Let’s talk about a familiar narrative for a little bit. Doc Rivers is the right coach for this Los Angeles Clippers team.
Facing what seemed like certain death if they went down 3-1, Rivers made an adjustment in the second half of Game 4 of their matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Rivers assigned Chris Paul the defensive assignment of the league’s MVP, Kevin Durant, and went with reserves Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford and Danny Granger (along with Blake Griffin) to help the Clippers realize an improbable comeback, tying the series 2-2.
The Clippers were phenomenal in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Thunder 38-24 in the period, and were relentless in their attack at the rim. L.A. waltzed to the basket, scoring 24 points in the paint in the final period. Collison became a Clipper playoff legend for a day by hitting 12 of his 18 points in the final frame. His contribution to the game was a worthy storyline befitting the praise he received.
The players are directly responsible for erasing a 22-point lead by OKC at one juncture in the game. But all of this happened under the direction of Rivers.
Doc has been shouldering the load, per se, when it comes to the distractions that have surrounded the franchise off the court. But he remains as the sideline leader and positive influence on his players, which is the job he was actually hired to control on the court.
Coaches often try things in game that work and maybe even more often try things that don’t. The best coaches know when to stay the course with an original plan and when to scratch it all together. Rivers is a player’s coach and is able to get his guys to buy into the urgency of the moment and adjustments that may need to be made on the fly.
He won’t take credit for the Clippers win and places the accolades on his players for their execution. It’s also still a series that is tied with plenty of other adjustments on the horizon, so the time to pat one’s self on the back isn’t exactly in order.
When asked about his move to go small and putting Paul on Durant, Rivers simply stated, “That’s not brilliant coaching, that’s called desperate coaching.”
Durant still had 40 points in the game and Paul was aided by double-teams that scurried over when Durant touched the ball. Nevertheless, the decision to keep Collison and Granger on the floor paid dividends that resulted in a win for Doc and his Clippers.
“His numbers won’t show it, but I thought Danny Granger was huge for us. He got big rebounds, more importantly he kept guys from getting rebounds. And I thought his length was a factor for us.”
It was Doc’s decision but there you see how he gives his players the credit when something he thought of clearly worked.
Rivers has a knack for making things work a little more than others in his profession. To paraphrase a familiar quote from these playoffs uttered by a player that once played for Rivers…”that’s why they brought him here.”