Coaches say playoffs are about players
One of the most enticing subplots of the Clippers’ first-round playoff series has been the coaching matchup.
Every move made by Clippers Coach Doc Rivers and San Antonio counterpart Gregg Popovich has been tracked with fascination.
How often will Popovich intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan? How deep will Rivers go on his underwhelming bench? Will Popovich keep aging veteran Tim Duncan fresh?
Of course, there’s only so much impact the coaches can have on the actual games.
“One of the things that Chris [Paul] kept saying was, this is the players’ game, the playoffs,” Rivers said Tuesday before Game 5 at Staples Center, referring to his point guard. “You prepare them and then you have to go play.
“Once the game starts and they get on the f loor, Pop and I are sitting there like, ‘Please, make this shot, please get to the right spot, please, I hope you remember what we said this afternoon in shoot-around.’ ”
Popovich, who has led the Spurs to five NBA championships, said he stopped worrying about his impact on his team’s mentality in playoff games long ago.
“It’s not worth it,” Popovich said. “You worry for nothing. What are you going to do? I don’t shoot, I don’t rebound, I don’t get back on defense. I just try to watch and make adjustments during the game. Worrying doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t help at all. In the playoffs, players step up and they play.”
Keep it together
One of Rivers’ catchphrases is he wants his team to have emotion but not be emotional. He also doesn’t want his players to engage in the kind of vicious plays that led to suspensions in Cleveland’s series-clinching victory over Boston on Sunday.
Cavaliers forward J.R. Smith was suspended two games for a backhanded swing at the Celtics’ Jae Crowder, Celtics center Kelly Olynyk was suspended one game for becoming entangled with the Cavaliers’ Kevin Love and dislocating Love’s shoulder, and Cavaliers center Kendrick Perkins was fined $15,000 for knocking Crowder to the court with a screen.
“We talk about it a lot as a group — every time you do that, it’s a selfish act,” Rivers said. “If you do something that you get suspended for, even at the time you think it’s the right thing to do, you hurt your team, and you can’t have those, so I think our guys get it, but you just never know.”
Turning it up
Clippers fans twirled red rally towels with the phrase “WE ARE RELENTLESS” on Tuesday, and Matt Barnes probably would agree.
The Clippers small forward earlier this week praised the atmosphere inside Staples Center for the first two games of the series, calling it “huge.”
“It’s been the best I’ve been around, either being with the Lakers or the Clippers,” said Barnes, who is in his third season with the Clippers after having spent the previous two with the Lakers. “It’s been very loud in Staples Center, which was a surprise to me. As players, we can’t stress enough how important that is.
“In San Antonio, it was deafening at times. You really have to stop and think like, ‘OK, what play are we running or what’s going on next’ because it’s so loud. If we can get that kind of advantage in L.A., it’ll be huge.”