Coaches say play­offs are about play­ers

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Ben Bolch ben.bolch@la­ Twit­ter: @latb­bolch

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.”

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