LOS ANGELES — When coach Doc Rivers looks at his current Los Angeles Clippers team, it reminds him of the first NBA squad he ever coached: the 1999-00 Orlando Magic "Heart and Hustle" team.
These Clippers have endured seismic changes: Chris Paul's offseason decision to join the Houston Rockets, the late-January trade of power forward Blake Griffin in a blockbuster deal and the significant injury absences of important contributors Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic and Austin Rivers.
And yet Doc Rivers' current crew keeps winning.
With their 113-105 victory Saturday night over the Magic, the Clippers improved to 36-29 overall and 11-5 since they traded Griffin.
"It's been a tough year in some ways, but it's also been an enjoyable year," Rivers said. "This team does remind me of my first year coaching with that team, with Darrell [Armstrong] and all those guys, because they just don't blink. This team, they just keep doing it night in and night out. They've beaten Cleveland. They've beat all the good teams, and they've been down in a lot of the games, and we've had five guys out, four guys out.
"It's just an interesting group of guys. Listen, sometimes you have to be fortunate to get the right collection, and we have that, and it's helped me."
The 1999-2000 "Heart and Hustle" team remains one of the most beloved teams in Magic history. In addition to Armstrong, whom fans adored because of his grit, the team also featured Chucky Atkins, Bo Outlaw, Ben Wallace, Monty Williams, Matt Harpring, Michael Doleac, John Amaechi and Pat Garrity.
The Magic went 41-41 that season and narrowly missed out on a playoff berth.
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