we have to win it together.
“And that’s giving yourself up for the next person. I think we saw today that’s how we need to play in order to win.”
It was an odd game that resembled the first game of the series in many ways, as Paul and Griffin were in foul trouble early, with Griffin fouling out late in the fourth quarter. When Paul and Griffin aren’t able to penetrate and create plays for their teammates, the offense, as well as the trust, crumbles.
“I think just ball movement and trusting our offense,” Griffin said when asked what the Clippers need to do to be successful in Game 7. “I think, honestly, it starts defensively for us. When we get stops, we kind of get into a better flow and a better rhythm. It's not just coming down and a matter of calling a play and doing what we do; it's a lot of things.”
As much as the Clippers want to consistently trust each other and the system, that level of trust doesn’t come easily or quickly. It comes over time -- and in moments like they will experience during Game 7 on Saturday.
“Experience is one of the main factors of understanding consistency,” Davis said. “Situations like this can build character, and hopefully we can get it now without having to sit out and wait for next year.”
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The smiles had returned to the faces of the Los Angeles Clippers' players by the time they took the court at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on Thursday morning before playing Game 6 of their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors.
All the talk of the past week regarding racist comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his subsequent lifetime ban from the NBA had been washed away and replaced by the jokes and the usual teasing that had come to define the team this season.
“They're in a better spirit, there's no doubt,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They're actually joking again. They're making jokes about their coach again. I think that's good.”
The focus for the first time since Friday was again on basketball, which was a good thing for the players on the court, even if the action on the court didn’t always look playoff-worthy.
The good feelings the Clippers had pregame, however, were long gone by the end of the game, as Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick fouled out as the Clippers lost to the Warriors 100-99 to force a Game 7.
How it happened: The Clippers jumped out quickly to a nine-point lead, but it was erased in the next stanza by the Warriors, who took an eight-point lead by the second quarter. It was a back-and-forth game through three quarters that saw eight ties and five lead changes before the Warriors took control in the fourth. The Warriors never trailed in the final period but had to escape in the end as the Clippers made a late push.
What it means: This series, like many expected before it began, will go seven games, with the decisive Game 7 taking place on Saturday in Los Angeles.
Hits: On a night when Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan struggled offensively, the Clippers were kept in the game largely by Matt Barnes and Redick, who combined for 33 points. The "Big Three" of Griffin, Paul and Jordan, meanwhile, posted 36 points between them. Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison had 31 combined points off the bench. Though Jordan struggled on offense, he did have 19 rebounds and four blocks.
Misses: Paul was battling injuries to his left hamstring and hand while in foul trouble (five). Griffin was in trouble early and fouled out for the second time this series. When those two players struggle, the Clippers always will have a hard time pulling out a win, especially in a close-out game on the road.
Stat of the game: For the second time this series, the referees controlled the flow, as 52 fouls were called and 70 foul shots were taken. That’s never a good recipe for pretty basketball.
Up next: The Clippers will take on the Warriors in Game 7 of their first-round series at 7:30 p.m. PT Saturday at Staples Center.
But after Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life by the NBA in response to racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation, Rivers' fears about the crowd reaction and, more important, the future of the team were calmed.
"I do believe this will be a safe haven for us and our crowd will be amazing tonight. I think that will help them," Rivers said before the game. "The 14 guys that we dress, they did nothing wrong and they need support and I think that will happen."
Clippers fans not only came out to support the team, Staples Center was sold out as fans came to the game wearing black shirts and chanting, "We are one!" throughout the night.
While very little advance focus was paid to the game, the Clippers finally had something to celebrate after a tumultuous 72 hours. The Clippers beat the Warriors 113-103 to take a 3-2 series lead. They can close out the series on Thursday in Oakland.
How it happened: The Clippers fed off the energy of their faithful early in the game, going up by 11 points in the first quarter and 13 points in the second quarter and controlling the tempo. All this despite Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combining for only 13 points on 3-of-16 shooting in the first half. The Warriors came back in the third quarter and took the lead before the Clippers finally pulled away in the fourth quarter for the win.
What it means: The Clippers have the Warriors on the brink. If they don’t eliminate Golden State on Thursday, Game 7 would be Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Hits: On a night when Griffin and Paul struggled to get going, DeAndre Jordan was the unlikely offensive force, scoring a postseason career high of 25 points, grabbing 18 rebounds and getting four blocked shots. Paul finished the game with 20 points and seven assists, and Griffin had 18 points and seven rebounds. Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison combined for 34 points off the bench.
Misses: No big concerns on the night, but J.J. Redick was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc and finished with only six points on 3-of-8 shooting. The Clippers also lost Hedo Turkoglu for the game and maybe the series because of a lower back contusion in the third quarter.
Stat of the game: 19,657. After much talk about the attendance for the game, the Clippers recorded their 138th consecutive sellout ... and it was as loud as it has ever been at Staples Center.
Up next: The Clippers will take on the Warriors in Game 6 of their first-round series on Thursday at Oracle Arena.